Santa Barbara County is in California'sCentral Coast region. It is sometimes considered the northernmost part of Southern California. Although it shares excellent weather, Mission-style architecture, and beautiful beaches with the rest of Southern California, the Santa Barbara area is physically remote, and has more of the laid-back attitude of the Central Coast.
Wine tasting at your choice of over 100 wineries in nearby Santa Ynez Valley is just a short trip over the mountains from the city of Santa Barbara (learn about wine country from the Vintner's Association ). Don't drive... instead, take advantage of one of many reliable wine tour companies. Most will pick you up right at your hotel lobby and take you out or a full day of tasting with a knowledgeable guide. The typical tour includes tasting at four wineries and a picnic lunch set up for you in wine country.
The Grapeline Wine Country Shuttle, . The most consistently recommended wine tour service, offers daily tasting tours and focuses on hospitality, comfort, and flexibility. Guides are accommodating, the shuttles are roomy, and unlike most other services, the Grapeline does not limit the winery choices to a handful of "preferred partner" wineries, so winery requests are encouraged and every trip can bring new discoveries.edit
Cloud Climbers Jeep Tours, . Is for the more rugged types who like the sun on their shoulders and the wind in their faces. Open air jeeps are more fun... if the weather is right which is often the case in the mild coastal climate. Beyond winery knowledge, Cloud Climber guides pride themselves in knowing the area history, plant and wild life.edit
Sustainable Vine Tours, . For the environmentally conscious. Both Sustainable Vine and the wineries they visit care about the planet and are doing something about it. Learn the difference between organic wine and organic wine-making techniques. Featured wineries are those focused on sustainable techniques. Prices are a bit steeper than other services and the standard tour offers three wineries instead of four. Tours do not run every day unless minimums are met, so check in advance if the day you want is "on."edit
I Bike Santa Barbara, . Is for those who want an active wine country experience. Quick, comfortable Specialized bikes are provided, and a knowledgeable guide leads the way through the beautiful wine country with plenty of sightseeing stops along the way. Once you've put in your exercise for the day, you are rewarded with a picnic lunch and tastings at two wineries. I Bike Santa Barbara's shuttle picks up in Santa Barbara, or have them meet you in the wine country if preferred.edit
The Santa Inez Valley, just north across the crest of the seaside mountain range, is a fairly well-known winery region. This was the locale for the popular movie, "Sideways". Wineries can be found through the valley, including near these valley cities:
Lafond Winery & Vineyards – 805-688-7921, 6855 Santa Rosa Road, Buellton. This is the high-end sister winery to Santa Barbara Winery. They're open 10-5 daily. Lafond has among the prettier views among Santa Barbara wineries. They are on the west side of the valley, which is significantly cooler than the east side, and thus maybe not a good first stop on a cool day.
Mosby Winery – 805-688-2415, 9496 Santa Rosa Road, Buellton. Perhaps not among the best of the Santa Barbara wineries.
Sanford Winery & Vineyards - 805-735-5900, 5010 Santa Rosa Road, Lompoc. One of the Santa Barbara wineries featured in Sideways. It is a beautiful property with excellent wines. They're open 11-4 daily.
Andrew Murray Vineyards - 805-686-9604, 2901 Grand Ave, downtown Los Olivos. In terms of Santa Barbara wine tasting, Andrew Murray is recognized as one of the better wineries in Santa Ynex for Syrah and other Rhone style wines. Although Andrew Murray recently sold his vineyards, a five-year leasing agreement assures ongoing quality product.
Beckmen Vineyards – 805-688-8664, 2670 Ontiveros Road, Los Olivos. They're open 11-5, and generally pour good wines. Beckmen is among the smaller Santa Barbara wineries. Their setting is pleasant, though they don't offer much view compared with other Santa Barbara wine tasting options.
Brander Vineyard – 805-688-2455, Highway 154 at Roblar, Los Olivos. One of the smaller Santa Barbara wine tasting rooms, among Santa Barbara wineries this is worth a stop if you're in Los Olivos.
Curtis Winery – 805-686-8999, 5249 Foxen Canyon Road, Los Olivos. The main tasting room and small lawn are very pretty, and the wine is good. They are open 10-5 daily, and one tasting fee covers both Curtis and another of the Santa Barbara wineries, Firestone.
