Hit the road for a fun day trip to Santa Barbara wine country, about 2 hours from Los Angeles. There are several possible itineraries. For a relaxed pace, stop in Santa Barbara and make a day of it. Taste your way through the Urban Wine Trail, and don’t forget to dive into the tasting rooms of Au Bon Climat and Margerum in the historic El Paseo. Have lunch or dinner at the excellent Wine Cask restaurant, a landmark spot for fine food and wine. For a more rustic wine tasting experience, head up to Los Olivos, about a half hour northeast of Santa Barbara off Highway 154, park the car in the center of town near the intersection of Grand Avenue and Alamo Pintado, and slip into as many as 25 tasting rooms, all within a few blocks. Don’t miss Dragonette Cellars’ world class wines, Stolpman’s always crowded tasting room, and Tensley Wines case study in Syrah, just to mention a few. Lunch at the Los Olivos Cafe, made famous in the movie “Sideways”, and shop for hard to find, iconic local wines, like the elusive “Sea Smoke”. If you like a little kitsch with your wine, head to Solvang with its Danish windmills and aebleskivers (Danish pancake balls sprinkled with powdered sugar and topped with raspberry jam!), and walk among more than a dozen tasting rooms. West of the 101, just off Route 246, in Buellton, spend happy hour at Avant Tapas and Wine. Order up the addictive “Yuppie Crack” and sample the Wine Wall, with 52 wines on tap, and 3 different size pours. Maybe you’ll even witness the first harvest coming into the Terravant Wine Complex, Chardonnay is ready to be picked! If you’re looking for quality wines from winemakers with no vineyards, head west from Buellton and go to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. This is a friendly, no frills wine tasting experience set in an industrial complex, yet it yields some of the best wines in Santa Barbara County, crafted by passionate winemakers.
continued in Part 2