Visiting Santa Barbara Wine Country: How can I avoid yahoos?
I'm planning to visit Santa Barbara Wine Country. I've heard that ever since Sideways hit the screen there has been an increase in people viewing vineyards as sort of a party circuit with free booze. Can the board suggest what what wineries I should visit and what wineries I should avoid?
I think that has pretty much leveled off - you really can't predict who will be at a given winery at a given time and wineries in general have become more commercial over the years, so this is kind of a difficult question. I don't think the booze is free anyway - we paid for tastings everywhere we went.
Rancho Sisquoc is a class act and way out in the lush, green countryside which is too far for most people to bother with. Their Sisquoc River Red is a wonderful sip. They charge $7-8 tasting fee, are responsible about their pours and there is no traffic getting out there so you hopefully will have sobered up by the time you reach the main road. This is a small scale operation with lovely tree-shaded grounds and sweeping vistas.
It is a trip back in time, before anyone even heard of Sideways (a vastly over-rated movie on all counts)
We were members at Sanford for years, and after the movie we quit. We always loved going there and having it be a peaceful trip. Now its just a bunch of "yahoos". Plus, the Sanford's sold out to a bigger winery and the whole feel of it is not the same.
I heard the Sanford's opened a new place Alma Rosa or somethign like that. We havent been, and it is supposed to be more like what Sanford was like before the movie. If you check it out, please write back.
Also, we were never really fans of Firestone wines, and it also seemed after Bachelor, it became "yahoo-ish". However, we dont go there so this one is second hand. And it may have calmed down by now. But we still dont care for the wine.
On weekends- it is a fact you'll have a hard time finding a parking spot in Los Olivos. The tasting rooms are pretty busy, as are the popular restaurants in the Valley- this is a tourist destination- besides the winery aspect, we have horses, shopping, casino, and biking opportunities galore.
Sometimes it is a bummer to see the crowds, but it is what it is.
That being said- get a map/go to the SBC Vintners Association site and look at the big picture- all the outlying wineries are your best bet- like the poster above said- the out of the way places are the best to find peace and quiet...And you can always taste in the tasting room and then take a bottle out to picnic for more privacy- many wineries have picnic areas (Zaca Mesa has a cool trail to hike to a spot) and use that to your advantage. Make sure the winery allows opening a bottle- some don't have the type of licence that allows open bottles- for real!
Getting a early start helps, planning your route to avoid the busy wineries (Fess Parker, Gainey, Sunstone, Sanford etc.) and asking for advice from a pourer really can make a trip special.
My best bets for a nice weekend? Mosby, La Fond- eat at La Fond, take Drum Canyon over to Los Alamos- hit up Bedford Thompson and Cold Heaven- eat at Flatbreads. Early Breakfast at Longhorn in Santa Ynez or Paulas or Mother Hubbards in Buellton- then hit one or two more- Sunday is far slower than Saturday for sure!
Enjoy- and remember that next weekend is Vintners Festival- very very very busy and many CHP to watch the roads. A ZOO, if thats what one is looking for!