Welcome to Santa Barbara Wine Tasting
I am a Santa Barbara native and wine enthusiast eager to introduce more people to the wonderful world of Santa Barbara wine tasting in the tasting rooms within the city itself and the four surrounding AVAs, or wine appellations, in Santa Barbara’s wine country: Santa Ynez Valley, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley.
Napa Valley and Sonoma are still the two best known wine growing regions in California, but along with the quality of its wine, the reputation of Santa Barbara wine tasting keeps growing. Nowadays, some of the best Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah in California is made in the Santa Barbara Wine Country.
Chardonnay is one reason that Santa Barbara wine tasting is gaining in popularity among both wine lovers and serious critics. Steve Heimoff, the West Coast editor of Wine Enthusiast magazine, writes in a blog post entitled Tasting Santa Barbara County Chardonnay that, “Santa Barbara County is one of California’s great Chardonnay areas and a case can be made that it is the greatest.” He especially recommends Chardonnays crafted in the Santa Maria Valley and Santa Rita Hills AVAs, both of which are blessed with cool microclimates favorable for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. By the way, here’s a good wine buying tip from Mr. Heimoff: “…both 2007 and 2008 were very great years for Chardonnay in Santa Barbara County.”
As for Pinot Noir, I recommend those made by the internationally acclaimed wine maker Jim Clendenen at his Santa Maria Valley winery, Au Bon Climat, which is also highly reputed for its other Burgundian varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. The Au Bon Climat Winery is only open to the public twice a year, but they now have the recently opened Au Bon Climat “Tasting Room and Wine Library” in downtown Santa Barbara.
More generally, I recommend Pinot Noirs made from grapes grown in the Bien Nacido Vineyards. Over 20 wineries in Santa Barbara County make wines from grapes sourced from this prestigious vineyard, and Bien Nacido Vineyards is a name that you will see on the label of many an award-winning wine, including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and cool climate Syrah. Just as an example, the Wine Advocate‘s Robert Parker Jr. gave a score of 96 to Jaffurs Syrah Santa Barbara County, Bien Nacido Vineyard 2007. Speaking of Jaffurs, if you’d like to taste some truly great Rhone varietals made in Santa Barbara City, I highly recommend visiting the Jaffurs Cellars tasting room, which is located downtown, not too far from State Street. Simply stated, Jaffurs is the best winery located within the Santa Barbara city limits.
The largest of Santa Barbara County’s AVAs, Santa Ynez Valley, also has the highest concentration of wineries, so it’s a great region for Santa Barbara wine tasting. For a combination of local color and good wine, I recommend Fess Parker Winery, opened by the Fess Parker, the recently deceased actor who is best known for his television depictions of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. Both their red and white wines are excellent, and you can take home a free tasting glass embossed with a coonskin cap etching.
Actually, that suggestion barely scratches the surface of what Santa Barbara wine tasting has to offer. Thanks to the diversity of microclimates the region boasts, its wine makers have been able to succeed with a wide range of grapes and wine making styles. In other words, it’s an area in which you can sample a wide variety of wines. Besides local variations on three of Frances most famous wine-making regions: Burgundy; Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley; Italian varietals such as Barbera, Sangiovese, Primativo and Pinot Grigio are also available for your tasting pleasure, and some area wineries produce tasty Tempranillo and other Spanish style wines.
To sum up, if your vacation plans or dreams include going on a wine tasting tour, you definitely should consider a Santa Barbara wine tasting tour as one of your best options. With over 100 wineries, 21,00 acres of vineyards, sunny weather, gorgeous scenery, first class restaurants, local color and a sumptuous diversity of varietals, blends and wine making styles, Santa Barbara’s wine country offers every wine enthusiast, from the novice to the connoisseur, an unforgettable wine tasting experience.
In the video below, Alma Rosa Winery owner Richard Sanford talks about the wines he creates in the Santa Rita Hills appellation. This is the first winery that Miles and Jack, the protagonists in the movie Sideways, stopped in at on their Santa Barbara wine tasting tour. The video runs to almost 10 minutes, but I recommend taking the time to watch it–you’ll learn a lot about Santa Barbara wine tasting and wine in general.