On November 12, 2011Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question:Ever since Miles Raymond stumbled around this wide-open, folksy wine country in the movie Sideways, people have been coming to this region in search of the perfect pinot. The film may have put the area on the wine map, but Santa Barbara has been producing great wines for decades, and not just pinot noir — although that volatile varietal wine is undoubtedly king (thanks to the marine air and cool climate). To taste the pinot and much more, visit Alma Rose Winery, Babcock Winery, Firestone Vineyard or Foley Estates Vineyard and Winery.
1. Owner Richard Sanford, formerly a geography major at University of California at Berkeley, is a real maverick, having planted the first pinot noir vines here in 1970. In 2005, he started Alma Rosa Winery with his wife, Thekla. Located on the Rancho Santa Rosa, the vineyards are certified organic and produce chardonnay and pinot noir, as well as pinot gris, pinot blanc and dry pinot noir rosé.
2. Brian Babcock is a wine rock star, anointed one of the top ten small production wine makers in the world—the only one in the U.S.—by the James Beard Foundation. The Babcock Winery produces chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, syrah and cabernet sauvignon. Babcock also has been experimenting with Italian and Spanish varietals, which he believes will be the next big thing in California winemaking.
3. Firestone Vineyard has been around since 1972, making it one of the original wineries in Santa Barbara. It sits on a hilltop like the grande dame it is and merits a visit just to admire the pretty location and tasting room. It’s also the place to take a tour if you’d like to see the workings of at least one area vineyard (you also learn how the Firestone family went from tires to grapes). The winery, now owned by Bill Foley, produces chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, sauvignon blanc and syrah.
4. In 1998, Bill Foley purchased land on the Rancho Santa Rosa because of its south-facing hillside and limestone soil, which are key for producing pinot. Since then, he’s built something of a wine empire with Foley Estates Vineyard & Winery, acquiring Las Hermanas Vineyard (formerly Ashley’s Vineyard) and Firestone, and starting Merus in the Napa Valley to make cabernets. (In his other life, Foley is the chairman of the board of Fidelity.) The large tasting room is located next to the winery building.
On November 12, 2011Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question:With the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Santa Ynez Mountains on the other, the Four-Star Bacara Resort and Spa is a luxurious retreat offering a myriad of activites that include tennis, yoga on the beach and hiking. The onsite spa is the perfect place to retreat to afterward.
Another standout is the Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore, Santa Barbara, located on 20 lush acres on the Pacific Ocean. This Four-Star Spanish colonial beauty is a relaxing oasis with supremely comfortable rooms and crisp, white cabanas lining the sparkling pool.
On November 11, 2011Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question:The delightful Canary Hotel is what you might imagine your perfect seaside cottage to look like: tall, four-poster beds with crisp, white sheets in front of a huge plasma TV, dark-stained wood floors, beautiful Spanish tile in the bath and lots of homey touches strewn about — a pair of binoculars casually resting on a stack of books, pretty silver dishes, white candles in large glass hurricanes and a yoga mat in the closet. You may want to return home and decorate your own bedroom the same way. Santa Barbara restaurants and shopping are within walking distance, and the rooftop deck is the place to catch a cocktail before you crash in your relaxing digs.
On November 11, 2011Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question:Blink and you might miss it, but the single street that makes up this cute town is pretty much the center of Santa Barbara wine country. It might be small, but it has several tasting rooms (including Daniel Gehrs and Longoria) and a number of good restaurants. Stop by the Los Olivos Wine Merchant and Café for pizzas, salads and the homemade tampenade to start. They also carry more than 150 wines, making it an obvious stop on your tasting tour. Craving a warm and crusty Panini? Panino has more than 30 options. After lunch, you can peruse the art galleries and be sure to check out Jedlicka’s Saddlery, an authentic Western store that has catered to ranchers and trail riders.
On November 11, 2011Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question:The Central Coast spans from Santa Barbara to Monterey and includes sandy beaches, rocky coastline, charming villages and wonderful wineries. If you’re looking for the true Central Coast experience, book some spa time at Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, go wine tasting in Santa Barbara, visit Hearst Castle, stroll through downtown Santa Barbara and make a stop in Solvang.
1. The quaint little town of Ojai is home to the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, a Spanish Colonial-style resort surrounded by rolling green hills. The recently renovated hotel includes Spa Ojai, where treatments take place in cozy rooms with murals and fireplaces. In addition to all the standard treatments, the Native American-inspired spa offers a group treatment involving clay mud and heat, and also features an artist’s cottage and apothecary.
2. Santa Barbara is a great place for wine tasting in the area. It is under an hour from Los Olivos, a picture-perfect town with wine tasting rooms and wonderful little restaurants. Surrounding Los Olivos, you’ll find dozens of wineries, including Babcock Winery and Firestone Vineyards.
3. The spectacular home of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst is open to the public and a tour is a must. Buses take guests up a windy road to the top of a hill where the Hearst Castle is located. The best part: the breathtaking Roman indoor pool featuring floor-to-ceiling mosaic tiles in shades of blue and orange.
4. Downtown Santa Barbara is a lovely area filled with shops, including Saks Fifth Avenue and Betsey Johnson, and wonderful restaurants like Bouchon Santa Barbara, which features wine country cuisine. Visitors will also find art galleries, theaters, cafes and lounges.
5. The quirky Danish town of Solvang has a variety of galleries, a wine tasting room and bakeries selling Danish pastries. Much of the film Sideways was filmed here.