Santa Ynez Valley Wineries: A Tasting Guide

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  • by WC STAFF
  • on JANUARY 11, 2016
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California is home to some of the best wineries in the world and the Santa Ynez Valley wineries are no exception. Located halfway between Paso Robles and Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez Valley sprawls over 300,000 acres and features both large estate vineyards and small boutique wineries. Not only are the wines putting the area on the map, the valley was also featured in the 2004 Academy Award Nominated movie Sideways. If that isn’t enough to convince you to visit, here are our top picks for a two-day tasting in Santa Ynez Valley:

Day 1: Santa Ynez

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Image Source: Yelp

The Brander Vineyard
2401 N.Refugio Rd
Santa Ynez, CA 93460
(805) 688-2455
TripAdvisor: 4 stars, 29 reviews
Reservations: Not required
Directions: From the 101, take exit 154/San Marcos Pass and head east through Los Olivos. Turn left onto North Refugio and you will see Brander on the left.

It’s all about the Sauvignon Blanc at The Brander Vineyard. With flavors of lemon meringue pie, orange zest, white nectarine, and guava, you’ll want to take home a couple of bottles. The laid back tasting room—and if you’re a cat lover, the winery has mascot kitties—will help make your visit comfortable and relaxing. Insider tip: Stop by the Los Olivos Grocery Store to purchase a picnic lunch before visiting The Brander Vineyard. Enjoy it under the shade in the courtyard outside.

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Image Source: Yelp

Bridlewood Estate Winery
3555 Roblar Ave.
Santa Ynez, CA 93460
(805) 688-9000
TripAdvisor: 4.5 stars, 81 reviews
Reservations: Not required
Directions: From Brander Winery, head south to Roblar Avenue and turn right. Drive for a mile and turn right onto North Refugio Road. Bridlewood Estate Winery will be on the left.

With its mission style architecture, Bridlewood Estate Winery is reminiscent of the historic California missions. Plan to spend time touring the beautiful grounds, which includes a small waterfall and pond. Even better, opt for the horse drawn carriage rides towards the back of the winery. Bridlewood Estate Winery sources its grapes throughout the central coast region, which offers you the opportunity to sample a number of regional wines in one stop. The wine to taste is the Blend 175—a dark, rich, blend of Syrah, Grenache, Petite Sirah, and Viognier. Rumor has it the number 175 comes from the amount of times it took the winemaker to bring it to perfection. Insider tip: Be sure to climb up to the top of the bell tower to enjoy the view of the magnificent grounds.

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Image Source: Yelp

Sunstone Vineyards and Winery
125 N Refugio Rd
Santa Ynez, CA 93460
(805) 688-9463
TripAdvisor: 4.5 stars, 94 reviews
Reservations: Not required
Directions: From Bridlewood Estate Winery, head south on Roblar Avenue and turn right. Go one mile and turn left onto North Refugio Road and then turn right into Sunstone Vineyards and Winery.

Want the full overnight experience at a winery? Sunstone Vineyards and Winery, with its luxurious French inspired villa, is the perfect destination. Rent the entire villa, which comes with a private chef and personal concierge upon request. Just planning a day trip? If you’re in a group of eight or more, book the private tasting and you will experience the full range of wines from from whites to blends to single varietals. Insider tip: Be sure to try the tasting of olive oils. With flavors such as Chocolate Balsamic, Blood Orange Balsamic, and Garlic Olive Oil, your taste buds will be in overdrive.

Day 2: Los Olivos, Solvang, and Buellton

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Image Source: Yelp

Firestone Vineyard and Winery
5017 Zaca Station Rd
Los Olivos, CA 93440
(805) 688-3940
TripAdvisor: 4 stars, 115 reviews
Reservations: Not required
DIrections: From the 101, take the 154/San Marcos Pass and follow it east to Firestone Vineyard and Winery on right.

The very first Santa Ynez vine was planted on entrepreneur Harvey Firestone’s property back in the early 1970s. If Rosé is your preference, try 2014 Firestone Vineyard Rosé. Crisp and refreshing, it displays fresh aromas and flavors of strawberry, raspberry watermelon, and violet with just a slight hint of sweetness—perfect for a picnic lunch on the grounds. Looking to try the reds? Taste the 2011 Merlot with its aromas of cherry, red currant, licorice, and smoky oak or splurge on the 2011 Proximity 26 with its bold aromas and flavors of blackberry and black cherry fruits with soft notes of cedar, vanilla, and baking spices. Insider tip: Didn’t bring a picnic lunch? Head over to the town of Los Olivos and stop in the Los Olivos Merchant Cafe for some gourmet pizza, a burger, or homemade ravioli.

