Travel Guides

Wine Tasting in Santa Barbara County

The Santa Barbara County in Central California is a vibrant upcoming wine region with options to please every palate and education level. There are endless fantastic wineries as well as delicious restaurants and wonderful hotels. As a relatively young wine region, there is a feeling of experimentation and breaking with convention. There are a few routes that will land you in great wineries that are not too far apart so you can hit three to four in a day (any more than that and you won’t taste the wines at the last winery you visit at all!).

Foxen Canyon Wine Trail-

Demetria Estate– Absolutely beautiful winery tucked up in the hills about a 20 minute drive through their property from the main road. It is owned by a Greek family and has a lovely patio on which to enjoy your tasting. Their wines are fantastic, especially their rosé, which sells out rapidly upon release, and their red blends. An appointment is required to taste.

Zaca Mesa Winery– This winery specializes in Rhone style wines including Roussanne, Viognier, Syrah, and Grenache. Both whites and reds are approachable and delicious. This winery is ideal as a lunchtime stop (grab some panini at Panino Los Olivos) because they have a large patio with picnic tables where you can enjoy your tasting while eating your lunch, and buy a glass if you finish early. An appointment is required for larger groups.

Martian Winery– This winery specializes in sustainable winegrowing and a hands-off winemaking process. The wines are really interesting and the tasting is flexible- you get to choose five or six wines from their list that you’d like to taste as opposed to everyone doing the same tasting. I especially enjoyed the Grenache. An appointment is required for tasting.

Santa Maria Wine Trail

Nagy Wines– An experienced Santa Barbara County winemaker, Clarissa Nagy has now created her own label. The tasting room is small and unassuming, but the wines are fantastic, especially the rosé and pinot noir.

Presqu’ile Winery– This is a beautiful winery up on a hill overlooking the Santa Maria Valley and their wines are fantastic too. They specialize in Chardonnay, Rosé, and Pinot Noir; I especially liked the Pinot.

Kenneth Volk Vineyards– Kenneth Volk is a legendary winemaker in the Santa Barbara County who created Wild Horse Vineyards long ago. His winery is old-school and cozy and he makes delicious wine, from the well-known (Pinot Noir) to the obscure (Blaufrankisch). You’ll always learn something new at Kenneth Volk, and if you happen to meet the man himself, you’ll be amazed by his encyclopedic knowledge of grapes and winemaking practices.

Buellton Wine/Beer Trail

Buellton is a small town in the Santa Ynez Valley and offers both great wineries and a fantastic brewery if you’ve got a mixed beer-and-wine loving crowd.

Rusack Winery– Rusack is up in the hills a couple miles from central Buellton, surrounded by vineyards. It is a beautiful spot with a nice patio and great wines, particularly their chardonnay and pinot noir.

Alma Rosa Winery– Alma Rosa Winery was started by the Sanford family (of Sanford Winery). They make wonderful Chardonnay and Pinot Noir along with some of the only sparkling wines in the Santa Ynez Family. Located in Buellton next to a great restaurant called Industrial Eats, visiting Alma Rosa will give a taste of the new, hip wine tasting feel in the valley.

Firestone Walker Brewery– Finish your day with a pint or two in the tap room at Firestone Walker Brewery. The food is great, they’ve got TVs for sports, and you can taste special taproom-only beers.

Lompoc Wine Trail

Visit the Lompoc Wine Ghetto  to taste some of the region’s younger wineries in a fun, casual warehouse setting. My favorites are Palmina (featuring many rare Italian varietals with a California flair), Samsara (fantastic pinot noirs), and Zotovich Cellars (great chardonnay and pinot noir).

If you find a winery in the region I haven’t talked about here, email me at and I’ll let you know my thoughts- by now I’ve been to many of them!



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