Local vintners have outdone themselves yet again by majorly upgrading the line-up of outdoor wine tasting experiences in Santa Barbara. While many wineries previously offered outdoor tasting options, be they overlooking rolling hills and vineyards in wine country or prime patio perches just steps from the beach in downtown Santa Barbara, the recent pandemic presented new opportunities for vintners to create fresh, alfresco experiences that are super safe and just as enjoyable as ever.
To help you plan a perfect day—or better yet, several days—of wine tasting along the Urban Wine Trail and in Santa Barbara wine country, use this guide as your checklist to safely sip and social distance.
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Prep & Plan
No matter which wine tasting area you decide to visit, advanced planning is a must to ensure you have the best experience possible. Reservations are recommended (and in some cases required) as wineries are limiting the number of guests to ensure a safe social distance can be maintained. If you are traveling with children or a dog, call ahead to confirm they are permitted and learn about new restrictions. Some family-friendly wineries are requiring children not to leave the table during the tasting, which might not be ideal for young ones with energy to burn. The same goes for dogs on the leash remaining tableside.
All tastings are taking place seated and wine will be brought directly to you, be it a tasting flight, a glass, or bottle. You are required to wear a mask upon arrival and whenever leaving your seating area—but that face covering can be removed while you’re at the table, so you can use all of your senses to fully appreciate the wines. As always, drinking and driving is a no-no, so pick a designated driver or hire a tour company that can do the driving (and planning) for you.
Where to Sip & Savor
Now that you know the rules of the road, it’s time to design your ideal itinerary. Use the wine guide below to discover wineries offering exemplary outdoor tasting experiences by location. These include neighborhoods in Santa Barbara as well as the distinctive wine regions over the hill in wine country.
The Presidio District
El Paseo, Southern California’s very first shopping center dating back to the 1920s, is home to an impressive collection of boutique wineries in downtown Santa Barbara’s Presidio District. The historic, open-air complex lent itself to expanding seating areas in the lovely courtyards between buildings.
Taste the masterpieces of winemaking legend Jim Clendenen at Au Bon Climat. While walk-ins are welcome if space is available. Or, use their easy online booking system to make reservations for tastings every day of the week.Learn More
Sit for a full-service tasting at Happy Canyon Vineyard, whose wines showcase the terroir of Santa Barbara wine country’s hottest growing region. Reservations can be made directly through their website. Learn More
Grassini Family Vineyards is pouring their Estate and Red Wine Flights on their patio and courtyard spaces now appointed with attractive wooden tables. While reservations are not needed, they are recommended. Learn More
Jamie Slone Wines has ample outdoor café style seating, too, where you can pair wines with artisanal cheese boxes specially prepared by Slate Catering. Learn More
Photo by @jamieslonewines via Instagram
The Funk Zone
Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail originated in The Funk Zone neighborhood, so it has a large number of tasting rooms in a relatively small footprint of 13 blocks between lower State Street, Cabrillo Boulevard, Garden Street and Montecito Street.
Founded in 1962, Santa Barbara Winery has deep roots in the community. They took full advantage of their outdoor patio to welcome guests for tastings, wines by the glass, and bottle service and offer cheese plates from Pierre Lafond Deli. Learn More
The Valley Project is another great place to get the lay of Santa Barbara’s winegrowing land with a patio tasting structured around Santa Barbara County’s six American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). Learn More
Margerum Wine Company and Barden Wines brought the elegance of their Hotel Californian tasting room to the red-tiled sidewalk out front and introduced a menu of gourmet level bites and pizzas. They are not taking reservations, so it’s first-come, first-served. Learn More
Also located in the Hotel Californian complex, reservations are recommended at the new J. Wilkes Tasting Room. Cheese and charcuterie boards perfectly complement the wines—as does the people watching on State Street! Learn More
Photo by @j.wilkeswines via Instagram
The Haley Corridor neighborhood stretches from State Street to Milpas Streets between West Cota and Montecito Streets. It’s easily accessed on foot from downtown State Street and the Funk Zone, too.
Folded Hills Estate Tasting Room & Winery at the Homestead is the first winery accessed just beyond the Gaviota coast as Highway 101 bends inland. Reservations are recommended, but walk-ins are welcome for tastings set in their refined ranch atmosphere. Learn More
Over in Los Olivos, Zaca Mesa Winery is a longtime staple of the region’s winemaking legacy dating back to 1973. Daily tastings take place at good old-fashioned picnic tables and appointments are encouraged. Learn More
Mosey on over to Los Alamos to taste Casa Dumetz Wines’ on the spacious garden patio adjacent to Babi’s Beer Emporium—and yes, that means beer and cider are also on the menu! Appointments are required Monday through Wednesday but walk-ins are welcome Thursday through Sunday. Learn More
Photo by @casadumetzwines via Instagram
Santa Maria & Lompoc Valley
Some of Santa Barbara Wine Country’s oldest vineyards and most revered pinot noirs and chardonnays come from grapes grown in the Santa Maria and Lompoc Valleys.
