Wine is a staple of the Santa Barbara lifestyle—locally made vintages are accessible at every turn, whether you’re by the beach or in the countryside. With more than 275 local wine producers to choose from, dozens of tour companies specializing in guided day trips, and countless restaurants hosting winemaker dinners on the regular, our wine-infused adventures run the gamut from immersive and offbeat to adrenaline-fueled and ultra-luxe. If you’re looking to elevate your sniff, swirl and sip experience to a new standard of memorable in Santa Barbara wine country, here are anything-but-ordinary ways to wine when you’re on The American Riviera®.
Take to the seas for a customized Sip & Sail tour with Coastal Concierge. The five-hour experience starts with two wine tastings along the Urban Wine Trail in downtown Santa Barbara. Then, set sail on a private Catalina yacht, where you can enjoy a seaside lunch, served with a bottle of wine to sip on. You’ll even have the option to play deckhand if you want to learn how to sail—otherwise, you can kick back and enjoy the views of The American Riviera® while your captain charts the course.
The Wine Tasting & Ghost Stories Walk Paranormal Pairing Tour, offered by Santa Barbara Ghost Tours, takes thrill-seekers (of the afterlife variety) to a world-class winery—a different location each time!—in the heart of Santa Barbara for ghostly storytelling while you sip. Then, the group embarks on a walking tour through the Presidio neighborhood for supernatural tales of Santa Barbara’s past.
Horses and wine? Yeehaw, we do. In fact, several Santa Barbara outfitters offer horseback riding and wine tasting tour combinations, each with its own unique twist. Captain Jack’s Horseback Riding and Wine Tasting Tour makes it easy by providing transportation not only between the activities, but to and from your hotel, starting with a 1.5-hour trail ride on a beautiful, privately owned ranch followed by lunch and a wine tour at two separate wineries in the revered Santa Barbara wine country.
The Revere Room at Rosewood Miramar Beach presents a monthly Wine Dinner Series, spotlighting esteemed local wineries and vineyards from Santa Barbara wine country. On these exclusive nights, The Revere Room culinary team meticulously designs set menus complemented by wine pairings curated by director of wine Daniel Fish in collaboration with the winemakers.
Sidecar Tours takes wine—and motorcycle—enthusiasts through the rolling hills of the Santa Ynez Valley. This two-and-a-half hour long wine tour takes guests through the hills of the Santa Ynez Valley in its unique tandem motorcycle sidecar and stops at (and through!) three stunning vineyards.
What if you could (a) go wine tasting while (b) sampling a handful of restaurants, (c) getting your daily steps in and (d) upping your food photography game—all at the same time?! Eat This, Shoot That! does just that. Guests on these small group walking tours get digital photography tips while visiting eight food and wine tasting locations and exploring local culture in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone. Speaking of the Funk Zone, you’d be hard-pressed not to find a sip and swirl-worthy tasting room on every street and around every corner.
Vino Vaqueros leads 75 to 90-minute private horseback rides through Estelle Vineyards followed by a complimentary tasting in its barn. These guided rides are reservation-only and riders of all experiences are welcome to experience the rolling hills of Santa Ynez Valley.
Yoga and wine are another unexpected match made in wine pairing heaven. Vineyard Yoga Santa Ynez Valley hosts a monthly class in different vineyards throughout the valley. The morning yoga classes are followed by a well-earned tasting flight of wines made by the host winery.
Each month, Blackbird at Hotel Californian hosts a special winemaker dinner featuring a different delicious winery. The evening begins with a meet-and-greet reception on the patio followed by a decadent four-course dinner. Each course is carefully curated by the chef to pair perfectly with the different wines—meaning every experience is unique to the wine itself.
Ride in sustainable style and get down to earth with Sustainable Wine Tours who offer a deluxe experience in its all-electric Tesla Model X SUV that can accommodate up to five guests. The private tours via Tesla grant exclusive access to by-appointment-only, private wineries and biodynamic vineyards. You’ll feel really good about your investment because every aspect of the experience takes the health of the planet and community into consideration. Not to mention, you can learn the ins and outs of what goes into eco-conscious wines.