Daniel Gehrs Wines – 805-693-9686, 2939 Grand Avenue, Los Olivos. One of the numerous tasting rooms along the main street in Los Olivos...a different kind of tasting experience than other Santa Barbara wineries, in that you can walk from one to the next. They've open later than most...11-6 daily. They have a nice mix of wines.
Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard – 800-841-1104, 6200 Foxen Canyon Road, Los Olivos. Some of the best wine among Santa Barbara wineries. They have a very large lawn which is well-suited for a picnic. They welcome groups and have a separate tasting counter for private events. They're open 10-5 daily. They pour more whites than red, which may disappoint some.
Firestone Vineyard - 805-688-3940, 5000 Zaca Station Rd., Los Olivos. Perhaps the most common stop in a day of Santa Barbara wine tasting. They are open 10-5 daily, and serve consistently good wines. Firestone opened in 1972 and has become one of the leading Santa Barbara wineries. Their tour is perhaps the best in the region. Firestone is set on a hill with great views, making it a perfect picnic spot. Firestone has three distinct picnic grounds. The one on the east side of the parking lot and slightly downhill has the best view.
Koehler Winery – 805-686-8484, 5360 Foxen Cyn Rd, Los Olivos. They're open 10-4 daily and have a nice picnic area. They are located on a small hill with decent view. They are among the least crowded Santa Barbara wineries.
Los Olivos Vintners – 805-688-9665, 2923 Grand Avenue, Los Olivos. Another of the tasting rooms in Los Olivos, as an alternative to the Santa Barbara wineries to which you have to drive. They're open 11-6 daily, and also have a small picnic area.
Qupe – 805-937-9801, 2531 Grand Avenue, Los Olivos. Qupe is based at the Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria, but like many Santa Barbara wineries, it has its tasting room in Los Olivos. Open 11-6 daily.
Zaca Mesa Winery – 800-350-7972, 6905 Foxen Canyon Road, Los Olivos. Zaca Mesa is one of the northern-most Santa Barbara wineries. They have rather pretty grounds, though only a limited view. They’re open 10-4 and tastings are free for groups under 10. Zaca Mesa's grapes are grown on the winery property in Foxen Canyon.
Bridlewood Winery – 800-467-4100, 3555 Roblar Avenue, Santa Ynez. They're open 10-5 daily, and serve very good wine. They have an excellent view and a large lawn...among the best stops while visiting Santa Barbara wineries. Among their best wines is their Syrah, which has earned a 89 from Wine Enthusiast and a 90 from Wine Spectator. They sell cheeses, meats, crackers, etc., which is handy for a picnic.
Gainey Vineyard – 805-688-0558, 3950 E. Hwy 246, Santa Ynez. One of the premier tasting experiences among Santa Barbara wineries. They attract a large crowd, but it's worth dealing with both for their wine and delightful grounds that are a perfect place to end a day of Santa Barbara wine tasting. They also have a nice tasting room reserved for wine club members. They're open 10-5 daily.
LinCourt Vineyards – 805-688-8381, 343 N Refugio Road, Santa Ynez. This is low-priced sister winery to Foley, but unfortunately not particularly good among Santa Barbara wineries. They're open 10-5 daily, and they do offer a pleasant picnic area.
Sunstone Vineyards & Winery – 800-313-9463, 125 Refugio Road, Santa Ynez. Open 10-4 daily, Sunstone has a nice patio area with a fairly good view. Sunstone Winery overlooks the Santa Ynez River, and has one of the more pleasant settings among Santa Barbara wineries. They have good wine include Viognier, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and others. Their reserve tasting costs a few dollars more, but is worth it.
Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard - 805-688-3032, 1500 Alamo Pintado Road, Solvang. Perhaps best known among Santa Barbara wineries for their excellent dessert wines. They have a picnic area for your Santa Barbara wine tasting experience, and are open 11-5 daily.
Foley Estates Vineyard & Winery - 805-688-8554, moving west of Hwy. 101 but they still share a facility with LinCourt at 1711 Alamo Pintado Rd., Solvang. This winery offers modestly priced wines that are often bargains among Santa Barbara wineries. They're open 10-5 daily.