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Santa Barbara/Santa Ynez Wineries

I am planning a wine tour of this area for early next week. I'm not all that familiar with the wineries in this area. Are there any suggestions on which ones are "must" visits? I found a list of wineries online and have listed some that I don't know below. If you are familiar with any of them, I would love to hear your comments. If there are some I should visit that aren't on this list, please let me know. Thanks.

Wineries found online:
Costa de Oro, Addamo, Rancho Sisquoc, Foxen, Koehler, Curtis,
Bedford Thompson, Rusack, Lafond, Foley, Babcock, Melville, Brander, Bridlewood, Roblar, Beckmen, Lincourt, Rideau, Artiste, Kalyra, Gainey, Sunstone

There were many more, but these caught my eye for some reason or another.

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  1. Shortly after they opened their new tasting room (last year? year before?) we did the tasting at Foley. It was something like $5 including the glass, and we thought it was worthwhile. I've had some nice Beckmen wines but haven't been to their winery.

    1. I get an awful lot of wine shipped to me from Melville. Their Estate Pinot Noir is good. Their reserve Pinot Noirs (Terraces and Carrie's) are excellent. They also have a tastey Viognier. I'm not a chardonnay fan but theirs isn't bad.

      1. We recently visited the area and enjoyed the wines at Rusack, Gainey, Babcock, and
        Lafond. Some require appointments and are not available every day.

        1. On our last visit, we stopped at the tasting rooms on Grand Ave in Los Olivos; Andrew Murray, Brophy Clark, Alexander&Wayne, and Daniel Gehrs were all good.

          We visited Melville, Babcock, Foley, LaFond, Rancho Sisquoc, Foxen, Zaca Mesa, Curtis and Firestone and enjoyed them all.

          For a great meal, I'd highly recommend Patrick's Side Street Cafe in Los Olivos and Brother's Restaurant at Mattei's Tavern.

          2 Replies
            1. re: Philly

              I agree with your assessment and would add the Epiphany tasting room to your list.
              I am also a fan of Flying Goat Cellars (Patrick, chef/owner of Side Street tuned me on to it.)
              Lastly, I am a big fan of the red oak barbeque found in Los Olivos, Nipomo, Santa Maria - so don't forget about places like Jocko's, Far Wester or HP (I or II) in your quest for excellent chow.

            2. I liked Beckman, kalyra, Rusak, Rideau.

              There is a great bicylce tour operator. We did one of their bike/wine tasting tours and had a great time!


              1. Carhartt winery -- it's the tiny redwood tasting room at the north end of Grand Avenue, Los Olivos. 10 acres, really nice people, and their very low-production artisanal Syrah is gorgeous!

                I second Russak -- beautiful picnic spot, as well.

                1. We LOVED Rusack. Beautiful and great wine. It's a real boutique winery. Also went to Gainey and it was fine, but very busy and noisy (had to fight my way up to get my tasting!).

                  1. After a couple visits in the last few years, I'm probably heading up to the Santa Barbara wineries again next month. Wineries on my list to visit are: Beckman, Zaca Mesa, Sanford, Palmina, Babcock.

                    Here's my post from last year.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: E Eto

                      Skip sanford, which is not run by Sanford (scandal and corporate badness) and go to Mr. Sanford' s Alma Rosa, which I believed just moved back to the original tasting room a few months ago.

                      1. re: Diana

                        The weather will be great for a tour of the area- we do have a fire going- its at 90,000 acres at this time- but the smoke and ash tend to fall on the Santa Barbara side of the hill- so no problems there, unless of course you are staying in SB, and then its not so nice...

                        As for the wineries- depends on what you are looking for- as always.

                        Los Alamos is 15 minutes N or Los Olivos up the 101, and that is where you'll find Bedford Thompson and Cold Heaven- and one or 2 others- worth the drive- and if you are into antiques- even better. Cafe Quackenbush or Twin Oaks for lunch would be a nice afternoon. You could then go 101 South and take a left on Alisos Canyon rd to Foxen Canyon- if you take a left at Foxen Canyon- you'll hit Foxen Winery pretty quick- with Rancho Sisquoc not far past Foxen- both a excellent bet for great wine and atmosphere. If you go right at Foxen Canyon- you'll hit Zaca Mesa- Fess Parker and Koehler- more great bets. That'll take one day up for sure- as all the wineries here close at 5pm prompt- only in Solvang will you find anything open (tasting) past 5pm.

                        Melville and Gainey both make some excellent chards- and Melville really makes nothing below standards- reccomend both.

                        Roblar makes panini Wednesday thru Sunday, Los Olivos Grocery makes excellent lunches to go, and there are plenty of choices for food.

                        If it were me- I like reds and also have a newfound respect for roses- I'd be sure to hit Melville, Beckman, Tensley, Andew Murray, Carhartt, Bedford Thompson and Ballard Inn for dinner- check out their web site for their small menu- worth every effort possible to have a dinner there. the Ballard Inn also does tastings on the weekends- nice before dinner- tasting their exclusive bottles.

                        Have a great time!

                    2. Chef Mike from the Depot Restaurant in Torrance does an excellent job in organizing wine tasting trips to the Los Olivos area near Solvang. He's originally from that area and knows the owners like the Firestone's. On our recent trip there a couple of months ago, he catered the whole affair with his restaurant staff at the Gainey Vineyards, Foxen, Curtis, and another fine Italian winery (I can't remember the name?) next to Solvang. Chef Mike has scheduled gourmet cooking classes at his restaurant also.

                      1. Thank you all for your recommendations! I just got back and had a fabulous time. I bought so much wine, I need another wine cooler. I bought a lot more whites than I expected and I discovered a few Syrah's that were wonderful.

                        Here are the 7 wineries that I visited--they were all winners:
                        Babcock, Melville, Beckmen, Brander, Blackjack, Alma Rosa, and Mosby.

                        Additionally, there were two tasting rooms in Los Olivos that were highly recommended: Wild Heart Winery, Arthur Earl. Wild Heart is new and hard to find, but had some very good wines.

                        Now, for the food, had to stop at Hitching Post for flawless steak and fries. Also, for lunch I had the best sandwich I've ever eaten at a small place I think is called Paninos.