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Image Source: Yelp

Fess Parker Winery
6200 Foxen Canyon Rd
Los Olivos, CA 93441
(805) 688-1545
TripAdvisor: 4.5 stars, 142 reviews
Reservations: Not required
Directions: From Firestone Vineyard and Winery, turn left onto Zaca Station Road and follow it and merge onto Foxen Canyon Road. Fess Parker Winery will be on the right.

Fess Parker Winery, with its expansive grounds and beautiful scenery, is best known for its famous founder—late actor Fess Parker, who played Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone on TV back in the 1950s and 1960s. Indulge in the Classic Tasting, which includes Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Noir, and Parker’s favorite, Syrah. If you’re looking to stay overnight, check in to the luxurious Fess Parker Country Inn up the road from the winery. Insider tip: Be sure to watch the movie Sideways before you venture up to Fess Parker Winery. The winery is featured in the scene where Miles famously has a meltdown and drinks from the dump bucket.

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Image Source: Yelp

Saarloos + Sons
2971 Grand Ave
Los Olivos, CA 93441
(805) 688-1200
TripAdvisor: 4.5 stars, 52 reviews
Reservations: Not required
Directions: From Fess Parker Winery, turn left on Foxen Canyon Road and drive for 4.3 miles. Turn left onto Highway 154 and follow it 0.5 mile to Grand Avenue and turn right. Saarloos + Sons will be the first building on the right after the park.

Feel right at home at Saarloos + Sons, located in downtown Los Olivos. Small on space, Saarloos + Sons is big on taste. Hip, warm, and rustic, sit inside at the bar or outside by the fire pit and enjoy wines which are named after family members. Try their Cupcake and Wine Flight, sourced from Enjoy! Cupcakes located inside the tasting room featuring flavors like Chocolate Blackberry Syrah, Citrus Sauvignon Blanc, Caramel Pinot, and Raspberry Nectarine Chardonnay. Insider tip: Document your Saarloos + Sons tasting with a picture from the “photo booth” located just inside the entrance.

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Image Source: Yelp

Buttonwood Farm Winery and Vineyard
1500 Alamo Pintado Rd
Solvang, CA 93463
(805) 688-3032
TripAdvisor: 4 stars, 50 reviews
Reservations: Not required
Directions: From Saarloos + Sons, turn right on Grand Avenue. Drive one mile and take a slight right onto Alamo Pintado. Continue 2.1 miles. Buttonwood Farm Winery and Vineyard will be on the left.

This charming winery, which now includes a 39-acre vineyard, started out as horse farm that sold organically grown produce. The garden of flowers and fruit trees, including the very well known peach trees, provide a backyard and homey feel. The Buttonwood Zingy is a Sauvignon Blanc with notes of kumquat, guava, and just ripe pineapple. The Semi-Semi delivers sugarcane-like sweetness, white peach, and apple cider notes that are lifted with bright key-lime acidity and finishes with hints of almond and spun honey. If it’s a red you want to try, go with the Trevin—a bouquet of sweet oak and vanilla notes that mingle with tobacco leaf, ripe olive, and hints of violet. Insider tip: Ready for dinner? Head over to the Hitching Post in Buellton, another famous Sideways location, where you can pair the Buttonwood Sauvignon Blanc with the fresh fish or chicken.

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Image Source: Yelp

Loring Wine Company
420 E Hwy 246
Buellton, CA 93427
(805) 691-1300
TripAdvisor: 4.5 stars, 5 reviews
Reservations: Required
Directions: From Buttonwood Winery and Vineyard, head south on Alamo Pintado Road for two miles. Turn right on Mission Dr/Hwy 246 and follow for 3.4 miles. Loring Wine Company will be on the left.

Before you head to the Hitching Post for dinner, make an appointment to stop into the Loring Wine Company and try some of the best Pinot Noir in Santa Barbara County. Along with Pinot Noir, Brian loves Champagne and Chardonnay, which he will gladly teach you about. The most exciting offering is the cookie and wine pairing. You will be amazed at how flavorful your glass of wine can be paired with Lemon Pistachio, Cherry Almond, Goat Cheese Gouda, Manchego Walnut, and Chocolate Caramel cookies. Insider tip: Check out the ostrich farm down the hill from the winery. It’s not something you see everyday.

While the Santa Ynez Valley is small in name, its large on ambiance and taste. If you’re traveling down the 101 highway to Santa Barbara or north to Paso Robles, be sure to set aside time to explore this unique wine region.