Photo Credit: The Society: State & Mason, Courtesy of Hotel Californian
Wine tasting along The American Riviera® has always had a down-to-Earth yet refined atmosphere, between the unique tasting experiences, variety of special interest wine tours and ridiculously scenic outdoor wine tasting offerings. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of discovering Santa Barbara wine country, there’s never been a better time to remedy that. Wine Spectator named Santa Barbara the world’s “2021 Wine Region of the Year,” celebrating our wine industry’s pioneering sustainability efforts as well as the impressive number of female winemakers.
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)!
A quick note about the lay of our wine lands: If you’re new to Santa Barbara wine country, it’s helpful to know that there are a few dozen tasting rooms concentrated in the city of Santa Barbara, known as the Urban Wine Trail. In wine country proper, a 30–40 minute drive from downtown Santa Barbara, there are three distinct regions offering a diversity of tasting experiences and well over 100 tasting rooms surrounded by vineyards. The regions are the Lompoc Valley (Sta. Rita Hills), Santa Maria Valley and Santa Ynez Valley—the latter of which encompasses Ballard, Buellton, Los Alamos, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez and Solvang.
Santa Barbara South Coast
Noted as one of the original Funk Zone wineries, Kunin Wines has now settled into a new tasting room in the heart of Santa Barbara’s Presidio Neighborhood at 831 Santa Barbara Street It’s even expanded their winemaking repertoire to include sparkling wines, poured alongside its whites, pinks and reds. Visitors can partake in tastings paired with wine education and a curated cheese selection from The Cheese Shop, conveniently located next door. In summer 2022, Kunin will begin to offer a new tasting experience at its Goleta production facility, where all of their delicious wines are made. Food will also be available in its Goleta tasting room.
Santa Barbara Winery
The oldest winery in Santa Barbara County established in 1962, Santa Barbara Winery moved a few blocks over into a new tasting room space at 28 Anacapa Street (neighboring Municipal Winemakers). This true Funk Zone original might have a fresh new space and interior vibe, but you can expect the same award-winning vintages. Be sure to try its latest new release, a sparkling rosé.
Pali Wine Garden
Pali Wine Co. pleased fresh air seekers with the addition of a secondary Funk Zone tasting room, Pali Wine Garden. With an abundance of outdoor seating, the new 205 Anacapa Street garden location pours seasonal wines on tap by the glass as well as the full menu of bottles. All wines are meticulously crafted at Pali’s Lompoc-based winery under the direction of winemaker Aaron Walker.
Valley to the Sea Winery
Valley to the Sea Winery made the popular Santa Barbara Public Market a place to linger even longer when it opened a tasting room in the cooperative space in the Historic Theatre District downtown. Owner/winemaker Jamie Savellano’s tasting room offers “micro tastings” for when just a splash will do, in addition to a fun red wine pairing with a three-part pizza from Ca’Dario Pizzeria. Traditional tastings and by-the-glass purchases are also available.
The Society State & Mason
This spring, Hotel Californian debuted The Society State & Mason, a new tasting room for the ever-expanding Foley Food & Wine Society. The unique concept showcases an impressive selection of over 70 different wines from the vast Foley Family Wines portfolio. Naturally, the namesake local Foley wines are featured in the curated flights. Better yet, tastings can also be paired with Executive Chef Travis Watson’s inspired culinary creations.
La Lieff Wines
Women owned-and-operated, La Lieff Wines will soon debut a new Funk Zone tasting room at 205 Gray Street. Its wines are a showcase of talented women winemakers in the region, including owner-winemaker Gretchen Lieff, Kris Curran, Angela Osborne and Sally Sigouin.
FESS PARKER FUNK ZONE
Family-owned Fess Parker Winery has opened a space in The Funk Zone on the corner of Yanonali Street and Grey Avenue. With towering windows—allowing for plenty of light—and a modern take on the indoor and outdoor seating areas, Fess Parker Winery brings a new level of sophistication to the beloved arts district. Sit back and sip on its current featured wine, the 2018 Sanford & Benedict “1971” Pinot Noir, which is made from grapes from the original block of Pinot Noir—planted in 1971—at Sanford & Benedict Vineyard.
Santa Barbara WINE COUNTRY
The Hilt Estate
Nestled on the Lompoc end of scenic Santa Rosa Road, The Hilt Estate is a meticulously designed setting that’s equal parts rustic and contemporary luxury. With a blend of intimate nooks, a living room-like lounge overlooking the vineyards and retractable glass doors, the outdoors are visible at every turn. Expect tastings featuring premium wines from both The Hilt and JONATA labels.
Fess Parker Winery
Following an extensive overhaul, Fess Parker Winery reopened the doors of its classic Los Olivos tasting room on Foxen Canyon Road. The updated modern design pays homage to the family’s longtime valley ranching roots, including their late patriarch, Fess Parker, a Hollywood icon known for playing Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. Savor a more elevated tasting experience sipping winemaker Blair Fox’s vintages from a perch on the scenic veranda.
In February 2022, RUSACK Vineyards debuted its newly remodeled tasting room. This is the only winery in the Ballard Canyon AVA that is open to visitors (by reservation only), so it was well worth the wait! Dubbed “Canyon Terrace,” the new tasting room pairs handcrafted wines with extraordinarily picturesque vineyard views. Sit back and unwind in a relaxed atmosphere that feels worlds away.
In June, The Hideaway opened its doors in a new, more central Los Olivos location. They didn’t go too far from its previous “cabin” digs, and is now even closer to the heart of the action from its new perch. The upstairs space boasts a balcony overlooking the town, and the interior design elements are all about vibrant colors, eclectic furnishings and a lounge-like atmosphere.
Kaena Wine at the Ranch is an expansion of the Kaena brand, which still maintains its original tasting room in Los Olivos. Last fall, the winery debuted a new countryside tasting experience at their Solvang ranch located at 800 East Highway 246. Guests are welcome to drop by daily for tastings in the indoor and outdoor facilities, and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for sightings of the adorable baby goats grazing on the property!
Boasting a brand-new tasting room at its Santa Maria Valley estate, Cambria Winery was one of the first to emerge in this renowned wine region. The modernized, elegant estate building features the same vineyard views and award-winning wines, with new and improved indoor and outdoor sipping spaces. With a focus on sustainability and being good stewards of the land, the team at Cambria Winery spearheaded the organization, International Wineries for Climate Action. Climate change advocacy and award-winning chardonnay? We couldn’t think of a better match.
El Viñero Wines just opened its first tasting room in the heart of old town Orcutt at 130-A North Broadway. Winemaker-owner Jordan Crabtree is sharing the label’s first releases with red and white flights at his new tasting room, which is open Thursdays through Sundays with extended weekend evening hours.
Steller’s Cellar is another new Old Town Orcutt tasting room at 400 East Clark Avenue. Opening in May, the beer and wine bar will pour a variety of Central Coast selections and offer a wine-friendly menu of small plates and bites.
Santa Maria’s highly anticipated Skyway Center cooperative space is set to debut this fall at Highway 135 and Skyway Drive. Tenants of the 60,000 square foot facility will include 805 Charcuterie, a rotation of boutique wineries and food trucks, restaurants, a bar, coffee vendors, live music and more.