The scenic Santa Ynez Valley produces hundreds of pinot noirs, sauvignon blancs, and other wine varietals. In fact, more than 1 million cases of wine are produced in the valley, which is located approximately 45 minutes from Santa Barbara.
The best way to visit some of the 120-plus wineries in Santa Ynez Valley is to hire a local tour company. In addition to handling the driving, a good guide can provide access to boutique and hard-to-access wineries and provide information on the Santa Ynez Valley. We recommend Wine Canyon Tours, which specializes in tailoring tours to each client, ranging from casual wine-drinkers to oenophiles who want to visit specific wineries.
Owner Rick Reeves’ family owns and operates several local vineyards. Reeves has lived in Santa Barbara County for more than two decades and has worked at Jaffurs Wine Cellars, Beckman Vineyards, and Southern Wine and Spirits.
Our tailored tour featured pinot noirs and sauvignon blancs and included visits to Roblar Winery, The Brander Vineyard, Rusack Vineyards, and Pence Ranch. We also stopped off at Rancho Olivos for an olive oil tasting and at Sides Hardware and Shoes restaurant in Los Olivos for a lunch of roasted butternut squash soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.
At Roblar, we tasted a sparking rosé, the 2013 sauvignon blanc, the 2014 pinot noir, the 2014 grasseto, and a 2014 ottimo. They also provided us with a lovely comped charcuterie board of salami, prosciutto, and cheese. Brander’s tasting included 2015 sauvignon blancs, Natalie cuvee, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and bouchet (a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and merlot). At Rusack, we sampled a 2015 sauvignon blanc, 2014 chardonnay, 2013 and 2014 pinot noirs, 2014 zinfandel and a 2013 syrah. Our final stop at Pence included 2014 Unum pinot noir, Fugio pinot noir, and chardonnay.
In addition to tasting unique wines, visiting the picaresque Santa Ynez Valley, and talking with the winemakers, we learned about the history of the Valley and its different wine regions.