With the ease in tasting room proximity, Totally Cali Tours has created an authentic Funk Zone wine walking tour designed to hit all the top spots. We’re talking tastings at two local wineries that capture the neighborhood’s eclectic spirit, a gourmet ice cream tasting and all the historical and artsy insights you could ask for.
Art Spot on Wheels offers an enchanting outdoor painting experience in the famed vineyards of the Santa Ynez Valley. Guests can immerse themselves in Santa Barbara wine country’s natural splendor, sipping world-class wines while capturing the landscape’s beauty on canvas. Far from a typical paint-and-sip, this is a sensory adventure that marries art and the essence of Santa Barbara.
Local artist Danielle Renée offers a unique spin on your typical wine and painting class. In fact, she takes blending the rules to an entirely new level: She instructs a painting with wine class. Fun for all skill levels, this class offers step-by-step instruction using templates. Watch your creation oxidize right on the paper, creating a beautiful piece of art. Renée incorporates other natural elements to her artist’s palette like taco ingredients, THC and CBD products.
Gather your friends for an evening with a sommelier and a customized selection of local wines with Santa Barbara Together and learn about the varietals you’re drinking and have all your wine-related questions answered by the experts.
Pence Vineyards & Winery is open for private tastings and tours of the working 200-acre ranch. The winery’s best-known varietals, pinot noir and chardonnay, can be sipped on through one of three reservation-only tastings—the Estate Tasting, a introduction to Pence Vineyards; the Penny Tasting, which places more of a focus on reds; and the Library Tasting, an in-depth look (and taste of) at different vintages while experiencing a full tour of the property.
In Los Olivos, Demetria Estate is open daily—just call or book online to make your reservation. The stunningly beautiful winery has one of the most picturesque settings in the entire Santa Ynez Valley so you’ll want to bring a picnic or snacks to settle in for a while.
Pull your VIP card and make a booking at wineries that offer tastings exclusively by appointment—places that aren’t open to the general public on a daily basis. In some cases, you’ll be the only clients and will get the undivided attention of the winemaker or owner. Sanguis Wine in downtown Santa Barbara offers tastings by appointment in its production facility.
Plan at least two weeks in advance to reserve a private tour and tasting at Happy Canyon Vineyards, located on the easternmost edge of the Santa Ynez Valley. The polo-themed winery on Piocho Ranch represents Santa Barbara Wine Country’s warmest growing region where Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc thrive.
If you love Santa Barbara County wines or want a crash course to get to know them for the first time, there’s no better way than to attend one of the region’s marquee wine festivals. Head into the valley for the day and attend the 39th Annual Santa Barbara Vintners Festival at Vega Vineyard and Farm on Oct. 14 or purchase a Vintners Visa to experience the full five-day event from at Old Mission Santa Inés in Solvang. The Santa Barbara Vintners Festival features over 50 regional wines and cuisine from local restaurants and chefs.
Photo credit: @santabarbarawinecountry via Instagram
World of Pinot Noir, held annually at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara is where pinot noir varieties from around the world are celebrated in one place with winemakers, chefs, sommeliers and wine scholars alike. The next festival will be held the weekend of Feb. 29 – March 2, 2024.
TheCalifornia Wine Festival brings the tasting extravaganza to coastal Chase Palm Park with two ticketed events, next year on July 19-20, 2024. TheSunset Rare & Reserve Tasting opens the festival with an exclusive tasting opportunity, while the Beachside Wine Festival welcomes ticket holders to taste local wines, craft beers and gourmet bites along the waterfront.
Now, thanks to several new and reopened tasting rooms, fans of Santa Barbara County wine can discover a recent wave of exciting openings, relocations and tasting room makeovers. Learn what the buzz is all about on your next visit and add these new wineries to your touring and tasting list. But please don’t blame us if you’re tempted to join a wine club (or two)!
Local vintners have outdone themselves yet again with an incredible line-up of outdoor wine tasting experiences in Santa Barbara. Be they overlooking rolling hills and vineyards in wine country or prime patio perches just steps from the beach in downtown Santa Barbara, vintners have created fresh, alfresco experiences that are just as enjoyable as ever. To help you plan a…