Santa Barbara wine country is quite literally Sideways. The movie title hints at the unique geography of Santa Barbara wine country. It is the longest transverse valley (East to West) found on the western Pacific coast–from Alaska to South America. This creates climate conditions perfect for world-class cool climate wines (like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay). Santa Barbara wine country is also sandwiched between two mountain ranges with elevations ranging from 200 feet in the valley to 3400 feet in the hillside vineyards. Many people travel to California to visit Napa or Sonoma, but in my opinion, Santa Barbara is one of the coolest grape regions in California.
I have been to dozens of wineries in this beautiful area since it is a quick drive from Los Angeles. One of my favorite things to do is to pack a picnic and spend the entire afternoon at Demetria Winery. The property consists of 213 acres of rolling hills with 38 high elevation hillside acres. It is a hike to get from the road to the tasting room, but once you park, you never want to leave (hence, make a reservation and pack a picnic). Some other beautiful wineries I recommend visiting in the area are Gainey Vineyards, Melville Winery, and Presqu’ile Winery.
Within Santa Ynez Valley are the unique townships of Solvang and Los Olivos. Solvang was founded by the Danish in 1911, reflected in the wind mills and half timbered buildings. There is an annual “Solvang Danish Days” complete with Viking reenactments and costumed gentry wondering the streets. Los Olivos, on the other hand, is acclaimed for its “porch culture” where laid- back neighbors hang out and chat like the old days. If you’re looking to stay in a unique pioneer-town mixed with a creative flair look no further than Los Alamos. Los Alamos offers the visitor a step back in history to a time when stagecoaches and railroads reigned supreme and then was completely redesigned by our modern generation. Stay at the remodeled Alamo Motel and sip wine on the grass made by Municipal Winemakers. Walk to dinner at Bell Street Farm and eat brunch at Bob’s Well Bread Bakery. Sample Southern California craft-beer favorites at Babi’s Beer Emporium and then shoot some pool in the back room of the Wine Saloon in the 1880 Union Hotel. For a small town with one single main street there is so much to do here!