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4 days in Santa Barbara Wine Country...During a Pandemic!

Updated: Aug 2, 2020

As promised, here is our first post about our recent trip to Santa Barbara Wine Country.

Let's provide a little background on how this trip came to be. Despite the fact that our typical travel and work schedules have been completely uprooted due to the current pandemic, we were able to salvage two days of music making at a favorite destination - San Luis Obispo, CA. Flying into LAX a few days before our work began allowed us some time to explore Santa Barbara Wine Country, which is just about halfway between LAX and SLO. How we have managed to neglect this area is beyond us, but we are so glad to have finally checked this one off the list.

First things first. Santa Barbara Wine Country isn't even really in Santa Barbara. It's about a 40 minute drive northwest into the towns of Solvang (where we stayed), Los Olivos, and Buellton, among others. Although Santa Barbara proper does have wine tasting rooms, most of the action is in these small towns, where you can cruise through vineyard after vineyard and then literally stumble from one tasting room to another (not that we would ever recommend doing that 😎).

Here was our itinerary for 4 days in the Santa Barbara Wine Country - we stayed in Hotel Corque, which was perfectly situated for a few days in the region. The hotel had really clean, comfortable rooms, and impressed us with their COVID-19 precautions. These included daily temperature checks as you entered the building, wristbands to show that you were clear, and a mask mandate while you were in common areas. The precautions extended to the wineries where the tastings were all held outside, masks to be worn everywhere except while you were seated at your table, and the pourers wore masks the entire time. This was very much appreciated by us, being that it was our first time traveling since all of this started and we didn't know what to expect.

DAY 1:

  • Tasting @ Sanford Winery. Terrific tasting and setting. Pinot Heaven. Our all-around favorite of the trip.

  • Lunch @ Industrial Eats. This came very highly recommended by a few locals, so we gave it a try and it did not disappoint!

  • Tasting @ Alma Rosa (next door). Popular producer, but wines were so-so to us. Our server that poured for us was a bit lackluster, so it may have tainted the experience.

  • Tasting @ Storm Wines. Exciting small producer originally from South Africa. Excellent! Another great winery we found through SommSelect.

  • Tasting @ Alexander & Wayne / Arthur Earl. This tasting was free through our hotel. Don't go. Save the calories. Save your palate. Minimum 15% ABV...'nuff said.

  • Tasting @ Ca' Del Grevino. At this point in the day, our palates were pretty shot, but the wines seemed OK and we had a nice experience.

  • Dinner @ Copenhagen Sausage Garden. Loved everything about this. Sausage, pretzel, beer. Perfect end to the day.

Day 2:

  • Tasting @ Dierberg - Star Lane Vineyards. Terrific wines, beautiful property. Appointment required. Rhone varietals are the stars here, but everything was great.

  • Tasting @ Melville Winery. Great producer - their pinot noir is excellent. Gorgeous property overlooking their vineyards, one of the standouts of the trip.

  • Lunch @ Taqueria la Mision. Do you like tacos? Go here. It's a total hole in the wall, but we don't think we've had better tacos anywhere. Thank you, Yelp!

  • Glass of wine @ Montemar. We stumbled across this little winery in the Wine Ghetto of Lompoc - had a nice glass of Sangiovese, and toured their beautiful vegetable garden.

  • Walk on the beach. Breathtaking vistas.

  • Dinner @ Mad & Vin. Danish influenced cuisine that was absolutely terrific. Even the house salad was spectacular.

Day 3:

Usually at this point in a wine trip we need to mix it up a little bit. Time to earn those glasses of wine by renting bicycles! Mike rented a road bike for the day, while Liz rented an e-bike to beat Mike up the hills.

  • Rent Bikes @ Wheelfun Rentals

  • Ride 18 miles through beautiful landscapes to our first tasting of the day.

  • Tasting @ Zaca Mesa - We loved these wines. Beautiful property in a completely rural, gorgeous area.

  • Ride to Los Olivos.

  • Tasting @ Stolpman Vineyards - Lots of hype around this producer - we found it solid, but not exceptional. Panino, an excellent sandwich shop, is just across the street, and you can bring the food over to the tasting.

  • Ride back to Solvang to complete a 36 mile day!

  • Tasting @ Toccata - Italian varietals can be grown in California with character!

  • Dinner @ Osteria Grappolo - Good, but not great. But, can you ever go wrong with Carbonara??? No corkage fee for local wines.

Day 4:

  • Lunch @ Copenhagen Sausage Garden - twice in one trip, because it was THAT good.

  • Tasting @ Lucas and Lewellen - this is the sister winery to Toccata (same winemaker) but we didn't care for it.

  • Tasting @ Andrew Murray - Syrah, FTW. Beautiful property and worth a visit.

  • Light dinner/tasting @ Pico Restaurant on way to SLO. Restaurant/wine shop of Lumen Wines founder. Food is fantastic, wines were OK.

Overall, this region has everything we love - beautiful vistas, a wide variety of high quality wines, great food, and lots to explore. We can't wait to return again and again. We will dive into some of our favorite tastings in more detail in a future post, stay tuned!

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