While there’s nothing like exploring the rolling, vine-covered hills of wine country, the coastal community of Santa Barbara offers cosmopolitan tasting experiences that can quench thirsts for both fun and adventure. The Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail provides an authentic sampling of the region’s wines within blocks of downtown and the beach.
Enter the Wine Triangle
A trio of tasting rooms comprises the downtown “Wine Triangle.” Activities center near the Wine Cask Restaurant, a long-time epicurean hub, and its recently added casual Intermezzo Bar + Café. Santa Ynez’s Grassini Family Vineyards has opened a tasting room outfitted in lumber salvaged from circa-1800 barges and an old horse corral at their vineyard. Start with their Happy Canyon AVA Bordeaux varieties, then transition to Burgundian selections from Jim Clendenen’s Au Bon Climat Winery. Finish with rosé from imported French grapes and the stunning M5 Châteauneuf-du-Pape-style blend from Margerum Wine Company. Nearby, guests at the luxe, mission-style Canary Hotel can hit the open-air roof for a 360-view and a dip in the pool.
Fun, Funk and the Beach
Head south on State Street to the “Funk Zone” a three-by-four-block bayside area accessible by train, pedicab or the 50-cent Downtown Waterfront Electric Shuttle. A hip urban confluence of tasting rooms, galleries, and surfboard designers, it’s a place where wine, art and beach culture coalesce. The style is epitomized by the quirky, kitschy office furniture-outfitted Municipal Winemakers and Conway Family Wines’ Deep Sea Tasting Room at the end of Stearns Pier. At Oreana Vineyards visitors can sip blueberry-rich Tempranillo while battling mano-a-mano over Ms. Pac Man.
Stay overnight at the new, ultra-modern Indigo Hotel and fuel up on farm-fresh, house-made and charred-to-perfection delicacies at the adjoining Anchor Woodfire Kitchen & Bar that builds cocktails on gems from the farmers market.
Winemaker Seth Kunin earns praise for his Rhône-focused releases at Kunin Wines. In addition, he recently opened Anacapa Vintners, which highlights small-production passion projects and has a huge mural depicting the Central Coast growing regions. Nearby neighbors include Pinot Noir specialists Pali Wine Company, Australian surf-vibed Kalyra Winery and Corks n’ Crowns, which purveys award-winning wines from around the county.
Into the Zone
No venture into the Funk Zone is complete without a stop at the new half-block complex housing The Lark restaurant, three wineries (Area 5.1, Avelina, Riverbench), Cutler Artisan Spirits plus a satellite beer garden-affixed brewery from Buellton’s Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company. Residents also include artisan pizzeria The Lucky Penny and music store The Guitar Bar. For the pièce de résistance,Les Marchands brings a wine bar and retail space from sommeliers Brian McClintic and Eric Railsback, stars of the documentary SOMM.
Still thirsty? Head east towards Urban Wine Trail spots in nearby SoCo including Carr Winery, Jaffurs Wine Cellars and Sanguis Wines.
And Don’t Miss…
Dedicate a day for strolling the most inviting “ghetto” on the planet. Lompoc’s popular “Wine Ghetto” packs roughly 20 tasting rooms into two blocks’ worth of industrial park. There’s something to accommodate any palate preference. Palmina offers true-to-style Italian varietals and blends, including a Santa Ynez Valley Sangiovese that draws delicious depth via Malvasia Bianca. Explore an array of sparkling wines from Flying Goat Cellars; and whole-cluster, stems-and-all, native yeast-driven reds from Samsara. Their Turner Vineyard Syrah smells as if you are burying your nose in a mound of black peppercorns. Enjoy dueling vertical flights of 90-plus point Chardonnay from winemakers Joe Davis and Chris Bratcher at Arcadian andBratcher’s shared sampling space. Tasting opportunities also include biodynamic bottlings from Ampelos Cellars or vibrant GMS at mom ‘n’ pop De Su Propia Cosecha. Save energy and palate finesse to drive the extra mile to Brewer-Clifton for exquisite Pinot Noir from Greg Brewer (diatom, Melville) and Steve Clifton (Palmina).