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Decanter travel guide: Santa Barbara, California

Individuality is the watchword in this still-emerging region, says Katie Kelly Bell. Read her Santa Barbara travel guide and visit soon for a taste of California’s frontier spirit...

Santa Barbara travel guide: My perfect day


Drive to your first stop at the new Pali Tasting Room in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, close to the ocean. Pali offers a good exploration of New World Pinot with its wines from Oregon and California. The Santa Rita Hills Pinot is impressive (paliwineco.com).


Enjoy the oceanfront patio at the Four Seasons, a few miles away, and look out for whales. Order a bottle of Gavin Chanin’s exquisite Lutum Santa Barbara Pinot Noir.


Continue the scenic drive north deeper into Santa Barbara county. Next stop is Buellton for a private tasting at Jonata’s winery. The wines easily outshine the warehouse setting, and you’ll enjoy a rare opportunity to taste a range of terroirs from its award- winning and diverse portfolio (think sunny-climate Syrah and Sangiovese, and cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay). They’ll pour what’s showing best at the moment – not the current release – and you are likely to get some quality time with someone on the winemaking team. Appointments are a must (jonata.com).

Evening and overnight

A five-minute drive brings you to Los Olivos where you can leave the car as everything is within walking distance. Stop by the Qupé tasting room for a stellar selection of Rhône varietals, especially the Sawyer Lindquist Grenache and Rousanne wines. Then, cross the street to Mattei’s Tavern, where you can settle in for dinner after a glass at The Watering Hole there for a tasting of Sandhi wines. These are beautiful expressions of the Santa Rita Hills: Chardonnays with minerally backbones and Pinot Noirs with an enviable blend of fruit, spice and earth. Finally, it’s just a short stroll to the Fess Parker Inn, a boutique hotel where all rooms and suites have a fireplace.

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