While Santa Barbara is known the world over for its Spanish Colonial architecture, historical monuments, picturesque scenery, and temperate weather year-round, make no mistake that this coastal California darling is a worthy destination for wine enthusiasts, too. In light of COVID-19, click here to check out which wineries are currently open. At this time, wineries are only permitted to host tastings outdoors.
Santa Barbara Wine Country is unique in that it is situated between transverse mountain ranges which allows for cooling ocean influences to funnel inland, resulting in idyllic growing conditions for a wide variety of grapes. In fact, throughout its 16,000 acres of vineyards, there are over 65 different varietals planted. While Santa Barbara has established a reputation for world-class pinot noir, chardonnay, and syrah, you’ll also find deeply-nuanced Bordeauxs, elegant Rhône-style wines, and even Spanish and Italian varietals.
With over 200 wineries throughout the region, we realize that planning a day or two of wine tasting is no easy feat. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the best Santa Barbara wineries to visit. Whether you’re jonesing for a hip, urban tasting room or looking for an excursion through the vines, we’ve done all the leg work so that all you need to do is show up, sip, and enjoy!
This minimalist urban tasting room in Santa Barbara’s bustling Funk Zone neighborhood has one impressive focal point you can’t miss: a floor-to-ceiling chalk art mural depicting Santa Barbara’s growing areas. Sip on carefully crafted, small-lot wines (from the late and great winemaker Seth Kunin), as you better acquaint yourself with the lay of the land. There are even jarred soil samples from throughout the region to add another layer of education.
116 E. Yanonali Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, (805) 453-6768
Family-owned Presqu’ile, which is Creole for “almost an island,” is focused on producing pinot noir, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and syrah, much of which is sourced from their estate vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley. Not only does this beautiful estate impress with its state-of-the-art, gravity-flow winery, which has received numerous accolades for its contemporary design, but the winery doubles as a community gathering place thanks to a variety of fun events throughout the year. Don’t miss their concert series in the summer months, which takes place at the winery’s outdoor amphitheater.
5391 Presquile Drive, Santa Maria, CA 93455, (805) 937-8110
For a tasting experience with an added dose of serenity, book the private dock tasting at Pence Vineyards & Winery, a sprawling ranch and vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills. The experience includes a seated tasting on the dock overlooking a pond, where your guide will pour a selection of Pence’s small production chardonnay and pinot noir wines. Sip wine, nosh on locally-sourced cheese and charcuterie, and relish the beauty of the surrounding flora and fauna during this hour and a half wine tasting.
1909 CA-246, Buellton, CA 93427, (805) 735-7000
Located on Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, this oceanview tasting room is the city’s only place to sample wines directly above the ocean. Here, you’ll find a selection from Conway Family Wines by the flight, glass, and bottle. If you time it right, snag a seat on the patio before the sun goes down to enjoy spectacular “golden hour” views of the coastline and mountains while you sip.
217 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, (805) 618-1185
Folded Hills has a lovely tasting room in the heart of Montecito, but to better understand this family-owned winery, head to their newly opened tasting room at their 600-acre ranch in Gaviota. Located in the original 1898 ranch house, the renovated space has transformed into a casual and chic tasting room, offering both indoor and outdoor spaces from which to sip and savor their limited-production Rhône varietal wines. The vibe here is relaxed and inviting — don’t be surprised if you get the urge to kick your boots up and stay a while — but be sure to make time to check out the Folded Hills Farmstead across the street. There, you’ll find several of the ranch’s four-legged friends, including pigs, goats, donkeys, ostriches, and more, providing some fun photo opps post-tasting.
Montecito Tasting Room: 1294 Coast Village Road, Montecito, CA 93108, (805) 694-8086
Folded Hills Tasting Room at the Homestead: 2323 Old Coast Highway, Gaviota, CA 93117, (805) 694-8086
Book an appointment at the Bordeaux-focused Crown Point Vineyards and you’ll not only get to experience the wines of this Happy Canyon estate, but you’ll also get a private tour of the property via a four-seat off-road vehicle. Appointments are limited, but if you do visit, expect to spend a couple of hours getting a true insider’s look into the winery, estate vineyards, and barrel rooms. Your private experience will end with a seated tasting of their limited-production current releases.
1733 Fletcher Way, Santa Ynez, CA 93460, (805) 693-9300
Whitcraft Winery, located in a nondescript building several blocks away from the buzz of the Funk Zone, is one of the few urban wineries in downtown Santa Barbara. Within the relaxed, no-frills tasting space (located on the other side of the wall from the production facility), you can taste Drake Whitcraft’s handcrafted chardonnay and pinot noir — each bottling made in the same lean, unadulterated, and sometimes edgy style that his late father became known for.
36 S. Calle Cesar Chavez, Santa Barbara, CA 93103, (805) 730-1680
Alma Rosa, which was founded by Santa Barbara wine growing pioneer, Richard Sanford, has become known for its cool-climate chardonnay and pinot noir, which can be enjoyed in their tasting room in Buellton. However, if you’re looking for a more special experience that allows you to get up close and personal to the vines, check out the private tasting at their Sta. Rita Hills ranch. During the two-hour experience, you’ll walk a mile through the estate ranch — home to the first certified organic grapes in Santa Barbara County, planted by Sanford in 1983 — followed by an educational tour of the property and a seated tasting of current release wines inside the historic ranch house.
Buellton Tasting Room: 181 Industrial Way C, Buellton, CA 93427, (805) 691-9395
Alma Rosa Vineyards: 7250 Santa Rosa Road, Buellton, CA 93427
Though many producers throughout Santa Barbara make a sparkling wine, very few offer multiple styles of bubbly. Luckily, you’ll have options when visiting Riverbench, which produces still wines as well as a range of sparkling wines inspired by the traditional methods used in France — think Brut rosé, demi-sec Blanc de Blancs, and even a sparkling made from pinot meunier. Stop by their Funk Zone tasting room for a sampling, or make a day of it by venturing out to their winery located along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail in Santa Maria.
Santa Barbara Tasting Room: 137 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, (805) 324-4100
Santa Maria Tasting Room: 6020 Foxen Canyon Road, Santa Maria, CA 93454, (805) 937-8340
If you’re looking for a place where the door’s always open (well, technically 364 days a year), you’re treated like family, and the atmosphere is as relaxed as “being in your friend’s backyard,” then look no further than Carhartt Vineyards. The Carhartt Cabin, located in downtown Los Olivos, is where you’ll find the Carhartt family’s 20-something wines (poured every day except Christmas) and a fun, casual ambiance in which to enjoy them.
2939 Grand Avenue, Los Olivos, CA 93441, (805) 693-5100
This former dive shop in the Funk Zone features old school décor and a retro vibe that eliminates all pretense surrounding wine tasting. With regular events, pop up oyster bars, and a menu of blends and single-varietal wines showcasing graphic, brightly colored labels, you can expect this chill tasting room to attract a hip, youthful crowd most days of the week. On a nice day, head to the patio for the perfect people-watching spot.
22 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, (805) 931-6864