10 Wonderful Winter Wine Tasting Adventures

Posted on Jan 30 by SEASONS Magazine

An amazing variety of wine experiences are available at Santa Barbara County vineyards, including Pence Vineyards. Courtesy photo.

An amazing variety of wine experiences are available at Santa Barbara County vineyards, including Pence Vineyards. Courtesy photo.

By Wendy Thies Sell

There is only one thing better than touring a Santa Barbara County vineyard–touring the vineyard while tasting the wine from the site that it is grown.

Santa Barbara Vintners’ new Director of Operations, Phil Carpenter, is as passionate about wine as they come. The consummate cheerleader for Santa Barbara County wine paints a pretty romantic picture about a voyage into a vineyard.

“When tasting wine that comes from the vines you are standing in, you can experience the transparency of the wine through so many lenses,” says Carpenter. “Your eyes not only see the hue of the wine, but the hue of the soil the rootstocks elevate from. You smell not only the nose of that wine, but also what is floating around and above the canopy. You can taste the soil you’re kicking beneath your feet, and how it influences the nuance of the palate. There is no way you don’t go through that experience without making an emotional connection that tends to make you a loyal advocate for that label, that land and people involved with it.”

There’s never been a better time to explore Santa Barbara wine country. More wineries than ever are offering private tours or unique wine experiences, for a price; ranging from $25-90/person.

Spear Winery, photo by Blakeney Sanford.

Spear Winery, photo by Blakeney Sanford.

Spear Winery will whisk you away on a journey through the 34-acre organic vineyard while you savor estate pinot noir and chardonnay. The top of the ranch peaks at more than 900 feet above sea level with magnificent 360-degree views of the entire Sta. Rita Hills AVA.

Spear’s new winery and tasting room were created from the property’s historic original dairy barn. “We have a place to bring people to have a real vineyard tasting experience,” says owner Ofer Shepher. Visits are by appointment.

Pence Vineyards offers several outdoor wine experiences, by appointment.

Sommeliers lead guests through a personal seated tasting at the estate’s octagon-shaped pond house or sip wine paired with cheese and charcuterie on the dock next to the vineyard-surrounded pond.

An amazing variety of wine experiences are available at Santa Barbara County vineyards, including Brave & Maiden. Courtesy photo.

An amazing variety of wine experiences are available at Santa Barbara County vineyards, including Brave & Maiden. Courtesy photo.

Be pampered at Brave & Maiden. You won’t find a bar at the impressive new winery and tasting room in Santa Ynez, open by appointment. Three tiers of guided experiences feature a seated tasting in luxurious living or dining room areas.

“It is really important to us that our guests have our full attention when they are experiencing our wines, unlike at a crowded bar where you are sort of competing for the host’s attention,” says Brave & Maiden’s Managing Director Jason Djang. Tour the winery and vineyard and share a cheese board or a picnic lunch in the barrel room or overlooking the vineyard. “It serves to connect the guests to the land and to the winemaking process,” says Djang. “Come here and have a little retreat with us for a couple hours.”

Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards Ranch House, in Buellton. Photo by Ciro Coelho.

Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards Ranch House, in Buellton. Photo by Ciro Coelho.

Alma Rosa Winery recently began welcoming guests to its rural Buellton estate for private wine tastings. Choose from an outdoor tasting under an 80-year old wisteria arbor or inside the estate’s historic Ranch House. The beautifully restored 100-year old redwood home is located at El Jabali Vineyard, planted 35 years ago by Alma Rosa’s founder Richard Sanford.

“These are introspective wines without being over the top,” says Sanford. “There’s a lyrical quality to our wines.”

By booking the Biodynamics Tour at Martian Ranch, you’ll explore the biodynamically-farmed vineyard and vegetable garden, meet the estate’s Irish Dexter cows and Boer goats, and soak up the sun at the private pond while you taste the estate’s Rhone variety wines and have lunch.

A pinot noir cluster, courtesy Sanford Winery.

A pinot noir cluster, courtesy Sanford Winery.

Want to feel the wind in your hair? Take the All-Terrain Vineyard Tour at Sanford Winery. A wine educator will chauffeur you in a Polaris ATV through the picturesque estate. Sample pinot noir and chardonnay in the vineyards in which they are grown and marvel at the views of the Sta. Rita Hills.

Presqu’ile Winery’s Coastline Tour, offered by reservation, takes guests beyond the modern tasting room through the wine cave and upstairs to the state-of-the-art winery. Seasonal cuisine prepared by Presqu’ile’s chef will be enjoyed throughout the tour. This behind-the-scenes excursion concludes in Presqu’ile’s private dining room with a three-vintage pinot noir vertical tasting.

Fess Parker Winery, courtesy photo.

Fess Parker Winery, courtesy photo.

An exclusive experience awaits in the new Addendum tasting room at Fess Parker Winery. Taste the first vintage of Addendum wines; cabernet sauvignon crafted solely from Napa Valley vineyards, during a seated, fully guided wine experience led by a wine educator.

Happy Canyon Vineyard offers horse drawn wagon rides through the vineyard. This unique experience also includes a tasting of six wines paired with cheese and charcuterie.

For the nimble wine enthusiast there is CORE Winery’s Bike & Bottle tour. Winemaker and former semi-pro cyclist Dave Corey leads small groups on bicycle rides. Start at his Lompoc winery, cycle out to Surf Beach and back before tasting from the wine barrels. Or Corey allows you to customize your own wine tasting bicycle tour anywhere in the county.

Originally published in the Winter 2019 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

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