Wine Country in the City

Deep Sea Winery Tasting Room, Santa Barbara

Wine and waves at the Deep Sea Tasting Room in Santa Barbara, CA

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.

Urban Wine Trail Map

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.

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6 Comments on “Wine Country in the City”

  1. Jason April 19, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    I’ve had the pleasure of sampling wines in Santa Barbara, although I did not know about the wine trail, great idea. May need to set aside a couple of days if planning to sample all 17….
    Something that struck me was the number of homeless people in this beautiful little city. The locals advised that the mild climate makes it a bit of a mecca for people from all over the country. Have you noticed this?


    • Brian April 19, 2013 at 10:58 am #

      We have noticed more homeless in California generally than elsewhere. I suspect the climate has something to do with that but also, perhaps, a more permissive environment. I know we used to see far more homeless people in New York than we do today. I don’t think that is because of fewer numbers, they’ve just been moved out of sight:,9171,35839,00.html


  2. backthewaywecame April 19, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    I love the idea of Drake Wines Tasting Room tucked away in an artsy place. Sounds – excuse the pun – just up my alley. What a wonderful way to see a city.


  3. Tom April 19, 2013 at 10:02 am #

    We got so caught up riding bikes in Santa Barbara that we never noticed the wine. Next time, we’ll pay better attention! Thanks for the tip.


  4. heavenhappens April 19, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    Jealous with a capital J x everything about your site brings me joy in abundance!! Enjoy everywhere for me!


  5. hermitsdoor April 20, 2013 at 6:35 am #

    We have not been to Santa Barbara, but have heard that many small wine producers have set up specialty shops there. Seems that Napa, Sanoma, and Central Valley wineries have gotten too large. Enjoy your wine shop crawl.


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