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Wine Country Featured Destination (full article)
Santa Barbara Wine Country — California Wine Country Gem
Just 90 minutes north of the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, the remarkable Santa Barbara County wine country begins. In 1962 Pierre Lafond opened the first area winery since prohibition, and today over 50 exceptional wineries offer distict wines with diverse strengths and flavors. Best known for distinctive Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the area includes both cool coastal and warm inland climates, along with a more moderate terroir favored by Rhône varietals like Syrah. A reputation for superior wines and hospitality in this area is building, have you been here lately?
Within Santa Barbara County there are three distinct appellations: Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley, and the newly designated Santa Rita Hills. In addition, some wineries are conveniently located around the classy seaside city of Santa Barbara. The enticing Los Alamos area between the Santa Maria Valley and Santa Ynez Valleys is interesting to visit as well.
If you are coming from the south, the city of Santa Barbara deserves your attention first. Summerland Winery, one of the county’s newest wineries, is known for its value-oriented Central Coast line of wines, low production, and single vineyard gems. Santa Barbara Winery is located two blocks from both the beach and from State Street, the city’s premiere shopping district, so there is something for everyone to do while visiting. Along with numerous other Santa Barbara award-winning wines, both dry and sweet late-harvest Rieslings are standouts.
Less than an hour north of Santa Barbara, just off Highway 101, is the La Purisima Wine Tour. Also known as the Lompoc Loop, this is a lovely drive through one of the most unspoiled and scenic areas in the Santa Ynez Valley, and home of the new Santa Rita Hills appellation. Following Santa Rosa Road from Highway 101 and returning on Highway 246 to complete the loop, it includes five appealing wineries. You might also stop to see the historic La Purisima Mission as you follow part of the original El Camino Real, or mission trail of early Spanish California, part of this stunning 34-mile drive.
The loop includes Lafond Winery, where you might taste the 2001 Melville Vineyard Syrah, Double Gold award winner at the California State Fair. Another fascinating stop is Mosby Wines where they produce fine Cal-Italia wines from estate grown fruit, including interesting varietals like Pinot Grigio, Dolcetto, Teroldego, and Grappa. A picturesque old Carriage House in the vineyard houses this attractive tasting room.
After completing the loop, and continuing east on Highway 246 one arrives at Solvang. A quaint old world village established by Danish settlers in 1911, Solvang has been a touristic Mecca for many decades. Today, local winery tasting rooms mingle with pastries and chocolate shops — something for everyone! The area affords excellent lodging for all tastes and budgets.
To the east of Solvang is Santa Ynez. Taste several interesting brands at the Santa Ynez Inn Wine Cellar. Heading north, one finds the charming, historic town of Los Olivos, where wine tasting and cafés are all within walking distance of each other. Located here is Carina Cellars, where you can taste and buy a bottle of one of their awesome artisan wines, and then picnic in their backyard. The Los Olivos Wines & Spirits Emporium is a wine shop serving as the tasting room for many small production jewels from all over the Central Coast. Finally Chef Rick’s, a favorite locals' eatery in Santa Maria to the north, recently opened a second location in Santa Ynez.
Heading off busy Highway 154 just north of Los Olivos at Foxen Canyon Road is the Foxen Wine Trail, one of Santa Barbara’s finest wine areas. Firestone Vineyard was established in 1972 as Santa Barbara County's first estate winery. Look for Firestone wines in restaurants throughout the area. A 1.2-mile footpath extends across the estate from Firestone Vineyard to its sister Curtis Winery, where they produce Syrah, Carignane, Heritage (a Rhône blend) and Viognier. On a gorgeous fall day here, two tastings and a good walk make a satisfying combination. If by now you are missing Hollywood, Fess Parker’s Winery and Country Inn is an entertaining stop.
As you work your way north, completing your tour in Santa Maria, you will be able to access more of the best wineries in the area. Santa Barbara County Vintner's Association provides a tour map that may be picked up from most any winery. Go to SantaBarbara.WineCountry.com/events.html for special events, culture and entertainment.
Whether you go for a day away from in the big city, or plan a more extended visit, we think you’ll agree that Santa Barbara’s Wine Country is worth your attention!