Known as the American Riviera for its coast, mountains, and pinot noir, Santa Barbara is chock full of family-run wineries and world-class wines, with tasting rooms dotting the landscape downtown and across Santa Barbara County. From choosing a favorite varietal to discovering new winemakers, here’s how to enjoy Santa Barbara wine country.
Popularized by the movie Sideways, which follows a wine lover around the Central Coast, pinot noir is the varietal of choice for most wine-tasting visitors to the Santa Barbara area. Modern versions of this elite wine are juicier while classic pinot noir is leaner on the palate, and you’ll find both at wineries around the region. Cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay are California musts—these two varietals practically built the modern industry. Grenache thrives in the chalky soil of the Santa Rita Hills and is developing a well-deserved reputation for its soft berry flavors. Up and coming varietals, such as viognier and syrah, are fun to try and express the full range of the offerings from the region’s soil and winemakers. Try them all for a complete Santa Barbara wine experience.
- Explore downtown Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone neighborhood on a walking tour that includes food and drink samples at local eateries, wineries, and maybe even a brewery or distillery.
- Enjoy Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez Valley wines,, a picnic lunch, and round-trip transportation on a guided Santa Barbara wine-tasting tour.
- Head out on a Santa Barbara Harbor kayak tour to explore the area’s pristine coastal waters and spot local and visiting marine life.
- For a special experience, opt for a Santa Ynez Valley wine tour that includes premium tastings, a 3-course picnic lunch, and estate winery visits.