Top 5 Tasting Rooms to Visit on Your Next Tour of Santa Barbara Wine Country
May 21, 2019
If your only experience with Californian wine is Napa or Sonoma, it's high time you meet the wines of Santa Barbara. Located in the Golden State's Central Coast, Santa Barbara's wine country is one of the most exciting in California. It's a region that has it all, no matter what your tastes are as a wine drinker. Cool climate mineral-driven wines? Bold, ripe styles? Something somewhere in between? Thanks to its subregions which span from the Pacific-influenced coasts to warmer inland areas, you'll find everything from racy Chardonnay and earthy Pinot Noirs to juicy Syrahs and jammy Grenache. The Transverse Ranges define Santa Barbara's geography; valleys run east-west as opposed to the typical north-south, giving rises to dozens of microclimates. Beyond all of this, Santa Barbara is unequivocally beautiful and this natural beauty makes it a worthwhile place to visit all on its own. When you're ready to head down to the “American Riviera” be sure to check out these wineries and tasting rooms.
1. Grassini Family Vineyards
Happy Canyon is in the warmest part of the Santa Ynez Valley and it's in this sunny climate that the Grassinis craft their delicious Bordeaux-style reds and whites. The vineyards are planted with all the usual Bordeaux varieties like Sauvignon Blanc covering white wine and Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot representing the reds. This sustainable winery recently opened up a new tasting room in the heart of Santa Barbara's downtown and offers both indoor and outdoor seating where you can sip on flights of their reds, whites, and estate wines.
2. Au Bon Climat
Santa Maria Valley
Au Bon Climat is one of California's legendary wineries based in the cooler Santa Maria Valley AVA. Its Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Gris are cult classics which are brilliantly representative of the superior terroirs found across Santa Barbara's wine regions. Much of the fruit for its wines hails from their holdings at the famed Bien Nacido vineyard as well as their Le Bon Climat vineyard, but they're known for sourcing grapes from some of Santa Barbara's other top vineyards. Winemaker Jim Clendenen has several wine projects to his name and you can taste through the wines in these lines at their tasting room in downtown Santa Barbara. If older wines are more your speed, you can sample wines from their impressive wine library as well.
Sta. Rita Hills
Since opening its doors back in 1995, Brewer-Clifton has picked up accolade after accolade for its exquisite Burgundian-inspired Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Sta. Rita Hills-based winery produces its award-winning wines from 100 percent estate grown fruit. If you're down Santa Barbara way, head to their tasting room in Los Olivos where you can sample both current releases and older wines from their library. The winery also offers private tastings in their barrel room for anyone looking for a more in-depth experience and background about the Brewer-Clifton and its wines.
4. Stolpman Vineyards
The Stolpmans have acquired a reputation for making vibrant reds, whites, and roses in the Rhone style. Their dry-farmed vineyard is planted to classic Rhone grapes like Grenache, Syrah, Roussanne, and Viognier, all of which are perfectly suited to the warm days and cool nights of Ballard Canyon. If you're touring the tasting rooms of Santa Barbara, make sure to add Stolpman's Los Olivos tasting room to your list. If you're thirsty for more, you can set up a tour of the vineyard where you can see where their exceptional wines are born and learn how the land plays an integral role in crafting great wine.
5. Presqu'ile Winery
Santa Maria Valley
Heading back up to Santa Maria Valley is the wonderful Presqu'ile Winery. They specialize in cool-climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc and also offer compelling sparkling wines, Syrah, and a unique Nebbiolo. All of these wines benefit from the long growing season which characterizes Santa Maria Valley and makes Presqu'ile a must visit. The tasting room is located at the winery, a gorgeous modern space with windows looking out across the vineyards. It's an ideal spot to relax, enjoy outstanding wines while taking in the spectacular views and have a few light bites.
The wineries on this list are just the tip of the iceberg. There are over 200 wineries in Santa Barbara which leaves you with plenty of opportunities to explore and get to know the region's wines in between hitting SB's glorious beaches, meandering the fantastic local hiking trails, and tucking into delicious dishes at some of the world-class restaurants in the area. For any serious fan of New World wines, Santa Barbara is definitely a must-visit.
Written by Camille Berry for Knockaround.