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Santa Barbara wine country wineries?

Can anyone particularly recommended (non-touristy) wineries in the Santa Barbara area?

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  1. Some of my favorites are Melville, Foley, Alma Rosa, Zaca Mesa, Sanford, Rideau and Lafond. Some others that I've been wanting to try that are a little more off the beaten track are Cold Heaven and Demetria. I also like all the tasting rooms up and down Grand Avenue in Los Olivos, and Solvang also has a good variety of tasting rooms. I like Trio and Honeywood. And the Lompoc wine ghetto has some good tasting rooms. Not sure that all these qualify as non-touristy, some are fairly well-visited. There are quite a few appointment only wineries in the area, it might be worth selecting a few of those to try.

    1. It has been quite a while since I've been in the Santa Ynez/ Santa Rita Hills area, but I've always liked Sanford and Foxen.

      1. Babcock is really nice and rather small - its never been crowded when i've been there and they have some really good wines at fairly reasonable prices. Another big plus, they are rather laid back and unpretentious, pretty much the complete opposite of Lafond.

        1. Anytime you visit this area on a weekend- you risk the crowd factor. This weekend is going to be epic weather- 85* predicted for Sunday here in Santa Ynez.

          I would visit a specific area #1, it is so spread out here, it is easy to waste alot of time driving- and you have winter hours now 11-4pm- so if ou do the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail - stick to it. You could do Foxen, Zaca Mesa and Rancho Sisquoc- and if you are lucky squeeze in a Cambria visit too. Start at Cambria nd finish at Zaca- leaving you to find your way to Ballard and to the Ballard Inn for some scrumptious vittles.

          You could also do the West end of the area- hit up Melville, Babcock and the Ghetto in Lompoc- Palmina and then finish with Alma Rosa (the Sanfords no longer own Sanford-Alma Rosa is their new baby and well worth a visit!).

          Or stick to Los Olivos proper...Andrew Murray, Tensley, Coliquet (I think I got the entire word?) is new in Los Olivos- we have had the syrah - YUM. There are ALOT of options in Los Olivos without getting into your car at all- and Panino for lunch, Matteis for dinner=perfect afternoon.

          The crowds are worst at closing- get in the place you want to visit the most at opening and you'll be glad you did! Enjoy and be safe- slow down and enjoy the views!

          1. I recommend Zaca Mesa, the wine quality vs. value is really outstanding.
            If you go up to Zaca Mesa, check out Koehler. That one is low key with good wines and a nice picnic spot.

            I wasn't too impressed with a lot of the Santa Barbara wineries my last trip a few months ago. I checked out a few of the "Eco" ones and was disappointed with all them based on reviews here.

            1. Was just up that way last weekend, and will second recommendations for Alma Rosa, Foxen, Melville, Zaca Mesa and Andrew Murray.

              Additionally, Dierberg/Star Lane is right near Melville and worth a stop. If you're doing the Los Olivos swing, Blackjack Ranch is a good stop if you haven't been there (ignore all the Sideways hoopla at the tasting room -- the people and wines are worth it).

              The new-ish Trio tasting room in Solvang covers Badge, diBruno (former winemaker at Sanford), and Curran (former winemaker for Sea Smoke), 3 interesting lesser-known labels from the area. Very friendly, knowledgeable, and unpretentious staff, too.

              There's also a few by-appointment-only wineries that produce some nice wines if you want to take the extra effort -- Cold Heaven, Ken Brown, and Flying Goat.

              5 Replies
              1. re: dgasser

                Is the winemaker at Curran making the same style wines that he did at Sea Smoke?

                1. re: araknd

                  It's a she (Kris Curran), but yeah, I'd say they're fairly similar in style. More refined and European tasting than the big, brassy Pinots typical for this area. She's also branched out into some newer grapes for the region. I think her Tempranillo and Gewurztraminer are both phenomenal.

                  1. re: dgasser

                    Excellent. Thanks. My wife and I have had a few bottles of Sea Smoke Pinot Noir at restaurants down here, but have not had a chance to visit the wineries that bottle from the vineyard. We are overdue for a stop in the area.

                    1. re: dgasser

                      hey thanks for the heads up....liked most all the Sea Smoke stuff I have tried.

                      1. re: dgasser

                        Totally agree about the Gewurzt. Typically, I don't like them, but this one is sublime. I've shared it twice now with my family, and we are all huge fans.

                  2. Rideau (sp?) is rally nice. I also recently fell in love with Toloso from the Edna Valley - a little north east of SB, by Paso Robles....AMAZING Pinot Noir!!!!

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: yummyinmytummy

                      Paso Robles is a good 2 hours North of Santa Ynez Valley- making 21/2 hours from Santa Barbara.

                      Sea Smoke is also in th Ghetto in Lompoc- alot of smaller wineries have congregated in a warehoused area right at the West end of Lompoc, making it very accesable- 20 minutes from Buellton, and from there you go South on hiway 1 to Santa Rosa rd (maybe 3-4 minutes) take a left and you are 10 minutes from Alma Rosa.

                      Kris Curran makes fantastic wine!!!

                      1. re: JalamaMama

                        Sea Smoke and Brewer-Clifton are in the wine ghetto but are off limits to any one other than big $$ spenders on their mailing lists. The wineries represented in the ghetto are Palmina (Steve Clifton) Italian Varietals, LaVie (Ariel Lavie) Pinot, Syrah, Gerwertzraminer, Fiddlehead (Kathy Joseph) Pinot, Flying Goat (Norm Yost) Sparkling wine, Pinot. All four have something interesting to offer. Nearby is Ampelos and Ken Brown who require appointments but have some really nice Pinot, Chard and Viognier.

                        Note that Kris Curran, formerly of Sea Smoke, is now the winemaker at Foley.

                        1. re: golfdoc911

                          I highly, highly recommend Demetria! Although make sure to call and make a reservation to visit the winery. The wines are wonderful and so are the grounds! My husband and I love their Pinot gris, Pinot Noir and Syrah! Have fun! Carhartt is in downtown Los Olivos (tasting room) and the owners are very friendly and their tasting room is quaint. We also like Curtis, which is next door to Firestone (Curtis still owned by the Firestone family).

                          1. re: Lauraloo

                            Pinot Noir: Foxen, Loring, Melville, Fiddlehead, Foley, Samsara (chad melville),
                            Syrahs: Stolpman (head to Paso for better Syrahs like Halter Ranch and Hug
                            Whites: Brander (these guys make great Pinot Gris, Chard, and Sav. Blanc)

                            1. re: Lauraloo

                              Hurry and get those Demetria wines- saw in the paper this week the property is in foreclosure. There are several wineries here for sale.....you might find some really good sales here in a few months!!!

                            2. re: golfdoc911

                              Ken Brown actually has a new tasting room at the Terravant wine facility in Buellton. I'm sure you can call to get an appointment and confirm their hours.


                        2. We like Brandywine (Sauv Blanc and Bouchet), Artiste (red blends), Alma Rosa (Pinot), Blackjack (Pinot)-- liked Foley better before they moved - their sister winery at the old site is nice (name escapes me) pretty property...
                          Zaca Mesa mkes some really nice Syrahs, Fiddlehead has some good Pinots, too.