Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country

What's in store for the heart of California wine country


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Vineyards to Visit

Bridlewood Estate Winery and Sunstone Vineyards and Winery.

Just off Highway 154 and Roblar Avenue, Bridlewood offers a Spanish-style setting with a breathtaking backyard view of its vineyard and crisp and tropical 2009 Chardonnay, smooth yet intense 2008 Pinot Noir and dark and full 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, all to try in their tasting room. Sunstone is located off of Highway 246 and Refugio Road and has a French country-style feel. It also has an embankment that looks over the Santa Ynez River, an Old World tasting room to try a rich 2007 Merlot Reserve or the bold 2007 Syrah Reserve. There is even a cave built into the hillside for barrel-aging.

Travel south on Highway 154 and visit the Lake Cachuma Recreation Area, which offers a picturesque view of the Santa Ynez and San Rafael Mountains. The park also offers five different hiking trails through the Los Padres National Forest and Happy Canyon, the smallest Appalachian in the U.S. on the east end of the valley. The valley is also 35 minutes from the scenic Santa Barbara coastline. The drive through San Marcos Pass (Highway 154) to the Santa Ynez is like taking a trip right into a painting, with the fresh water of Lake Cachuma in front of you and rolling hills dotted with aging oak trees on either side.

Try visiting in June when Santa Ynez hosts Old Santa Ynez Days.

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: Pansyford
    987539 35

    I just got back from a trip to this area and tried some really fantastic wines. Sadly, I did not have nearly enough time to visit as many places as I would have liked. Highlights for me were Stolpman (great syrahs and an out of this world Roussane), Tercero (great Grenache) and Cambria (beautiful property and makers of great Chards and Pinots).

    Mar 16, 2012 at 1:54 PM

  • I feel like this article was written specially for me... as I had posted asking for recommendations in the area... BUT I had to cancel my trip :( so sad...I will go soon, though. Thanks for this!!

    Mar 16, 2012 at 5:28 PM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 4,942

    "The coast is also home to the best wineries in the state."
    This kind of hyperbole is rather offputting. I know the area well, and will visit anyway, but if I didn't that kind of statement would just be a turnoff, since it tosses credibility right out the window. Nor is it "the heart of California wine country" in terms of history, production volume, quality, key winemakers or anything else rather than some misguided, sophomorish attempt at attention-getting copy.

    Also, talking about the 'Central Coast' as a single, integral unit is worse than talking about Napa-Sonoma-Mendocino as one. Or Champagne-Chablis-Cote d'0r-Beaujolais-Jura-Rhone-Provence all as one over in France. Ojai ain't Paso Robles ain't Big Sur, at all. It is a lot more meaningful to talk about individual areas within that wideranging, amorphous region in more detail. So just sticking, starting from the headline and lead, to a focus on the wine in the Santa Ynez Valley, only, would've kept some of that credibility. Even after that mistaken lead, you're trying to be a travelogue with a little wine thrown in. You don't do justice to the natural landscape and range of activities it supports with your hodgepodge of lists (and photos that don't specifically illustrate what you're talking about), nor to the wine, since none of the best wineries and winemakers are mentioned. One also wonders why certain inns and restaurants and tasting rooms were put forward. Have you even been to the area more than once, or are you writing after 'visiting' web sites and magazine articles?

    How about just a closeup on Los Olivos next time? Zoom in that lens! Wineries and inns and restaurants you've been to and can describe in some detail! Or hey, even just a followup on each of the sites shown in the movie Sideways. But clarity of vision, focus, interesting detail and accuracy, please!

    Mar 16, 2012 at 7:19 PM

  • Snooth User: DLS
    129018 36

    If no one has trid Kenneth Volk wines in the area shame on you. Also look up the Wine Ghetto for wome fantistic Pinots and other great find in Lompoc.

    Mar 16, 2012 at 10:57 PM

  • True article lacks details, but iit is a good overview of all the areas to go. Do not forget Zaca Mesa, Kris Curran, Andrew Murray, and Tensley for syrah and others. My new find is Kaena whick specializes in grenache. all fab, cheers!!

    Mar 17, 2012 at 9:01 PM

  • Snooth User: lakenvelder
    Hand of Snooth
    544484 519

    This area is one of my favorite places to visit for at least 30 years. When I go back home to visit mom just south of this area in Ventura I am planning to visit some vineyards so you help me with my list. I stopped at Anderson more than once for the pea soup but there are some delightful Danish restaurants in Solvang. You cannot get a real feel for the area unless you have a least one danish meal. Paula’s Pancake House for pancakes is very popular and the Solvang Restaurant for Aebleskivers . There is good reason why Micheal Jackson and Ronald Reagan had ranches in this area. It is a wonderful area. It may not be home to the "best winery" in California but some of them give Napa Valley, Sonoma and Russian river areas a run for the money or wine.

    Mar 18, 2012 at 5:41 PM

  • Snooth User: shsim
    Hand of Snooth
    1032666 1,295

    Kudos to khargreaves. I enjoy Tensley Syrah alot. Zaca mesa has always been great as well. I have not had Kaena and will be visiting in two weeks so will definitely check it out.

    Mar 19, 2012 at 1:27 AM

  • Snooth User: genew
    1059286 1

    Too bad you didn't hit upon Gainey. They are at the top of the class in this region. Tremendous rhone style reds.

    Mar 22, 2012 at 8:27 AM

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