Located about 45 minutes north of the city, Santa Barbara wine country has been producing wines since 1782, and, with over 170 wineries, it is one of the most well-known wine regions in America. 75% of the grapes grown here are Pinot Noir, although the warmer areas of Santa Barbara tend to specialize in the Rhone varieties. The best way to explore the different wines produced in Santa Barbara is by taking a wine tour, either an organized one or a tour that you plan yourself, as this will not only teach you how production techniques vary between the different vineyards, but will also allow you to sample a fantastic selection of wines throughout the day.
Foxen Canyon Road Wine Trail
There are nine different wineries on the Foxen Canyon Road Wine Trail, meaning that properly exploring them all could take a couple of days. The Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard is the most lavish one on the trail, while the Koehler Winery is one of the most picturesque, with majestic oak trees lining the vineyards. The Kenneth Volk Vineyards have 18 different labels of wine, including a few obscure varieties, such as the Negrette and Aglianico, while the Foxen Vineyard is a boutique winery that produces some of the finest wines in Santa Barbara, and although their Pinot Noir is their signature wine, their Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Chardonnay are also worth a try.
Sustainable Vine Wine Tours
Sustainable Vine offers a variety of winery tours, with a focus on vineyards that practice an organic, hands-on, small-production technique. Tours are either in groups or private, with transportation in a luxury Mercedes-Benz vehicle and a made-to-order organic outdoor lunch halfway through the day. If you are looking for exclusive access to vineyards and barrel rooms, as well as personalized wine tastings, then an organized tour such as this is best for you.
Santa Rita Hills Wine Trail
With the cooling air from the Pacific Ocean, the Santa Rita Hills Wine Trail is where you will find mostly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines, and the Mosby winery will likely be one of your first stops. This winery specializes in Italian varietals, producing a wide range of Cal-Ital wines, as well as dessert wines. Less than five miles from Mosby is the Alma Rosa Winery and Vineyards, with over 100 acres of certified organic estate vineyards. Just a mile from here is the Lafond Winery and Vineyards, who produce Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Next up are two wineries that share the same entrance; Babcock Winery and Melville Winery and Vineyards. Babcock is one of the original wineries in the region, and produces some fantastic award-winning wines, while Melville is a beautiful Mediterranean winery that produces some exciting Pinot Noir wines.
Organized wine tours are great for those who want the hassle taken out of planning a wine tour themselves, but it does also mean that you will be on a stricter schedule, and will not have as many opportunities for spontaneous activities and exploration. However, no matter what sort of tour you choose, Santa Barbara produces some of the finest wines in California, and you are likely to enjoy yourself at every winery and vineyard that you visit.