We love to take advantage of living in California to check out great local wineries when we can. Our go to spot is the Santa Ynez Valley, just northeast of Santa Barbara. This area is particularly special to us because we actually got married in the valley!
Here are some of our favorite spots we’d like to share with you. Most of our preferences lean toward the less pretentious end of the wine tasting scene, and favor pretty views, outdoor picnic spots, farms, newer less proven & less expensive wineries, and the like.
Adorable “Home Base” Towns
Los Olivos – This was our first love in the valley, and still our favorite adorable, walkable town. If you just wanted to taste wine here and not have to drive at all, there are plenty of tasting rooms right in town. There are also some great restaurants. Panino is our favorite spot for casual sandwiches, and also a great place to get a picnic to take out and enjoy on a winery lawn. Sides Restaurant is a great spot for a nicer sit-down meal – they are known for their pork belly. There is only one pricy hotel right in town (Fess-Parker Inn), and although we haven’t stayed due to the price tag, its location is unbeatable. There are also a lot of places to stay via AirBnB or VRBO.
Santa Ynez – This brings us to the main reason we like another cute town in the valley as a home base – For Friends Inn bed and breakfast. We like the Buttonwood room – Buttonwood also happens to be one of our favorite local wineries. The Inn hosts are incredibly friendly and happy to give you recommendations for the area. Maybe we’ll post later about the great cycling routes they sent us on! They give you a “Friendship Pass” with discounts to local wineries. Our favorite place we ate while there was the S.Y. Kitchen.
Favorite Wineries & Tasting Rooms
Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard – Relatively inexpensive but yummy wines, great variety of both whites and reds, and a peach orchard and a farm on the property. What more could you ask for?! There is also a nice garden area to picnic at, and sometimes they bring in a pop up pizza cart or other prepared food vendor. This is the one winery we kept a membership at after having kids and trying to save money on wine! It’s a less pretentious, friendly spot. It also has a fairly central location in the valley, which is convenient.
Zaca Mesa Winery – We like the drive up to this winery almost as much as the winery itself. Zaca Mesa Road is full of wineries, so you can pick one or two that strike your fancy to stop at along the way and make a day of just this little area. Zaca Mesa is toward the end of the bunch, and is worth the drive. There is a pattern to our preferences – this is also a fairly unpretentious spot with a chill patio to picnic and relax on. They even have an oversized chess game you can try, and often have live music on the patio. We like their syrahs a lot!
Demetria Estates – I have to admit it took us forever to try this one because it did seem a bit on the uppity side and you have to plan ahead and make a tasting reservation. Enough people talked about it that we finally checked it out and had a great time. There was live music on the patio, people picnicking (more tables and chairs than grassy lawn though), and it was a nice relaxing time. They brought our tastings to us as opposed to having to stand around a bar the whole time, which was nice, and the wines were really great. We were there in the summer and we took home a bottle of the rose.
Carr Winery – If you do end up staying in Santa Ynez, this is a great little tasting room to walk to. It’s a newer winery, there’s a warehouse feel in the tasting room, and you can see some of the production elements just beyond the tasting bar. When we were there they had live music, board games you could use, and also a really low-key vibe. The wine is also really affordable for the valley as it’s a newer spot, but we really enjoyed some of their experimental varieties.
I have a feeling I’ll keep adding to this post over time, or make a Part II at some point, because there are so, so many more great places in the valley to check out. Hopefully this is enough to get you started for a weekend visit though!
Here’s a cool little map of the area to check out too.