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Best small vineyard to visit on trip from Santa Barbara to San Francisco?

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I know that this is a crazy question for such a vast area, but if anyone has a picture perfect afternoon side trip to a vineyard that they could share, I would appreciate it.

We are making the trip to see colleges with our teenagers, so we are stopping in Santa Barbara, SLO (via Los Alamos), and hitting San Simeon, Carmel/ Monterrey/ Santa Cruz and on to Stanford and Berkeley areas.

I know I can't turn this into an adult romantic wine adventure, but we can take an afternoon and have a nice wine tasting experience at some point. I started researching but there are 100s of choices and wine is such an individual experience. We took the boys to France, Italy, Spain and Germany this summer and they liked visiting the vineyard in Provence, so they will be fine for a couple of hours.

We mostly drink red wine, mostly blends from Cote du Rhone, Bourgogne, Burgundy, Spanish, Argentina and Portugal. I'm not a big fan of single grape wines, and have a hard time with California wine in general. However, I am definitely open to tasting many different wines. We live in Texas and I've managed to find quite a few that I like. Interestingly, the climate in Texas and South of France as well as the root stock are similar, so maybe that has something to do with it. I know there is a California wine out there somewhere that will blow our socks off. Please help!

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  1. I just googled "blow your socks off" and "Santa Barbara" wines and was surprised how many entries that generated - I guess it is term of art?

    Take a look, and hopefully our enophiles here will come along later with their good tips - Jalamamama knows her stuff in this region.

    Enjoy your trip and yes, students do surf between classes at UCSB!

    1. There's a lot of great wineries. From South to North:

      - In the Santa Barbara area - if you are not into atmosphere Lompoc has the wine ghetto - where a lot of the smaller wineries have a booth:

      http://www.lompocghetto.com/

      There's also a ton of wineries in Los Olivos that just have tasting rooms:
      http://www.losolivosca.com/wine.html

      If you want to taste on a vineyard, try Rusack (by Los Olivos) or Talley (which is more by SLO

      )

      -After SLO, you hit Paso Robles. Which is a major wine area, some comprehensive posts here:

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/845568
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/847872

      If you take the 17 from Santa Cruz into the Bay Area, Testarossa is a convenient spot.

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