Many travelers think only of Napa or Sonoma when they plan a California wine road trip. Don’t miss out on Santa Barbara County, where the “mountains meet the sea”.
Santa Barbara County has a 200- year history that was put in the spotlight by the indie hit film, Sideways, and travel magazines worldwide.
Located about 90 miles north of Los Angeles, this wine region hugs the Pacific coastline and visitors can enjoy sun, scenery, excellent restaurants, boutique shops, art galleries and outdoor activities as they explore the region’s wineries.
Nearly 200 wineries call Santa Barbara County home. Browse this list of Santa Barbara County wineriesor use the discovercaliforniawines.com interactive map to search wineries by amenities such as tours, gardens, picnic areas, food for purchase, concerts, art and more. The Santa Barbara County Vintners Association also features an in-depth wine country touring guide and two-for-one tasting passes for purchase online, as well as free tasting route maps to nine wine trails. These include downtown Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone urban wine trail, a dining, nightlife and arts scene where entertainment in the waterfront district is within walking distance of more than two dozen tasting rooms. Check out the town of Los Olivos, boasting 20- tasting rooms as well as charming shops and artisanal eats.
Those looking to stay in the Santa Barbara County wine region can choose from charming inns in the historic Danish town of Solvang or upscale boutique hotels in downtown Santa Barbara to luxurious beach resorts. Notable wine-centric hotels include Bacara Resort and Spa, The Landsby and Santa Ynez Valley Marriott.
One “must see” is Old Mission Santa Barbara, a picturesque mission where wine was originally made by Franciscan monks two centuries ago. The site, considered one of California’s grandest missions, is the 10th of 21 built along the state’s “mission trail” and features a museum, docent-led tours and 12 acres of gardens. Stearns Wharf offers seaside restaurants, a fishing shop, old-fashioned candy store, wine tasting and shops, close to the beach where visitors can surf, play volleyball, rent bicycles, paddleboard and more. Or visit the historic Danish village of Solvang, known for its authentic architecture and bakeries, the latter of which you can explore on the Sweet Treats Trail. Sip and stroll along the Solvang Wine Walk to get a full taste of the town.
A fun experience is Santa Barbara’s Market Forays, where every Saturday attendees shop for seasonal local ingredients with a chef and learn how to use them to easily create delicious meals paired with local wines. Creative wine consumers can sip and paint at The Painted Cabernet, an urban studio on State Street where an artist gives one-on-one instruction while guests enjoy local wines.
Santa Barbara serves up a good portion of farmer’s markets, celebrity chef restaurants, and wine and food events. In October, visitors can partake in the Celebration of Harvest, where nearly 150 wineries pour at the Santa Inés Mission and food purveyors and winemaker dinners abound.
Visit discovercaliforniawines.com for information on wine regions, wines and wineries throughout the Golden State and for planning a trip to California wine country. California is the number one U.S. state for wine and food tourism with dozens of distinct wine regions, 138 American Viticultural Areas and 4,600 wineries that produce 85 percent of U.S. wine. Established in 1934, Wine Institute is the public policy association of nearly 1,000 California wineries. See: wineinstitute.org.