• Nicole Leonetti

Santa Barbara Wine Country Guide

Updated: Jul 16

Here are my suggestions for the best Hotels, Wineries, and Restaurants in Santa Barbara Wine Country. This is an ever-growing list, so check back often and let me know if you have any favorites I need to check out.


PLACES TO STAY:


SOLVANG:

I love Solvang so much! Solvang is a Danish village in the middle of Santa Barbara wine country. It is a trip and it’s amazing! They have Danish bakeries, stores, and windmills everywhere! They also have wine tasting rooms and many bars & restaurants. So, I like to stay in Solvang if I am with a few friends and I know we will want evening activities.


Hotel Corque ($$$): Boutique hotel, great location.


The Landsby ($$$): Bougie! They have a great restaurant - Mad & Vin which has a lounge area as well.


Wine Valley Inn & Cottages ($$): Affordable option, nightly rate includes a daily breakfast, as well as an evening wine reception. Onsite Spa!


BUELLTON:

Located directly off the 101, Buellton is a very convenient place to stay. It has some of my favorite restaurants and is a great central location to go wine tasting from – however, something to consider - it is not as walkable as Solvang & Los Alamos. If you want to partake in any nighttime festivities, you will likely have to Uber. Buellton is a great option, however, if you would prefer a quiet night at the hotel after a day of wine tasting!


Santa Ynez Valley Marriott ($$$): Modern amenities, nice pool! *Bonus: You can use Marriot (Bonvoy) points.


Sideways Inn ($$): Convenient location right off the 101, pool! Walking distance to the Hitching Post II! *This was the hotel featured in the movie Sideways.


LOS OLIVOS:

Charming! That’s the best way to describe Los Olivos. It’s just the cutest little town. You feel like you are on a movie/tv set when you are walking around. They have so many extraordinary tasting rooms and a plethora of incredible restaurants. I would recommend Los Olivos for a romantic weekend getaway rather than a place to rage with friends. I really want to live here one day, so let me know if you can arrange that!


Fess Parker Wine Country Inn ($$$$): FANCY! They have a spa and their restaurant, Nella Kitchen, is quite the hot spot.


LOS ALAMOS:

Wow! That’s what I can say about Los Alamos! I consider it the Las Vegas of wine country. I can’t really get into the details of why, but people do love to have a good time in Los Alamos! It’s a tiny little town with (seriously) one street and an Old West vibe. But they certainly know how to pack the fun into a small area! They have so many phenomenal restaurants that you can spend a whole weekend just in Los Alamos. Los Alamos is great if you want to be within walking distance to nice restaurants, but also want a chill locale with not too many people.


Skyview ($$$) Luxury boutique hotel! Heated pool along with a full-service restaurant - Norman.


The Alamo Motel ($$): Chic roadside motel! They have a Muni Wine tasting room located right in their courtyard.




WINERIES:


Alma Rosa Winery: Fantastic Pinot Noir & Chardonnay made by a female winemaker! They have a lovely tasting room in Buellton – but I highly recommend booking a private wine and cheese experience at their ranch house located in the heart of the Sta. Rita Hills. *Favorite Wine – Bentrock Pinot Noir


Andrew Murray Vineyards: Beautiful winery located on Foxen wine trail, features Rhone varietals. *Favorite Wine – Roasted Slope Syrah


Babcock: Fun tasting room/winery off Route 246 in Lompoc, Pinot heaven, great place to buy souvenirs when you are tipsy! *Favorite Wine – Ocean’s Ghost Pinot Noir


Brave & Maiden: Newer winery in Santa Ynez – modern, smart space. You will want to stock up on their delicious Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc here!


Brick Barn Wine Estate: Located in Buellton – right off Route 246. Lovely outdoor space. So many great wines – love their Viognier, Grenache Rosé and of course – their Pinot and Chardonnay.


Coquelicot Tasting Room: Charming tasting room in Los Olivos. Certified organic winery with a unique selection of wine - need to try their Carbonic Sangiovese. *Favorite Wine – Sixer (Syrah with a touch of Viognier)


Demetria: Off the Foxen Wine Trail – Gorgeous views! Biodynamic Rhone and Burgundy wines. While they have good Pinots – I’m all about the Rhone varietals here. *Favorite Wine: Pantheon (GSM)


Dovecote Estate Winery: Located in the newly minted Alisos Canyon AVA. Book a tasting at their pond – which is the most relaxing place to drink wine! I could never choose a favorite among their Syrah, Grenache Blanc, and Viognier!


Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard: Located off Foxen Canyon. Fun place to go with a group, nice outdoor location – opens early! *Favorite Wine – Big Easy (Syrah, Petite Syrah, Grenache)


Folded Hills: Located directly off the 101 Freeway in Gaviota! Great Rhone Varietals! Unique tasting experiences – including a full tour of the ranch to visit all of the animals! I love tasting down at the beautiful lake. *Favorite Wine: August Red (Syrah/Grenache)


Foxen: Located off of the Foxen Canyon (obvi). Such a cool experience to taste at the “Shack”. Amazing Pinot – but also some unique varietals. *Favorite Wine: Pajarito (Petit Verdot/Merlot)


Grassini Family Vineyards: Located in the Happy Canyon AVA. Stunning place – Bordeaux Varietals. *Favorite Wine: Estate Cabernet Sauvignon


Grimm’s Bluff: Located in the Happy Canyon AVA. I recommend doing a full tour at the winery. Biodynamic winery. Bordeaux Varietals. *Favorite Wine: Contango Cabernet Sauvignon


Happy Canyon Vineyards: Located in the Happy Canyon AVA, they have a tasting room in Santa Barbara – but you need to taste at the vineyard – surrounded by vines and horses. Beautiful Bordeaux Blends. *Favorite Wine: Barrack Family Ten-Goal Cabernet Sauvignon


Peake Ranch: Located in the Sta. Rita Hills – fairly new tasting room – very modern. Lovely Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. *Favorite Wine: Peake Ranch Rosé


Pence Vineyards: Located off Rte. 246, beautiful tasting experiences, great Pinot and Chard – but also try the Syrah! They have the cutest dogs and you can also have a peacock sighting there. *Favorite Wine: Sebastiano Syrah


Melville: Further down Rte. 246 from Pence. Estate winery, bougie tasting room! Fantastic Pinot Noir! *Favorite Wine: Anna’s Block Estate Pinot Noir


Sanford Winery: Iconic Sta. Rita Hills winery. Gorgeous location! Famous for their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. *Favorite Wine: Sanford & Benedict Pinot Noir


Spear: Located on Rte. 246. Family-owned, sustainable, and organic winery. *Favorite Wine: Gnesa Vineyard Stainless Chardonnay


Strange Family Vineyards: Located on Rte. 246. The most beautiful location to taste wine! Beautiful views. Lovely Pinot – but I really love their bubbles! *Favorite Wine: Brut Rosé


Tribute to Grace: Small tasting room in Los Alamos, all wines are single-vineyard 100% Grenache made by a super talented female winemaker. *Favorite Wine: Santa Barbara County Grenache


Tyler Winery: Located on Rte. 246 in Sta. Rita Hills, beautiful Chardonnay & Pinot Noir – book a private tasting at their Mae Vineyard Estate *Favorite Wine: Mae Estate Chardonnay




RESTAURANTS:


Ballard:

The Gathering Table ($$$): Open for dinner. Asian & French Cuisine, features seasonal, locally sourced produce, seafood, and meats. *Favorite Dish: Marinated Hanger Steak "Bibimbap" Style


Buellton:

Industrial Eats ($$): Truly a lunchtime gem! Amazing Pizzas, Salads, and Sandwiches. *Favorite Dish: Prosciutto, Taleggio, Parmesan, Arugula Pizza


Hitching Post Tasting Room ($$): Favorite lunch spot – perfect outdoor place for delicious burgers and wine! *Favorite Dish: Oak Grilled Cheeseburger


Hitching Post ($$$): Yes – Hitching Post again – but this is the indoor restaurant – and for dinner! Fantastic steaks and wine! One of the few places I order dessert as well (the chocolate cake & ice cream!)


Los Alamos:

Bell’s ($$$$): French-inspired Bistro - perfect for lunch or dinner! This place is special! *Favorite Dish: Santa Barbara Sea Urchin Mille Crêpe (add the Caviar – trust me)


Bob’s Well Bread ($): Perfect breakfast spot – their bread/pastries are divine! Perfect lunch sandwiches! *Favorite Dish: Salami & Cheese Sandwich (with Roasted Red Peppers & Walnut Pesto)


Pico ($$$): Open for dinner each night and Brunch on the weekends. Farm-to-table restaurant. Fantastic cocktails! *Favorite Dish: Wagyu Ribeye Teppanyaki


Los Olivos:

Los Olivos Wine Merchant Café ($$): Love this place for lunch!! (it’s open for dinner too) Extensive wine list. Nice patio seating. *Favorite Dish: Steak Cobb


Nella ($$$): Hot Spot! Italian-inspired dishes. Phenomenal Cocktails! They have an assortment of Roman style Pinsas that are all delicious!


Santa Ynez:

SY Kitchen ($$$): Lunch & Dinner spot – superb Italian food! Pizza, Pasta, and great cocktails!


Trattoria Grappolo ($$$): Traditional Italian Bistro – open for dinner only. Wood-fired pizzas, delicious pasta! *Favorite Dish: Salsiccia Pizza


Solvang:

First & Oak ($$$): Located in the Mirabelle Inn. Intimate patio seating. *Favorite Dish: Duck Wings (Smoked Sweet and Spicy, Chile & Peach Agrodolce, Fresh Chives)


Mad & Vin ($$$): Located in the The Landsby hotel. Open for Breakfast, Brunch, and Dinner. Wine-country inspired cuisine. *Favorite Dish: Short Rib Skillet


Solvang Restaurant ($): Super-charming! My favorite breakfast spot in wine country! *Favorite Dish: Aebleskiver


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