If, like us, you’ve had Sideways on repeat for the last few years and swooned over the stunning, filmic landscapes of California wine country, then Santa Barbara is the wine region you really need to get to know. Situated less than two hours north of Los Angeles, the area was first planted with vines over two hundred years ago during the Mission era and managed to just about survive Prohibition before finally coming into its own in the swinging ‘60s.
Santa Barbara is famed for its foggy mornings and cool climate wine making, which produces some of the most glorious Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the world. It’s not just these two grapes that grow so well here though; there are over sixty grape types that are commonly used, thanks to the incredible diversity of soils, climates and topography.
Wine is a huge part of the culture in Santa Barbara, but there’s so much more to discover and you’ll always find something interesting around the corner. Whether its a festival, winemaker dinners, balloon rides, street theatre, dancing, golf, camping, vineyards tours and more, Santa Barbara offers something for everyone.
Wine country is just half an hour away from the beach with fantastic surf and downtown’s beautiful tasting rooms. After catching some rays, California-style, you can shop, eat and drink to your heart’s content in the trendy ‘funk zone’, which sits just moments from the seafront.
● Most tasting rooms charge for tasting wines.
● Large parties (8 or more) usually require reservations.
● Wineries don’t usually serve food, but many have beautiful picnic areas so you may want to bring a picnic lunch with you.
WHERE TO GO AND WHEN?
Temperatures are quite mild all year round (approx 60-70F), but rates are a touch lower and crowds aren’t so huge in the early spring or autumn. If it’s vibrancy you’re after however, then April is great time to make the most of the wine festivals:
● Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend & Festival (April). The Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend is four day festival in April packed full of unique food and wine experiences to celebrate the new vintages of wines being released. Now in its 35th year, the highlight of the weekend is said to be the Festival Grand Tasting on the Saturday, usually at the rather gorgeous River View Park in Buellton. Here, you can taste the new wines, sample food from numerous stalls, enjoy live music, a silent auction and artisan demonstrations of all kinds. Parking is included in the ticket price - though with all these wares to sample, you may want to leave the car at the hotel.
● Other Spring festival highlights: The Santa Barbara Wine Seminar + Big Bottle Bash at K'Syrah is a new event dedicated to large format wine bottles. Hosted at a venue in downtown Solvang, both guests and winery representatives bring their big bottles for everyone to taste and have them paired with delicious sharing plates.
● Twice a year, you can buy a Vintners Visa Wine Country Tasting Pass to tour around Santa Barbara wine country. In mid April, the visa will allow you to visit twelve participating wineries and tasting rooms, many of which offer unique wine experiences for the visa holders. Current prices are $50 per person, though the value is over $180, so it’s well worth doing.
Wildfire Relief Campaign: As you may be aware, Santa Barbara has been affected by terrible wildfires very recently. The Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation have put together an affiliate, nonprofit wildfire relief campaign with a dedicated page. If you want to help, look here.Read less