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May 15, 2011 03:42 PM

Visiting Santa Ynez Valley

We're visiting Santa Ynez Valley for one or two days of wine tasting. What are some of the best places to hit? We're looking for small, boutique-ish wineries with outstanding wine and interesting tasting rooms. Suggestions?

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  1. We stayed in Solvang, which has numerous tasting rooms and then spent a day in Los Olivos, which also has numerous tasting rooms. We visited a few of the wineries as well, but thought the breadth of representation of small wineries was great in Los Olivos. Where are you staying?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Niki in Dayton

      Staying in Santa Barbara, but willing to drive a bit. Any specific suggestions in Los Olivos?

      1. re: schwalovers

        We liked Andrew Murray quite a bit. We also spent a couple nights in Santa Barbara. Note there are probably at least 10 tasting rooms in Santa Barbara itself, many of them off State St, between the 101 and the beach. I liked the Sauvignon Blanc at Kalyra (in SB), but I can't find it for sale here in Ohio. In SB, I also enjoyed Jaffurs tasting room. I didn't really care for any of the Pinots I tried from the area, but the Syrahs, the Sauvignon Blancs, and the Rhone Ranger whites were surprisingly good.

    2. I grew up in Santa Ynez and have family that still lives up there. I historically have gone up there a couple times a year and have always gone out tasting for an afternoon or two and typically return with a case of mixed wine. When I go up there here are the places I typically go. Note that most of these places have been around for quite awhile--I don't list any of the newer wineries (last 5 years) because I've never been to them.

      Don't miss:

      Sunstone (I've had a wine club membership here for about 12 years)

      Go if you have time:

      Firestone (up the hill from Curtis)
      Kalyra (on the way to Sunstone).
      Mosby (on way to Sanford)
      Lafond (on way to Sanford)

      Expensive (don't usually buy many of their wines) but they have some good things to pour


      Bottom tier (for me) typically but decent wines, nice drive and/or nice grounds:

      Fess Parker

      There are also quite a few tasting room in Los Olivos and a few in Solvang that host pouring for some of the smaller vintners.

      1. I found "outstanding wine" at visits to Zaca Mesa & Alma Rosa.

        1. Visited Santa Ynez from Canada last year and had a great time. We went to Beckman, Dierberg, Melville and Roblar wineries - our favourite was Roblar (very good wines and beautiful tasting room). Also visited the tasting rooms for Stolpman and Longoria in Los Olivos - both of these wine tastings were amazing (some of the best wines we've ever had in the $20-50 per bottle range) and highly recommended.

          1. I'm not a big fan of visiting the bigger wineries. Much too crowded, especially on the weekends. Appointments are the way to go. If you have time, make an appointment with Wes Hagen at Clos Pepe. Appointment takes about 3 hours (from 10:30AM - 1-1:30). You get the tour the actually vineyard then proceed to taste wine at their home along with bread and cheese. Very intimate tasting with the wine maker. Their wines are decent as well.

            If you care more about the view/atmosphere, make an appointment with Demetria. IMO the most beautiful winery in the Santa Ynez Valley. The wines they make aren't the best (I think they suck) but the view and grounds are beautiful. When I visited there, we got to sit outside and listen to live music.

            In Lompoc, you have the wine ghetto. You have a lot of good pinots here including Fiddlehead, Flying Goat, and Ampelos.

            Los Olivos (as other have mentioned) is another good spot for tasting. You have several tasting rooms all in walking distance. My favorites in LO include Longoria, Dragonette, Qupe.

            If I had to choose one winery to visit, it would definitely be Arcadian. I think Joe Davis (winemaker at Arcadian) makes the best Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah in the central coast. Tasting is by appointment only.

            1 Reply
            1. re: skjax

              Longoria makes exceptionally good wines. Sea Smoke Cellars also has incredible wines, but they have no tasting room - though they have tours available twice a month. Check out their website for more info.