Note: Santa Maria and LompocValley are approximately 50-55 miles from downtown Santa Barbara and generally take about 60-70 minutes to reach by car.
Take in sweeping views of the Santa Maria Valley at Presqu’ile Winery, who are welcoming guests by appointment Wednesday through Sunday for their Food+Wine Experience. You’ll want to linger on their vast patio and terrace while savoring the “Mezze Picnic” prepared by Chef Julie Simon using the bounty from their garden onsite and ingredients sourced from local purveyors. Learn More
Certified sustainable Riverbench Vineyard & Winery is a leading producer of sparkling wines, and you can taste at the source at their original Foxen Canyon property on the Sisquoc River. Choose between a 60-minute wine-only tasting or a 90-minute wine country picnic and tasting, with advance reservations bookable through Tock. Learn More
Right along rural Highway 246, Babcock Winery & Vineyards has several picnic tables and umbrellas spread out on the property. Tastings are available daily on a first-come, first-served basis. A menu of snacks, cheese, and charcuterie is available throughout the week. Learn More
Last but definitely not least, find Sanford Winery on the winding Santa Rosa Road that connects Lompoc to Buellton. They are open to guests 21+ for tastings by appointment daily. You can’t beat their views of the hallowed ground that is the Sanford & Benedict vineyard planted in 1971, which first put Santa Barbara wine on the map. Learn More
Founded in 1982, Au Bon Climat (which means "a well-exposed vineyard") produces internationally-recognized Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc wine from grapes grown in California's Santa Barbara County. The Au Bon Climat winery is located on…
Beckmen Vineyards is one of North America's premier producers of Rhône varietal wines since our establishment in 1994. A family owned and operated vineyard and winery, we craft premier wines with a focus on Rhone varieties, sourcing fruit…
Carr Vineyards & Winery is a small, handcrafted winery producing 4500 cases in downtown Santa Barbara. Owner and winemaker Ryan Carr established the winery in 1999. All of the wines made by Carr are sourced from Santa…
Voted Best Winery and Best Tasting Room by the readers of both the Santa Barbara Independent and the Santa Barbara News-Press! We are a family owned and operated winery and vineyard with a love for the land and a commitment to…
Located at the Hotel Californian, just steps from Santa Barbara’s bustling Funk Zone neighborhood, find the newly-opened J. Wilkes Wine tasting room. Visitors can enjoy a welcoming place to sip the label’s acclaimed wines, with a fresh,…
Located in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara, just minutes from the beach, Jaffurs Wine Cellars produces world class hand-crafted wines. Since 1994 our family owned winery has focused on producing limited quantities of top quality Rhône…
At Jamie Slone Wines our mission is to provide guests an outstanding Santa Barbara wine experience! Recent accolades include: Winner: Favorite Winery & Favorite Tasting Room 2019 Santa Barbara News-Press Readers' Choice Awards. BEST…
Located near Santa Barbara’s waterfront at the Hotel Californian, Margerum Wine Company offers tastings or wines by the glass in our expansive tasting room or on the heated patio. And at the gateway to the Sta. Rita Hills, our…
Our Santa Barbara wine tasting room is located within the “Funk Zone” section of downtown Santa Barbara, just two blocks off the beach and two blocks off of State Street. Come by to check out our beautiful collection of Santa Barbara…
Founded in 1962, Santa Barbara Winery is Santa Barbara's first commercial winery since the prohibition era. Today, the winery and tasting room are in the heart of Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail, just blocks from the Pacific Ocean. While Santa…
Sunstone Vineyards, Winery and Villa is an organic vineyard retreat, located just 35-minutes north of Santa Barbara, in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley. Enjoy Sunstone wines in our Provençal French courtyards, stone barrel-aging caves or…
We love wine, and we believe that Santa Barbara is one of the best places on Earth to grow and make it. This project is our love letter to Santa Barbara's wine country. Born out of a desire to showcase the County's incredibly diverse Viticultural…
Rooted in history, inspired by innovation. Established in 1973, Zaca Mesa is a family-owned and operated winery with a long-standing history in Santa Barbara County. As the first vineyard to plant Syrah in the area in 1978, Zaca Mesa has since…
Sustainability matters to Santa Barbara’s wine industry. Natural forces play a huge role in the winemaking process and what influences the environment is what eventually ends up in the bottle. For many winemakers and grape growers, being eco-conscious is much more than a quality-driven or commercial concern. Their dedication to green practices is fueled by a desire to protect and…
Where to Wine in Santa Barbara The definition of “wine country” is a bit different here in Santa Barbara. Yes, you can taste to your heart’s content in gorgeous traditional countryside winery settings and walk amongst the vineyards in the rural Santa Ynez, Lompoc and Santa Maria Valleys. But you can also tap into our ever-growing South Coast urban winery…