Quickly growing into quite the haven for fine wine lovers… Santa Barbara County is a must stop visit for many California Wine Country travelers.
With breathtaking scenic views, close proximity to the coast and a very close knit community of wine growers, not to mention all that great California Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to boot… it is no wonder that the region is becoming… so popular… so quickly.
Tourists visit by the hundreds. Weekends provide a terrific vibe with wine lovers wandering through the streets and visiting various tasting rooms, like in Los Olivos, where everything is in walking distance and you can check in and park the car for the week.
With the growing number of folks interested in tasting wines coming from Santa Barbara County, the crowds are flocking in. Include me in that number, I visited this past week with a fantastic group from Northern California. We spent three days on a whirlwind wine tour thanks to the lovely Emily Martin of EME Marketing & Events. I have included some of my favorite stops along the wine road below for those who are planning a trip.
In Santa Barbara County and specifically in the Santa Ynez, Santa Maria and Los Olivos areas where I spent the majority of my time, the wineries tend to be small-batch and less commercial than some large wine growing regions. Everyone knew each other and they are all seemingly close friends.
The local farms, chefs and wineries all work together and oftentimes I found that the local food producer and winemaker are housed next door to each other and share their wares.
Santa Barbara County can be a luxurious, yet at the same time, comfortable place to visit.
One gets a more personalized visit when entering a tasting room at many of these family run wineries, visit as many as you can while there, remembering… there is only soo much time in the day. Visit again soon, and again and again.
The region still maintains the small town and community feel even during it’s wine country transformation. Don’t forget how close to the Pacific Ocean the region is. While visiting… make sure to stop along a beach and have a picnic, share a bottle that you discovered along the way and take in more of the sights of California. Go outdoors.
Below I have included some great places to visit and tips, advice and suggestions about the region… **Clinks
TOP 10 PLACES – SANTA BARBARA COUNTY
Sipping Bubbles at…
Epiphany Wine Co. & The Bubble Shack
Epiphany finds its identity and passion in the production of esoteric Rhone-based varietals and blends from some of the finest vineyard designates in California. Founded by Eli Parker at the turn of the last century, Epiphany was at first intended as a creative outlet for the then adventurous winemaking son of Fess Parker. As the years progressed, Eli assumed the role of Brand Visionary, paving the way for winemaker Blair Fox to assume the enological reins at the winery. The Epiphany portfolio has become a highly coveted selection of mostly Santa Barbara County- designated Rhone-inspired wines, considered by leading critics to be a flagship producer from this vibrant growing region…. Bubble Shack Website HERE >>
Fabulous Dinner at…
Ballard Inn Restaurant, Gathering Table
Newly renovated tapas style cuisine and restaurant. With just 12 tables, soft music, candle light, and a roaring fireplace, the atmosphere is elegant and comfortable. And the food is wonderful, Chef Budi Kazali. Comfortably elegant accommodations, attentive staff, and award winning cuisine make The Ballard Inn & Restaurant one of the most sought after small luxury inns in the Santa Barbara Wine Country. Voted one of America’s Top Ten Most Romantic Inns, we are located in the charming township of Ballard surrounded by the picturesque vineyards and orchards. Restaurant Website HERE >>
4-Wheeling Jeep Tours…
Gainey Vineyards & Winery, CC Jeeps
Established a Spanish-style winery in 1984– designed to produce small quantities of high-quality wine – and released a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, the vineyards and winery comprise an important part of my family’s agricultural operations, and they’re fortunate to have vineyards that yield enough high-quality fruit to estate bottle all wines. Dan Gainey and his wife are proud that son and daughters, the fourth generation of Gaineys in the Santa Ynez Valley, are continuing our family’s tradition of farming and winemaking in this most beautiful region of California. They invite you to come visit us the next time you’re in Santa Barbara wine country. Gainey Winery Website HERE >>
Al Fresco Lunch at…
Fess Parker Winery & Vineyards
Completed in 1994, the new winery and tasting room are loosely designed after an Australian sheep station, with a grand stone fireplace, stone floors, and a wraparound veranda with picnic tables. The spacious complex is set amid an acre of meticulously landscaped grounds that border the vineyard. The amphitheater-style lawn, rimmed by mature oaks, provides a serene setting for picnics. Pinot Noir has long been an important part of Fess Parker Winery’s tradition with an emphasis on the two finest growing regions for Pinot Noir in Santa Barbara County – Santa Maria and Sta. Rita Hills – as well as a commitment to producing wines of distinctive varietal typicity that best express vintage and terroir. Website HERE >>
Fantastic Wines at…
Alma Rosa Winery Tasting Room
Richard Sanford came to the Santa Ynez Valley over 40 years ago with a desire to find a cool-climate growing area suitable for Pinot Noir. First to recognize the potential of the Santa Rita Hills (now an officially accredited American Viticultural Area: Sta. Rita Hills), and first to plant Pinot Noir vines there, Richard is a pioneer with a well established reputation for excellence in winemaking. Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards, represents the culmination of a lifetime’s experience – an enterprise dedicated to creating high quality wines and setting a benchmark for organic farming, sustainable agriculture methods, and environment-friendly commerce. Website HERE >>
Yummy Eats Dinner at…
Sides Hardware & Shoes Restaurant
Sides Hardware & Shoes – a Brothers Restaurant is the sister to Brothers Restaurant at the Red Barn. In the quaint town of Los Olivos, just a few steps from the flagpole in the center of town. California cuisine with a full bar and wine list of local treats. They want you to feel like you are coming to a favorite relative’s house for a celebration or a meal. Using a “from scratch”, homemade element with fresh ingredients from local producers, a wine list that showcases the region’s award-winning wines and a comfortable and historically interesting atmosphere that takes you back to the romance of the old west. They want you to feel at home, and experience all the best of Santa Barbara’s Wine Country. Website HERE >>
Winery Tour & Tasting at…
Rusack Vineyards & Winery
This is a boutique winery and vineyard, nestled among the oak-studded rolling hills of Ballard Canyon with a mission to create world-class, handcrafted wines that reflect commitment to excellence and love for this region. That commitment begins in the Estate Vineyard, which they re-planted in 2003 in order to capture the true character of Ballard Canyon, and which is meticulously farmed in small lots. It extends to the winemaking process, during which they go to every possible length to achieve the delicate balance of “elegance & power”. Finally, it extends to their wine label, a Catalina tile, a family legacy symbol of our belief in the beauty of what arises from blending craft, earth, art and family. Website HERE >>
Tasting & Lunch at…
RiverBench Vineyard Tasting Room
Situated on the southeastern edge of the Santa Maria Valley, the northernmost AVA in Santa Barbara County, the vineyard currently consists of 107 acres of Pinot Noir and 77 acres of Chardonnay. They continually evaluate the vines as they age, replanting as necessary. In 2008, the winery committed themselves to our premium sparkling wine program & continue to work hard making wines that are inspired by Champagne in France. In 2015, they added the third great grape varietal famous in that area, Pinot Meunier, to the vineyard and anticipate incorporating these grapes into sparkling wine blends beginning in 2017. Website HERE >>
Comfortable Accommodations & Hospitality…
Santa Ynez Marriott
This certified green hotel provides a wonderful location for leisure travelers, corporate, and military. Conveniently located 30 minutes north of Santa Barbara and 3 miles from Solvang, the Danish Capital of America. The Marriott is in the heart of Santa Barbara Wine Country that is famous for its 80 vineyards and wineries, cycling, golf courses and Vandenberg Air Force Base. The newly reinvented lobby features functional seating, state of-the-art technology, food and a full bar. Website HERE >>