‘Tis the season for sparkling wine in Santa Barbara
With a nickname like “The American Riviera®,” it should come as no surprise that Santa Barbara is a place that pairs very well with a glass of something sparkling in hand. Dozens of local winemakers produce a delectable range of bubbly beverages, using a variety of grapes including chardonnay, pinot noir, chenin blanc and even Shiraz. The diversity of grapes and elegant expressions of the Santa Barbara County terroir in sparkling form are certainly worth raising a glass to—especially during the festive season. From downtown Santa Barbara and coastal Montecito to the vineyard-dotted valleys of wine country, several local tasting rooms pour effervescent releases seasonally while supplies last and, in some cases, offer sparkling wines for purchase and tasting all year round. In addition to wineries, the Santa Barbara Bubble Trail also includes a few specialty wine bars and cooperatives that pour sparklers by the glass from both regional and international origins. We propose a toast to all of the makers, no matter where in the world they call home.
THE FUNK ZONE
Riverbench Winery is one of the biggest sparkling wine producers in Santa Barbara County and nearly always has bubbles in stock for your tasting pleasure. Styles include blanc de blancs, blanc de noirs, demi sec, pinot meunier, brut rosé and the highly rated Riverbench Cork Jumper cuvée. If you’re in the market for a special gift, Riverbench offers the add-on option to purchase a bottle dipped in glitter—you’ll definitely earn bonus points for presentation on that one!
Corks ‘n Crowns is an extra sweet spot to spend time on Sundays, thanks to its sparkling wine and cupcake pairing special. The weekly deal features three mini cupcake flavors paired with three different complementary sparkling wines. Another modern and stylish tasting room in The Funk Zone, Kunin Wines, boasts a bubbly wine as bold as its name. The Jurassic Park sparkling chenin blanc is available for tasting and purchase, and you won’t want to miss this roaring good sparkling wine. Stop by its sister tasting room, The Valley Project, to find more varietals to savor. A must-sip from the Sta. Rita Hills is the 2016 brut rosé from J. Wilkes. Refreshing and fruity, this bubbly reigns as a perfect casual sipping beverage, so be sure to give it a whirl at its Funk Zone tasting room.
Santa Barbara Wine Collective is a communal tasting room offering wines by flight, glass or bottle and represents a sampling of some of the finest local vintners throughout Santa Barbara County. Its sparkling flight currently includes Final Girl’s 2021 sparkling viognier pet nat and Fess Parker’s Fesstivity blanc de noir and brut rosé.
Santa Barbara Winery boasts its popular sparkler, the 2017 sparkling rosé. Made with Burning Creek Ranch grapes, the wine is well balanced with notes of citrus and strawberry. Elegant bubbles balance the juicy elements, keeping it dry and not overly sweet. Stop in for a chilled glass and toast to a successful day in Santa Barbara.
Before you call it a day, or if you’re looking for an evening tasting option, visit Melville Winery’s Santa Barbara tasting lounge. Try its two estate sparkling wines, the blanc de blancs and the blanc de noir and then grab a sweet treat from its next-door neighbor, McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams.
DOWNTOWN & SURROUNDING CITIES
Satellite, a wine bar, café and bottle shop on State Street, is the place to go if you’re in search of natural sparkling wines—or simply curious to try them. Here you’ll find fizzy wines from Italy, Austria and France alongside local PétNat (naturally sparkling) vintages, and even some ciders for good measure.
Laid-back Villa Wine Bar & Kitchen always serves a well-curated selection of bubbles by the glass and bottle, including Charles de Fere brut, Laurent Perrier brut and Courtage brut rosé. Pair your bubbles with a cheese and charcuterie platter if you’re inclined to linger.
Down the road in Montecito, pop into Folded Hills to sample its 2020 sparkling Lilly rosé, available by the glass or bottle. Winemaker Angela Osborne and the vineyard team adhere to biodynamic principles of winemaking from grape to glass.
BEYOND THE COAST
Over in the Santa Ynez Valley, Roblar Winery offers a sparkling blanc de blanc and sparkling rosé, which can be enjoyed by the bottle paired with their standout “Farm Bites” menu. Drive the scenic route to Sunstone Winery, which feels straight out of France. Celebrate that joie de vivre with a bottle of the 2018 blanc de blancs or the 2019 brut rosé.
Travel a couple of appellations over to the cooler climate growing area of the famed Sta. Rita Hills, where Ampelos Cellars has a tasting room on the outskirts of Lompoc. Try its stellar biodynamic 2019 blanc de noir sparkling release made with 100% pinot noir grapes. In the same industrial complex is Flying Goat Cellars, known for its “Goat Bubbles.” Every year, winemaker Norm Yost produces bottles of crémant, blanc de blancs, blanc de noirs and a brut cuvée sourced from several different vineyards and offers a deep library of vintages to shop from.
Last but not least, in the heart of the Sta. Rita Hills countryside is Sanford Winery. Book a tasting at the legendary vineyard and don’t forget to pick up a bottle of its 2016 brut cuvée to bring home as an effervescent souvenir of your visit.