We needed to make up some ground. We were in California, the country’s top wine-producing state, for two months before sampling even a single locally-produced vintage. That changed in Santa Barbara, on the Central Coast, where some of the regions winemakers have made tasting their merchandise as easy as taking a stroll through town.
The Urban Wine Trail is a fancier version of a pub crawl. Visitors can make their way—on foot, by bike, or in a pedi-cab—to nearly twenty wineries and tasting rooms, concentrated primarily in a section of Santa Barbara called the “Funk Zone.” We started with the one that has an added attraction along with the wine: a spectacular view. Situated on Stearns Wharf, the Deep Sea Tasting Room has a panoramic vista of the harbor and the Channel Islands.
Our second stop was recommended by the proprietor at Deep Sea and is not yet on the Urban Wine Trail map: Drake Wines Tasting Room, an eclectic, artsy space tucked on a side street. Both had great wines, including some only available on-site, and servers were as generous with their knowledge of area wine production as they were with their pours of pinot noir, chardonnay, and more. The region’s proximity to the ocean—fog, breezes, soil infused with fossilized sea shells—contributes to the flavor and characteristics of the wines they produce, as do other geographic factors like warm, sunny days and cool nights. Even elevation changes within a single plot of land can greatly affect a wine’s attributes.
Other stops along the Urban Wine Trail include the Santa Barbara Winery, the oldest of the county’s wineries; Oreana, a vacant tire shop turned winery collective; and Jaffurs Wine Cellars, where surf boards line the walls, reminding oenophiles they’re on the stretch of California coast nicknamed the American Riviera.