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 scene stretching from Summerland to Goleta, with a huge concentration of tasting rooms in Santa Barbara proper. That means you can pepper some vino sampling into your beach and shopping days and also take advantage of later tasting hours in the city. Or, you can dedicate an entire day to living your best country life venturing into the valley for a grand day tour. Here are three distinctive and diverse ways to sip up the fruits of Santa Barbara Wine Country divided by wine regions.
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“Urban” in Santa Barbara speak really refers to “in town,” be it Montecito, the waterfront, downtown or Goleta. Several tour companies lead guided tours of the more than 30 urban wineries, but they’re also easily experienced “a la carte” via The Urban Wine Trail.
Not sure where to start? The Valley Project in the Funk Zone is a great place to literally get the lay of the land with a tasting structured around Santa Barbara County’s six American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). Visit neighboring Fox Wine Co for a trio of tasting menus highlighting small lot, limited quantity wines. From there, head to dog-friendly DV8 Cellars to try their Rhône varietals. Located just outside of the Funk Zone, plan ahead to book a tasting and tour of by-appointment-only Sanguis, open Tuesdays through Saturdays.
If you’re sightseeing downtown, stop into Happy Canyon Vineyard in El Paseo and Sanford Winery in La Arcada for the quintessential Santa Barbara paseo experience. In the more industrial part of town near Milpas, the Carr Winery Barrel Room is a lively social spot with a stellar patio for day and evening tasters to enjoy. Less than three blocks away, Jaffurs Wine Cellars makes some of the smoothest syrah around. In Montecito, check out the very first tasting room to open on Coast Village Road, the elegant Folded Hills. And when in the Good Land (a.k.a. Goleta), beeline for SAMsARA.
Let Santa Barbara Wine Country Tours be your trusted guide to the abundance of deliciousness over the hill in the Santa Ynez Valley. You’ll tour in style aboard an air-conditioned luxury van and get access to premium quality wineries. Door-to-door round trip transportation is included in the comprehensive fees (starting at $129), as are the tastings, a picnic lunch and a knowledgeable guide looking after you and your traveling party for the day. All you have to do is decide which experience to book.
The classic Santa Ynez Valley Tour features three wineries and al fresco lunch in a picturesque setting. The Wine & Cupcake Tour offers a unique twist on wine pairings—in addition to visiting a few wineries, you’ll sample decadent wine-infused mini cupcakes crafted by enjoy cupcakes. Active types go for the Wine & Bike Tour, which includes tastings at two wineries, a picnic and leisurely cycling along the gorgeous country roads of Foxen Canyon—don’t be daunted, roundtrip shuttle transportation is provided from the city and the van is always available if you get tired of pedaling!
Lastly, if you’re on a budget, Santa Barbara Wine Country Tours offers a flexible Wine Shuttle option that includes round trip transportation with drop-offs and pick-ups at a selection of wineries, so you can plan your own adventure and pay for tastings as you go. You won’t go hungry given the lunchtime stop is in the charming town of Los Olivos, which abounds with eateries, boutiques and tasting rooms all accessible on foot.
The Travel Channel may have named Santa Maria Valley among the “Top 10 Destination for Wine Snobs,” but you won’t find an ounce of snobbery here. The Santa Maria region—Santa Barbara Wine Country’s northernmost AVA—could not be more friendly and laid back. Think denim, cowboy boots, amazing tri-tip barbecue joints and welcoming locals. Santa Maria also happens to be home to some of the oldest and revered vineyards on the Central Coast. It’s renowned for its pinot noir, chardonnay and syrah varietals. The region’s 30-plus tasting rooms present an enticing mix of rural wineries and in-town tasting rooms in Orcutt.
Want to leave the car behind? Through October 13, you can climb aboard the award-winning, seasonal weekend Santa Maria Valley Wine Trolley to tour and taste independently. The super convenient transportation service features some of the valley’s most popular wineries along its hop-on-and-off route, which runs every Saturday and Sunday between 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Stops include Costa de Oro, Cottonwood Canyon and Presqu’ile wineries—you can spend about an hour at each before the trolley loops back around. Don’t miss your opportunity to try this signature Santa Maria Valley experience before the trolley goes out of service until next spring. At the reasonable $10 advanced purchase ticket price, this is one of the hottest deals of harvest season!