Santa Barbara County is home to over 100 wineries located within a patchwork of microclimates, terrains, small villages, and rolling rural hills, with a handful just a few blocks from the beach. The modern era of grape and wine production started here in the 1960s and grew dramatically over the last decade...+ More
Santa Barbara County is home to over 100 wineries located within a patchwork of microclimates, terrains, small villages, and rolling rural hills, with a handful just a few blocks from the beach. The modern era of grape and wine production started here in the 1960s and grew dramatically over the last decade. Beautiful resort-style wineries can be discovered adjacent to small boutique operations.
If you want to jumpstart your Santa Barbara Winery travel plan, we have a few lists to get you started:
If you are looking for a hotel in Santa Barbara wine country here are our top 5 favorites.
Due to the success of the movie Sideways, the area has been “discovered”. More and more visitors are exploring the region’s laid-back wine country. Fortunately, the area has retained its charm. You will also find that the crowds disappear on weekdays and for much of the winter.
Most of the wineries are small businesses run by families or individuals which allows for a more personalized wine touring experience. Nearly all wineries now charge a tasting fee. Most will waive the fee when you purchase a bottle of wine.
Santa Barbara County has a range of climates within its five American Viticulture Areas (AVAs). Soils in the vast region include ancient beach and diatomaceous earth to chirt and limestone.
Which AVAs are in Santa Barbara county?
Santa Ynez Valley – is the area’s largest AVA region and has the highest concentration of wineries. Santa Ynez Valley is a long, east-west corridor with very cool temperatures on the coast that become progressively warmer inland. There are approximately 2,200 acres under vine planted to Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Merlot. Fess Parker Winery, Firestone Vineyards, and Gainey Vineyards are found here.
Los Olivos – The newest AVA to be approved in Santa Barbara County is the Los Olivos AVA. This is technically a sub-region of the larger Santa Ynez Valley AVA but will allow the 13 wineries within the AVA to highlight the unique characteristics of this area.
The Sta. Rita Hills – This AVA is located between the towns of Buellton and Lompoc and includes about 1700 planted acres within its small 10 square mile area. Its vineyards are cooled by marine winds and coastal fog. Pinot Noir dominates the small appellation and shares vineyard space with Chardonnay and Syrah. Because of a legal issue with the Chilean winery, Vina Santa Rita, the official AVA designation is a bit different than the actual Santa Rita Hills name. Foley Estate Vineyards, Lafond Winery, and Melville Vineyards have good tasting rooms here.
Santa Maria Valley – AVA has the largest amount of grapes planted with about 7,500 acres of vineyards. Yet only a dozen or so wineries are located here. Large tracks of historic and prestigious vineyards benefit from the fog and coastal breezes and contribute to an extended growing season. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir lead the region in vineyard acreage, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Merlot, Mourvedre, Sangiovese, and Syrah also being grown. Cambria Winery, Cottonwood Canyon and Ken Volk Vineyards are good choices to visit.
Happy Canyon AVA – This AVA is defined by the warm temperature compared to other Santa Barbara regions and the unique mineral profile of the soil. There are currently no public tasting rooms in this AVA.
Ballard Canyon AVA – One of the newest AVAs, Ballard Canyon is all about producing high-quality Syrahs and other Rhone varietals. The canyon orientation provides it with a mixed climate. This signature is important as many of the world’s greatest wines are produced in similar micro-climates.
Los Alamos Valley, yet to receive official status as an AVA, is nevertheless an important growing region within Santa Barbara County. There are thousands of acres of grapes under vine here owned and managed by some of the largest producers in the state. The area is on average ten degrees warmer than the Santa Maria Valley to the north, and ten degrees cooler than Santa Ynez to the southeast. Small vineyards reside alongside large tracts of grapes growing Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Grenache, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Riesling, Viognier, and Pinot Gris. Taste wines here at Bedford Thompson Winery.
Fun Wine Tasting Itineraries in Santa Barbara
The Santa Barbara Funk Zone – This is urban wine tasting at its finest. You can easily walk between a number of the best wineries in the region and enjoy excellent dining and nightlife options.
Santa Ynez wine tasting weekend – Get out into the countryside and enjoy the variety of wine-making styles that make Santa Barbara county one of the premier wine regions in the world. You can also explore a charming Danish town and a historic mission.
Top Winery Lists – Santa Barbara
The Best Winery Wedding locations – We scoured the region for the more breathtaking, the friendliest, and charming winery wedding venues. We also got some good advice from a top wedding planner.
Sample of Santa Barbara Wine Tasting Fees
Municipal Winemakers (Santa Barbara) – $12 for five wines
Bridlewood Estate Winery (Santa Ynez) – $15 for five wines
Andrew Murray Vineyards (Los Olivos) – $15 for five wines
Brander Vineyard (Santa Ynez) – $10 for five wines
Additional Santa Barbara Wineries Resources
The major organization of Santa Barbara Winemakers is the Santa Barbara Vintners Association.
This site provides a nice overview of the Santa Barbara Funk Zone and Urban wine trail.
Here are some great wine tasting room designs in Santa Barbara
This site is run by the Santa Ynez Winery Association. It focuses on the wineries in the north of Santa Barbara County.
Santa Barbara Wine Country Trivia
- There are over 115 wineries in Santa Barbara county
- Grapes grown in Santa Barbara County are some of the most expensive in the state
- Wine grapes were originally planted in the 18th century by the missionaries
- The movie Sideways was filmed mostly in the Santa Ynez Valley and brought attention to the high-quality Pinot Noir made in the region.