Located about two hours north of Los Angeles you’ll find the coastal city of Santa Barbara. This beautiful spot on California’s coast features a Mediterranean climate scarcely found anywhere else in the United States, in other words — the perfect place to go on a wine tour. True to its reputation, the beaches and sunsets are golden and the hills are emerald green. The Bougainvillea blooms year round and people casually stroll in shorts and t-shirts in the middle of winter. But what you might not find immediately are vineyards — at least if you are lurking around downtown. Yes, you’ll find a few tasting rooms in the city, but the vines crave volcanic soil not sand. You see, the Santa Barbara wine region is located a ways away from the beaches and curling waves. You’ve got to travel a little ways up into the hills and valleys to really go wine tasting in Santa Barbara.
The wineries and vineyards of Santa Barbara wine country are located further north amongst the Santa Ynez Valley, Los Alamos Valley, Santa Rita Hills, and Santa Maria Valley. There you will find the small towns and communities of Santa Ynez, Buellton, Solvang, Ballard, Los Olivos, and Lompoc. The wineries are interspersed between these towns in the hills, tucked into canyons, and along river benches. In all, the area is host to around 100 wineries. Two of the more popular areas are the wineries located along the Los Olivos Promenade and scattered along Foxen Canyon Road. Fortunately, The Wine Line — the area’s only hop on, hop off wine tasting tour service knows all of these places like the back of their hand.
Santa Barbara doesn’t usually come to mind when you think of historic wine regions, but the area got its first wine produced back in the 1700s by Franciscan padres. A few hundred years later a French immigrant brought over some vines and planted 150 acres on the nearby Santa Cruz Island. But it wasn’t until 1964 that Santa Barbara got it first official commercial winery. Canadian Pierre Lafond opened up the Santa Barbara Winery a few blocks off the beach where he produces both fruit fermented wines as well as grape wines. At the same time, Uriel Nelson planted some vines in the Santa Maria Valley. It was a good 10 – 20 years later before things really started to catch on and then the area hit gold – Hollywood gold that is. A little movie by the name of “Sideways” was filmed in the area and included a number of the local wineries. This bit of fame not only brought worldwide awareness to the area, but it boosted the popularity of Pinot Noir as well.
You can expect to come across all of the prevalent wine varieties and a few obscure ones when wine tasting in Santa Barbara wine country. The diverse terrain and mild climate support everything from Pinot Noir and Syrah to Chardonnay and Viognier. There are small “micro wineries” producing only a few hundred cases and there are larger wineries producing hundreds of thousands of cases. Regardless, of what you prefer, you will find extremely high quality wines in a setting that you prefer.