Our reporter spent 24 hours in the Funk Zone of Santa Barbara. The Funk Zone Santa Barbara is a cluster of top notch wine tasting rooms, restaurants, brewpubs and a distillery. As you can imagine, a day in the Funk Zone is a tough assignment for any reporter. She survived and filed this report.
Santa Barbara has long been known for its breathtaking views, shabby-chic beach culture, and venerable vineyards. Now, the County’s best wines have a home away from the vine. What was once a corner of town zoned for ocean-oriented commercial use (marine industrial and manufacturing) is now the cradle of Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail and a corridor of oddball art galleries.
From Los Angeles, skip the traffic and take a relaxing two hour tour up to coast on Amtrak. Get off the train at Santa Barbara’s historic depot and walk across State Street. You are now in the Funk Zone. Spend the day sampling Santa Barbara’s food, wine, and spirits, without ever having to get in your car. At the end of the day you can crash in a nearby hotel or board a train home. The only problem with a day trip to the Funk Zone Santa Barbara -- it’s just not long enough.
Enter the tasting room at Municipal Wine on Anacapa and you’ll think you’ve been sent to the principal’s office. But Dave Potter is no authoritarian administrator, he’s the personable, bearded man behind the wine. When “Muni,” as it’s called by locals, opened its tasting room in 2010 it was a pioneer of the neighborhood’s current oenological renaissance. Now, Potter’s contributions to the Santa Barbara wine scene walk the line between high-craftsmanship and low pretension. His celebrated, straightforward offerings represent the best of Santa Barbara: rustic but refined. It’s the perfect way to start your day.
Break for lunch:
Time for sustenance or a caffeine pick me up between tastings! Stop by The Lucky Penny, The Lark’s sister cafe, which boasts a wood-burning pizza oven and outdoor seating. Grab coffee and baked goods to go or take a seat in the garden and dig into an aromatic Milpas pizza with chorizo, egg, potato and cotija cheese or the pulled pork sandwich made with beer from adjacent Figueroa Mountain Brewery.
Out of this world:
A visit to the Area 5.1 Winery tasting room brings a welcome opportunity to kick back and relax. The winery’s theme pays homage to Nevada’s Area 51 restricted air force base that fueled mid century extraterrestrial lore and excited decades of conspiracy theory. This
place doesn’t take itself too seriously, as evidenced by the wine list’s Top Secret File disclosure. All jokes aside, the winery offers respectable blends of Santa Barbara County’s most popular varietals at a great price point. Sign up for the Classified Wine Club and receive 25-35% discounts and free tastings.
Raise your spirits:
By now your palate may be a too fatigued for delicate wine. This is the perfect opportunity to head to Cutler’s Artisan Spirits, for an intimate tasting at their Anacapa location. Though the tasting room may be small, but what Cutler’s lacks in space they make up for in quality. Taste through all four spirits and hear about the Cutler family’s enthralling legacy of bootlegging and distilling during Prohibition. 33 Bourbon whiskey, a favorite of proprietor Ian Cutler, is aged six years and blended from 33 barrels, lending the smooth, balanced spirit its name. Pick up a bottle of Cutler’s most popular selection, Grandma Tommie’s Apple Pie -- a 40 proof liqueur of seven-times distilled vodka, apple juice, and spices. Sharing this dessert-like digestif with a gathering of friends feels positively patriotic.
Get your whirlwind tasting in early and walk it off just as the locals do: with a sunset stroll on the beach. Shoes not required.
The perfect end:
Santa Barbara has a thriving tourism industry to which many of its restaurants cater. The Independent, Santa Barbara’s alt-weekly newspaper, gave The Lark the “Funk Zone Epicenter Award,” for the way it has tethered the Urban Wine Trail by providing a centralized restaurant. The seasonal, gourmet fare is served at community tables, straddling an ambience that is at once upscale and familial. Crispy brussels sprouts are contemporary and unique with Medjool dates, sesame and lime. All of the veggies on this menu are fresh and well-executed, but the seafood and meat dishes are the true standouts. Executive chef Jason Paluska nails nose-to-tail dining with plates like smoked pork belly and bone marrow crusted beef cheeks. It’s the ultimate end to your day as a Santa Barbara local. Reservations are highly recommended.