When most people think of California and wine, they automatically think of Napa. I know I did! But what if I told you that Napa has a cool, younger sibling that’s ready to step into the limelight?! Well, it does and it’s the Santa Barbara Wine Country! Located along the Central Coast of California, the Santa Ynez Valley is one of the most diverse wine regions in the world and, nothing against Napa, (it was the site of Joe and my first real date, after all!) far less expensive and touristy than its in-state companion.
Earlier this year, Joe and I visited the Valle de Guadalupe wine region in Mexico and since then, it’s kind of become our mission to uncover all of the other “secret” wine regions in the world! Well, Santa Barbara with its gorgeous setting and delicious wines fit that bill perfectly and did not disappoint!
Getting To Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is super accessible. If you happen to be visiting the Los Angeles area, it is only about a 1 hour 45 minute drive from Downtown LA. If you’re coming in from out of town, there is a small, municipal airport with direct routes to Denver, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Portland, Phoenix, Seattle, and San Francisco.
Where To Stay
There are several areas to stay in when visiting Santa Barbara’s wine country. The actual city of Santa Barbara is about 45 mins away from a large concentration of wineries. If you want a small town feel closer to the action, Solvang is the cutest little Danish town where there are several hotels and inns. Los Olivos is another small town with tons of excellent tasting rooms. Los Olivos doesn’t have the hotel options that the other two areas do, but if Airbnbs are your thing, there are plenty!
Ritz-Carlton Bacara ($$$$$) – The Ritz needs no explanation. I know when I think luxury hotels, the Ritz is always the first that comes to mind! This one has an elegant Pacific Coast twist, with beautiful patios and cozy fireplaces in each guest room. The Bacara was just recently acquired by the Ritz in September of 2017.
The Landsby ($$$$) – Boutique hotel influenced by the Scandinavian aesthetic of the area
Wine Valley Inn & Cottages ($$) – This hotel looks like a European chateau from the outside, and as a plus, you can rent bikes to cruise around and feel just like you really are in Europe!
Hotel Corque ($$$) – Another boutique hotel in the heart of Solvang, Hotel Corque offers Wine Tour packages for guests staying during the week, so the only thing you have to worry about planning is the hotel!
Mirabelle Inn ($$$$) – This teeny, tiny boutique hotel has an elegant charm of its own! Mirabelle Inn has only 12 guest rooms and is walking distance from the town of Solvang. The Inn also features a 5-star restaurant, FIRST & OAK, that offers wine country cuisine.
Airbnb – Always a great option to check out, no matter where in the world you are visiting! In Los Olivos in particular (mentioned above), there are so many quaint houses that will really give you that wine country feeling!
How To Get Around
Since you’ll likely be consuming copious amounts of wine, the best idea is to hire a car service for the day. Many hotel concierges will organize a driver for you. If you prefer to do it on your own, Limo Link Transportation is an excellent option. They offer private cars with drivers who have local wine knowledge, so you can sit back and just show up at the best wineries of the area!
Wineries To Visit
Tasting rooms are typically open daily from 11am-5pm at all wineries. You can expect to have time to visit 4-5 per day. Here were some of our favorites.
Shoestring – A tiny, family-run winery where your group will likely be the only one there (hello, special attention!). One of their employees runs a wine salt business, Dana’s Gourmet Wine Salts. Never heard of wine salts? Neither had we, but these wine-infused salts are worth trying and using on ALL of your food!
Sunstone – This place is an all-day experience if you have a day to spare! Sunstone has a gorgeous tasting room and excellent wines. Outside, there is a beautiful courtyard and fun lawn games. Give me a warm California day and wine outdoors and I am one happy girl!
Saarloos & Sons – Probably our favorite wine of the bunch. This tasting room is located in an old house in the town of Los Olivos. Everything at Saarloos & Sons is family-themed (Have I mentioned how much I love a good theme? Because I do!), and this place makes you feel right at home! Bonus points, there is a cupcake vendor on-site where you can buy mini cupcakes that pair with the wine tasting flight…why didn’t I think of that?!?!
Beckmen Vineyards – If you feel like you are on an old ranch, you are in the right place! Beckmen is really scenic and a great place to sit out on the patio and relax with a glass of wine in hand.
Where To Eat
Panino – Lunch spot with tasty sandwiches in Los Olivos
Angel Oak – Incredible dinner restaurant in the Ritz Bacara. You can bring your own wine in (just have to pay a corking fee, but may end up cheaper than buying a bottle from the restaurant!) and if you eat nothing else at the restaurant, you HAVE to try the Candy Bar dessert. Just do it!
Some other restaurants that were on our list but we didn’t get to try:
Santa Barbara is the perfect spot for a romantic weekend wine getaway with good quality wine and so much to do and explore. Now, excuse me while I try and make up an excuse to have to visit again 😉