I can’t believe it’s taken this long to write about my last trip to Santa Barbara. My dear friend Tomos and his other half will be headed to SB in a few weeks and it prompted me to relive my last trip so that I could direct him to it.
About a month ago, one of my best friends, Ellie, and I made an impromptu trip up to SB from LA in search of wine tasting, trouble making, and much needed relaxation. It all went down, pretty much in that order. Sans relaxation.
The drive up to SB from LA is one of my favorites. Straight up the 101, weaving in and out of the coast. It’s magnificent. It’s actually quite the serene drive, if timed against traffic getting in the way.
I’ve typically only done day trips to SB, but on this trip we booked a last minute room at Oceana, which was perfect—small, simplistic, and there’s a massive hot tub and heated pool. Oceana is just across the street from the beach, in the main part of town, just blocks from everything you need. Most importantly, 3 blocks from the Urban Wine Trail. Priorities!
Obviously, our main focus for this trip was wine, wine, and more wine.
All of the wineries are actually outside of SB proper, but still in SB county. There is a small town, just 45 minutes northwest of the main bit, called Solvang. Upon arrival, we were already contemplating the whole drinking and driving whilst tasting our faces off, noting it would not be a good idea given our shared taste for the wine, to be driving-tasting-driving-tasting. But behold, our lovely little checker-inner at the hotel alerted us to the amazingness that was the Urban Wine Trail the second we showed up. Maybe he smelled the cabarnet residuals seeping through our pores. Or maybe we were foaming at the mouth when softly asking about “just how far the wineries were.”
Basically, a ton of great wineries have tasting rooms all within stumbling distance from one another, right off Main street. Here are the top, in order of personal preference, with notes included:
Santa Barbara Winery—The venue/tasting room, also used as a private party space which we may or may not have tried to sneak into during a private function, is quite cute. The service and personality of the wine tenders was, by far, the best experience we had on the trail. I wish I could remember the name of our pourer—but in all fairness, if her name wasn’t Rose’, I wasn’t too worried. Their Chardonnay and Pinot are HEAVEN.
Municipal Winemakers– This was an interesting one. Municipal was an eclectic tasting stop. Everything from the décor, the personality of our pourer, and their brewery-style, refillable bottles. It was awesome. Their whole schtick is that you buy refillable bottles of the wines you like which save you money every time you return. Truth be told, we had to have one refilled on our way out of town just the next morning! Try the Cuvsaison. It’s red, full bodied, dry and delicious.
Kunin Wines – This stop was adorable, in the sense that it appeared much like a small and VERY minimalist gallery, yet with a wine bar smack in the middle of the room. The pourers were not the warmest but the Phoebe Rose’ is so amazing. We tasted everything and weren’t dying to stay due to their a/c issue. That, mixed with their blasé tasting selection was enough. So we bought a bottle of the only wine we loved (the Phoebe) and sat outside and sipped it on our own while we took it the beauty of SB.
Oreana – This was our least favorite stop. While there was a live band , of sorts, the air of this place just wasn’t very welcoming or interesting to say the least. Yet, we stayed and tasted their wines, but quickly grabbed each other and darted out the door. We knew there was better wine and atmosphere to be had, so why waste time!
Strangely, in a town so full of great delectables, we only ate at one notable stop for brunch on our way out of town; Pierre LaFond.