Santa Barbara County is home to an array of wineries, and you can taste their products without leaving the beach.
Napa Valley, eat your heart out. Over the last 25 years, Santa Barbara County has experienced a vintner’s renaissance, with an impressive 100-plus wineries flourishing in the area. According to the Santa Barbara County Vinters’ Association, early studies predicted that the region’s balance of geology, climate, soil, and water would give it great viticulture potential. It looks like the studies were right, as today’s SB County wineries are reaping the reward in the form of a billion-dollar business.
But you don’t have to crisscross the countryside to sample these top-notch grapes. A cluster of tasting rooms–offering a selection of wines from the county’s five unique growing areas–can be found in downtown Santa Barbara just a stone’s throw from the beach.
Step into one of these breezy tasting rooms and $5-$10 will get you a taste of five to upwards of 17 different wines. Menus typically feature a variety of reds, whites, and dessert wines, plus you may even get to keep the monogrammed tasting glass as a souvenir. Talk about bang for your buck.
The tasting rooms are staffed by knowledgeable wine connoisseurs who give generous pours and musical descriptions of the flavors playing in the glass. Oenophiles and novices alike may find it hard to resist walking away with a few bottles.
On a recent visit to Santa Barbara I stopped at the Kalyra Winery tasting room on State Street. Here I met tasting room manager Trever Green who began working with Kalyra in 2007 and was named manager last fall. “Kalyra (cal-eye-ra),” Green tells me, “is an Australian Aborigine word meaning a ‘wild and pleasant place.’ Wild, meaning a rugged harsh wilderness. Pleasant, meaning a life-giving water source near by.” The nod to Australia comes from the owner Mike Brown, who hails from Adelaide. His heritage is reflected in the tasting room’s aesthetics: Aboriginal artwork on the walls and a surfboard logo on the wine glass.
While the atmosphere reflects the owner’s roots, the wine reflects its southern California surroundings. When asked what about Kalyra wine distinctly says “Santa Barbara,” Green highlighted its lighter body, fruit-forward flavor, and slightly lower alcohol content due to the cooler climate that generally leads to less extracted wines.
For $10 I sampled eight Kalyra wines. While the 2007 Sauvingnon Blanc topped my list, Green’s favorite from the menu is the 2006 MC2, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. “We produce so many different styles of wines that, no matter your preference, we have a wine you will like,” he says.
212 State Street
+1 805 965 8606
Fri-Sun, 12 p.m.-8 p.m.
Additional downtown tasting rooms worth a visit:
202 Anacapa St.
+1 805 963 3633
Daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
205 Anacapa St
+1 805 926 5857
Daily, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Photo: Owner Mike Brown at Kalyra by the Sea, courtesy of Kalyra Winery