Wine Tasting in Santa Barbara-Where to Go

Santa Barbara is a wine taster’s paradise. Situated at or near 90 miles up the highway from Los Angeles, is undoubtedly one of the most attractive cities on the West Coast. Besides unparalleled vistas of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Ynez Mountains, Santa Barbara provides wine drinkers access to the outstanding wineries located in the adjacent Santa Ynez Valley, in the southern end of the Central Coast viticultural region, which is home to numerous and excellent wineries, vineyards and tasting rooms.

Central Coast wines, especially wines produced in the Santa Barbara area, have steadily won recognition and high marks for their consistently high quality. But it is not only the quality of the wine that has been raised, there has also been dramatic growth in the number of wineries in the locale. Santa Barbara County now boasts over 100 wineries, in four appellations : Santa Ynez Valley, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley. The vast variety of wineries presents a tough question for the wine lover: with such a variety of wineries to chose from, which ones should I visit?

To narrow things down a bit, of the four appellations, Santa Ynez Valley is a good bet for a wine tasting tour because it has the highest concentration of wineries and is located the closest to Santa Barbara City.

Many movie fans got their first taste of Santa Ynez Valley in the 2004 film ‘Sideways’. The Sideways locations made for compelling theater and cinematography, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are the best places to sample great wines.

So, If you really to taste the great wines the region has on offer, who should you turn to for advice on which wineries produce the most impressive vino? The best informant, without doubt, would be a knowledgeable local. By happenstance, I happen to know just such a person: my father. He at one time was the president of the Santa Barbara Wine Society, and has been visiting Santa Barbara County wineries to try their wares for the past 45 years, during which time the local wine industry grew from insignificance to being the wine lover’s mecca it is at present. His recommendations follow:

“The very best winery in Santa Barbara city is Jaffurs Wine Cellars, on Montecito Street near Milpas. It is kind of funky, but they make truly great syrah and you will often be able to talk to the winemakers. The rest are over in Santa Ynez Valley, and for ambiance and good wine I would suggest Gainey Vineyards (both reds and whites), Sunstone Winery (reds), Blackjack Ranch Vineyards (reds), and Rideau Vineyard (reds and whites). These wineries are all situated reasonably near each other. The best places for wine and a picnic are Beckman Vineyards (reds) and Rideau. I would suggest Kalyra (reds and whites) in the valley (it’s near Sunstone) to the younger set because it’s fun, but a bit noisy. For somebody who wants to drive further out, I would recommend Brander Vineyard (whites), Curtis Winery (whites), Fess Parker Winery (reds and whites), and Zaca Mesa (reds).”

Are you considering taking your own Santa Barbara wine tasting tour? Then check out Eric Hilton’s website: for the best advice about wine tasting in Santa Barbara’s wine country.