Wine aficionados quickly realize that the world of wine in Santa Barbara is multi-faceted, offering an experience that’s both urban and rural. Wine lovers will want to tack on an extra night and set off to discover why Santa Barbara’s wine country is so diverse and delectable, one world-class pour at a time.
Stop at the Paradise Café for lunch, sit on the patio, order one of the specialty burgers made on the city’s only Santa Maria oak wood grill, and pair it with a glass of local pinot noir.
After lunch, venture into the streets of downtown Santa Barbara. Past a plethora of shops and galleries, wander up Stearns Wharf — it juts straight out to sea — and spend time walking the path that hugs the shore. When thirst hits, veer into the groovy Funk Zone.
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The The Valley Project tasting room offers a clever lay of the land. The dramatic chalk mural that welcomes you sets the stage: winemaker Seth Kunin makes wine from each of the county’s growing regions and, sip by sip, tasters quickly discover that it’s all about diversity here. Cross the street to see a working winery — the city’s first, actually. Pierre Lafond founded Santa Barbara Winery, the area’s first since Prohibition, in 1962. Now, as the barrel room buzzes next door, visitors can taste and shop.
Catch a pedicab and make your way back to State Street, and stop for another dose of history along the way. Casa de la Guerra was the home of a Spanish comandante more than 200 years ago. Today, what was once the wine cellar inside this downtown outpost is a rustic tasting room for Standing Sun Winery’s small-lot Rhones.
Stroll the streets on your way to dinner, a stop at bouchon is a must. The bouchon wine list is a focused snapshot of Santa Barbara’s best labels, and your server will happily guide your selection as you order from the ever-evolving seasonal menu. Stay awhile; the pace here is relaxed. Later, venture half a block up the street to opal restaurant and bar for a signature sipper from the lively cocktail bar, before calling it a night.
Breakfast at D’Angelo’s Bakery means you’re starting your day with farm-fresh eggs, homemade breads and strong coffee. You’ll need the sustenance for a full day of exploring the nearby vineyards with a local wine tour or driver. Head north on Highway 101 and, soon, the city gives way to a sweeping coastal drive.
Within 30 minutes, veer west onto Highway 1, where a pastoral drive delivers you to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto, dotted with industrial buildings housing an impressive lineup of boutique labels. Pick the tasting room for JCR, where pinot and chardonnay are grown in the county’s western-most vineyard. Then head east on Highway 246, a drive anchored by rolling vineyards along the Santa Rita Hills. The monikers along the way read like a viticultural who’s-who: Foley, Zotovich, Melville. Stop for premium pinot at Babcock Winery & Vineyards. In the airy tasting room, shopping the vast array of eclectic collector pieces is like walking a vintage museum.
For lunch, check out Industrial Eats in Buellton — buzzing with locals who come here to forage through foie gras and splurge on gourmet pizzas. Follow this with a stop is Foxen Canyon, and as you sneak back onto the 101 and head north, your surroundings may look familiar as the movie Sideways was filmed here. The film Sideways (2004) made a star out of Santa Barbara Wine Country and drummed up demand for pinot noir around the world.
At Andrew Murray Vineyards, the visitor center is sleek and fun. Savor award-winning syrah as you lounge by French oak barrels and the towering wall of library wines. On your way out, partake in a quick game of life-size Jenga.
The excursion continues on quiet two-lane roads marked by undulating hillsides and manicured vineyards, with plenty of photo stops. In Los Olivos, enjoy a leisurely stroll where boutique shops like J. Woeste, Jedlicka’s and the Los Olivos General Store offer up plenty of wine country gifts. Cleanse your palate with sparkling wine at the Bubble Shack, run by the family of the late Fess Parker, before you begin the 40-minute drive back to Santa Barbara. (Remember to always use a designated driver, or perhaps book a wine tour and leave the driving to someone else!)
Back in Santa Barbara, enjoy dinner at Barbareño, in an area affectionately dubbed by locals as the Fringe Zone. Here, the young vibe, and the focus on regional fare, brings this day full circle.
Feel the morning energy from downtown Santa Barbara and start your day with brunch at Finch & Fork. Traditional classics include French Toast and house-made granola, or indulge in signature eats like Finch & Fork’s deviled eggs or the F&F burger.
You’re not done yet. There is still more to see (and taste) in Santa Barbara. The vibrant Presidio Neighborhood nearby blends old and new — and features picturesque nooks and crannies best discovered on foot. There are several wine tasting rooms here; continue your education by sipping Bordeaux at Jamie Slone Wines, the pet project of a former racecar driver. The Rhone wines at Margerum Wine Co. are world-class.
Next door, Intermezzo is buzzing, and a late lunch of flatbreads and salads, al fresco, is a gourmet way to end your visit. But for one more perfect view — one final Tweetable snapshot — climb the Santa Barbara Courthouse observation deck, where the wrap-around views will take your breath away.
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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…
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