Best Review - Top 11 Wineries to Visit in Santa Barbara County


anta Barbara, located about 90 miles north of Los Angeles, has been called the most beautiful city on the California coast. One of the many attractions this picturesque beach town has to offer is the excellent wineries located in the adjacent Santa Ynez Valley.

Santa Barbara County is home to over 200 wineries, in four federally approved appellations: Santa Ynez Valley, Sta. Rita Hills, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, and Santa Maria Valley. The sheer number of wineries presents a conundrum for the visitor: With so many wineries to chose from, which ones should I visit?

To narrow things down a bit, Santa Ynez Valley is the best of the four appellations for a wine tasting tour because it has the highest concentration of wineries and is located the nearest to the city of Santa Barbara. But there's still a whole slew of wineries to pick from in the Sant Ynez Valley. What's called for here is some good local advice.

The following recommendations are from a local wine buff who really knows his stuff, regarding wine in general, and Santa Barbara County wines and wineries in particular: my father. Dad is not a native Santa Barbaran (or Santa Barbarian as they are affectionately known), but he's lived in the fair city for the last 45 years or so. He began his sojourn into the ways of California wine by touring Napa Valley wineries back in the early '60s, when he was a college student. I can attest to his encyclopedic knowledge of and excellent taste in wine, and to his abilities as a guide to Santa Barbara's wine country. The following are his top 11 recommendations.

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Top 1

Jaffurs Wine Cellars

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The very best winery within the Santa Barbara city limits is Jaffurs Wine Cellars. It's conveniently located on Montecito Street, not far from State Street and East Beach. It is kind of funky, but they make truly great syrah and you will often be able to talk to the winemakers.

Top 2

Gainey Vineyards

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The rest are over in Santa Ynez Valley, and for ambiance and good wine I would recommend Gainey Vineyards. Both their reds and their whites are excellent.

Top 3

Sunstone Winery

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Sunstone has one of the most beautiful wineries and tasting rooms in the Santa Ynez Valley. I recommend their reds.

Top 4

Blackjack Ranch Vineyards

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Blackjack Ranch Vineyards not only has a cool name, they make great wines. Particularly recommended are their Bordeaux blends.

Top 5

Rideau Vineyard

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Both the red and white wines produced by Rideau Vineyard are great. It is also one of the best spots for a wine accompanied picnic, ala Sideways.

Top 6

Beckman Vineyards

Beckman Vineyards makes sumptious reds, and is also a beautiful setting for a picnic.

Top 7


I would recommend Kalyra, near Sunstone, to the younger set. Both their reds and whites are good, and it's a fun place, if a bit noisy. Kalyra and all the previously mentiond wineries are all within reasonable proximity of each other. If people want to drive a bit further out, I suggest the wineries that follow.

Top 8

Brander Vineyard

Brander Vineyard produces fragrant, complex whites and excellent reds.

Top 9

Curtis Winery

Curtis is another of the area's wineries that focuses on Rhone varietals. They make exceptionally good whites.

Top 10

Fess Parker Winery

Fess Parker Winery, which I recommend for both its reds and whites, was built by the recently deceased television actor who portrayed both Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone back in the day. It's a beautiful place, makes great wine, and is probably the only place whre you can get a wine glass with a coonskin cap etching.

Top 11

Zaca Mesa Winery and Vineyards

Zaca Mesa is pretty far out, but if you don't mind the drive, you'll be rewarded with the opportunity to sample some excellent Rhone varietals.

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If you are considering visiting the Santa Barbara area, Check out this site for comprehensive info on Santa Barbara and its environs: Santa Barbara California.

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