We had the opportunity to take one big day trip while staying in San Pedro. Deciding where to go was a much harder decision than we thought it would be. Contenders included taking the ferry to Catalina Island, a beach day in Malibu or a culinary exploration of Orange County. We wanted to do it all, but in the end our love for good wine and beautiful scenery led us to wine tasting in Santa Barbara County.
Wine Tasting in Santa Barbara County
We were super excited to hit a new-to-us wine region, but since this trip was a last-minute decision, we hadn’t put nearly as much planning into it as we typically would. Luckily, it seems like you could close your eyes and point to a random spot on a map of Santa Barbara County and end up somewhere wonderful. Which is pretty much what happened.
The trip from San Pedro to the first winery was a little over two hours. Most of the drive is along the coast and with all the great views it goes by pretty quickly.
First Stop: Beckmen Vineyards in Los Olivos
I’d like to say we had a wine-related reason for heading to Beckmen Vineyards first, but in truth we just picked it because it includes my maiden name. It was also a bit closer than a lot of the other wineries.
Even though we selected Beckmen at random, we quickly realized it was the perfect first stop for our day of wine tasting. This critically esteemed family-owned winery is committed to biodynamic farming and producing beautiful, quality wines.
Beckmen offers indoor standing and outdoor seated tastings on their deck, along with tours of the property and private tastings. The deck terrace is beautiful with views of the vineyard. However, it was a surprisingly chilly day so we opted to taste inside.
A tasting consists of six premium wines for $20. One of the cool things about Santa Barbara is that so many varietals grow well there. Syrah and Grenache were the stars of our tasting, especially the 2016 PMV Syrah.
Second Stop: Rusack Vineyards in Solvang
Our next stop was to Rusack Vineyards in nearby Solvang. This adorable boutique winery has a stunning panoramic view and a casual tasting environment.
A tasting at Rusack is $18. You go up to the bar for a taste, get a brief description and are encouraged to enjoy the wine on the deck. The weather had warmed a bit, so we really enjoyed slowly savoring each wine and taking in the scenery. This is the kind of winery that is perfect for bringing a picnic lunch and hanging out for a while.
Another cool thing about Rusack is that they actually own a vineyard on Catalina Island, and some of these wines are available for tasting as well. They were pouring a Catalina-grown Zinfandel during our visit that was just fantastic.
Third Stop: Downtown Los Olivos
We’d had sandwiches at a Mendocino Farms to start our day, but after two wineries we were in need of more food. We kept hearing about downtown Los Olivos, a charming town square with a few restaurants and dozens of tasting rooms.
After marveling over the next-level cuteness of the area, we grabbed a table at the Los Olivos Cafe for some sustenance. We shared a spinach salad and a chicken sausage and pepper pizza. The food didn’t break the mold, but it was delicious and necessary for a day of winery hopping.
Last Stop: Tercero Wines
Properly fueled, we hit the town for one more wine tasting. The options were limitless. The streets of downtown Los Olivos are lined with tasting rooms featuring wineries that source their grapes from around Santa Barbara County. Some have their own vineyards, some don’t, but having the option to rent their customer-facing space makes the wine business more achievable for smaller operations.
Again choosing mostly at random, we ended up at Tercero Wines. We instantly knew we’d chosen well when we noticed two regulars enjoying a glass of wine while chatting with the winemaker himself. Larry Schaffer turned to winemaking after a long career in education and publishing. He has a fun and somewhat irreverent approach to wine that appealed to us right away. His wine is great too.
Tercero’s wines range from classic expressions of Syrah and Grenache to far more experimental and unusual blends. Larry isn’t afraid to take a risk, or champion some of the lesser-loved varietals in the area, like Gewurztraminer. We enjoyed the wine and the winemaker so much, we ended up joining their club.
I highly recommend a visit to Tercero if you’re in Los Olivos!
Until Next Time, Santa Barbara County
To say we fell in love with this idyllic wine country would be an understatement. Nearly everything about wine tasting in Santa Barbara County was enjoyable for us. In fact, we already have tentative plans to return in a few months to further explore the area.
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