Santa Barbara – A Paradise for Wine Tourists
It’s no exaggeration to say that the Santa Barbara wine country is a paradise for wine tourists, and the perfect place to go on a wine tasting tour. It has over 100 wineries, vineyards and tasting rooms nestled in the Santa Maria and Santa Ynez Valleys of the Santa Ynez Mountains.
Not only are there a large number of picturesque wineries to tour and welcoming tasting rooms to visit in the Santa Barbara wine country, some of the wines that are poured in these tasting rooms can be counted as being among the finest in the world.
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and are two varietals that the Santa Barbara Wine Country‘s wineries receive many accolades for. These two Burgundian grape varieties do especially well in the Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley appellations. The east-west orientation of the mountains surrounding these AVAs allow cooling fogs to roll in from the Pacific Ocean during the morning, and later in the day, on-shore breezes keep things cool. This maritime influence combined with the area’s terrain – which is located on the oceanic Pacific Plate rather than the continental North American Plate – and soils favored by the Burgundian varietals, have allowed the wine makers of these two appellations to achieve stunning successes with both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Two big reasons for that are the Au Bon Climat Winery and Bien Nacido Vineyards. Jim Clendenen, Au Bon Climat’s owner and winemaker, makes traditional, Burgundy-style Pinots which are well-balanced, refined and complex. He sources most of his fruit from the Bien Nacido Vineyards, which is renowned for producing some of the finest grapes for Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Syrah in California, for a long list of big name wineries, in the Santa Barbara Wine Country and beyond. Here’s a big hint: if you see the name “Bien Nacido Vineyards” on a bottle of wine, buy it.
I’m a big fan of Burgundy, and a big fan of Au Bon Climat’s Pinot Noir. There’s a lot of great Pinot produced in the Santa Barbara Wine Country, but this one is made in a very similar style to its old world cousin: elegant and low-alcohol as opposed to the powerful, high-alcohol style of most California Pinot Noirs. AuBon Climat also makes excellent Burgundian whites, including Aligote, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and of course Chardonnay.
Speaking of the Chardonnay produced in the Santa Barbara Wine Country, this is what Steve Heimoff, the West Coast editor of Wine Enthusiast magazine, wrote 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 Santa Maria Valley and Sta. Rita Hills. 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 I mentioned above, one of the things that makes the Santa Barbara Wine Country a great place for wine tours is its diversity. While Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley excel in producing superior Burgundian varietals, another of the regions AVAs–Santa Ynez Valley of Sideways fame–is remarkable for the wide range of quality wines it produces in an area densely packed with wineries. The region is mostly known for its Rhone varietals, especially Syrah, but there are also some excellent Bordeaux blends and Italian and Spanish varietals being made in Santa Ynez Valley.
To sum up, the Santa Barbara Wine Country has much to offer anyone wine interested in taking a wine tasting tour. First and foremost, it has an incredible number and variety of fantastic wineries and vineyards to visit, including: the beautiful Curtis Winery, the environmentally conscious Sunstone Vinyards and Winery, the unassuming Kalrya Winery, the stately Bridlewood Estate Winery, the quaint Brander Vineyard, the elegant Gainey Vineyard, the cozy Buttonwood Farms Winery, the bucolic Beckman Vineyards, the rustic Foxen Winery, the colorful Blackjack Ranch Vineyards and Winery, and the grand Fess Parker Winery. Besides the wineries, you can also enjoy golden Southern California sunshine, sweeping, bucolic vistas, fine restaurants and friendly people.
Just below is an amateur video about the Santa Barbara Wine Country. It being an amateur video, the production quality is not very high, but what it lacks in polish, it makes up for in sincerity and the fact that it gives the viewer a glimpse of the Santa Barbara Wine Country through the eyes of someone who really knows and loves the area. It’s definitely worth a gander.
The film maker is lucky in that she has a designated driver that leaves the wine drinking to her. If you are not similarly blessed, I recommend clicking on the link for info on how to reserve the most affordable Santa Barbara wine tours limo for your tour of the Santa Barbara Wine Country.