Santa Barbara Wine Country
The Wines from Santa Ynez Valley
|Mileage||49 miles (79 km)|
|DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.||1 hour, 41 minutes|
|SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.||All Seasons|
|Roadways||California Highways 154, 176, and 246, Alamo Pintado Road, Baseline Ave, Edison Street, Foxen Canyon Road, Grand Ave, and Roblar Ave|
|Forest PassesSome of the adventures on this scenic drive require an admission fee that these passes cover. Please read the drive description for more information.||Southern California Forest Adventure Pass|
|ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, hotels, pharmacies, etc.||Nipomo, CA▼, Santa Maria, CA▼, Los Alamos, CA▼, Los Olivos, CA▼, Buellton, CA▼, Ballard, CA▼, Santa Ynez, CA▼, Solvang, CA▼, more...and Los Cruces, CA▼|
4.1 average from 25 votes
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Natural areas along this route require an entrance fee used to protect and maintain our most scenic treasures. Save time by purchasing your forest passes before you go.
Explore a phenomenal back roads tour of wineries, farms, museums and a national forest. Beginning in the north from US-101 at Santa Maria, take the Betteravia Road exit to the town of Sisquoc on CA-176.
Traveling on Betteravia Road East, make your first stop by turning right on Tepusquet Road to Kenneth Volk Vineyards. Kenneth Volk is one of the pioneer winemakers with his specialties of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. There are tastings, tours and spectacular views of the sun-drenched valleys and lush green vineyard in contrast with golden hills.
Betteravia Road E. becomes Foxen Canyon Road. Now on the celebrated Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, visit the tasting room of Rancho Sisquoc Winery. The winery sits on part of an 1852 Spanish land grant and is part of a 37,000-acre cattle ranch and farm. The barn and farmhouse were built in the early 1900s, exuding a time when the pace was slower and you’re encouraged to relax. Owner James Flood began planting Johannesburg Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon during the 1960s and in 1977 Rancho Sisquoc became a bonded winery. Today 20,000 cases of wine are produced every year and visitors are invited to taste wine and picnic on the beautiful grounds. Near the entrance to the winery is the San Ramon Chapel. Built in 1875, the chapel sits on a steep bluff and is distinctive with its twin tower design. The chapel is made of redwood from northern California and was used by valley residents off and on for years. It was restored, designated as the first historical landmark in Santa Barbara County in 1966, and dedicated a State Historical Landmark in 1975. The chapel is featured on the label of Rancho Sisquoc Wines.
Next you arrive at Foxen Vineyard and Foxen 7200. This small production winery is named after the winemaker’s great-great-grandfather, William Benjamin Foxen, an English sea captain who purchased a Mexican land grant called Rancho Tinaquaic in 1837 that encompassed most of the Foxen Canyon area. Foxen Winery’s anchor label reflects the sea captain’s past and was also his cattle brand. Rhone style wines, Chardonnay and Pinot are offered in the tasting room, while at the old tasting shack, now renamed “foxen 7200,” Bordeaux and Cal-Ital style wines are featured.
At Demetria Estate Winery, enjoy the stately Greek olive trees and sample some of the olive oil as well as their selection of wines. Demetria Estate requires an appointment for a tour and tasting — call (805) 686-2345.
Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard was created by Fess Parker, the iconic actor who portrayed Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. Launched with his son Eli in 1989, it is still family run. Tour the production facility, barrel room, and taste their award-winning wines in a souvenir Reidel logo glass.
Koehler Winery is next on the trail. This is a 67-acre vineyard planted in small lots. Taste selections of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah, Sangiovese and more while enjoying the beautiful grounds and exotic birds and unusual animals part of the Koehler family’s menagerie.
Foxen Canyon Road meets CA-154 known as the San Marcos Pass at Los Olivos. When you come to the junction of CA- 154, Grand Avenue and Figueroa Mountain Road, consider a side-trip on Figueroa Mountain Road (T1) to the Los Padres National Forest. This is a great stretch of driving road, replete with many twisties, hairpin curves and spectacular scenery. Becoming a one lane road, the road is enveloped with trees opening to expansive views of golden hills and rocky cliffs. The entire loop via Happy Canyon Road is not suitable for trailers and may be closed in the winter.
The Los Padres National Forest is a green carpet of undulating hills that drapes the landscape. An Adventure Pass is required to enter and adventure you will experience with opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding, off-highway vehicle trails, fishing and camping. Los Padres National Forest has four official picnic sites. Among them, Cumbre sits high on Figueroa Mountain, requiring a quarter mile hike; Figueroa Lookout offers panoramic views of the San Rafael Wilderness and a chance to spot California Condors from the Sisquoc Condor Sanctuary circling in the sky; Catway overlooks the Santa Ynez Valley and Pino Alto, which accommodates handicapped visitors and features a paved interpretive trail. There are a variety of hiking trails and the Los Prietos Ranger Station is a great resource to find one that fits your needs. Spring here is renowned for the intense, bright colors of wildflowers such as shooting stars, lupine, Indian paintbrush, chocolate lilies, California poppies, filaree, and more. In summer, the higher elevation among tall pines and firs makes for a cool, shady retreat. Fall is one of the best times for solitude as there are fewer visitors. Extend the experience by camping at one of five sites. There is no charge for camping and most have water or access to water nearby and can accommodate trailers or RVs up to 25 feet (no hookups). At the end of this loop, you will be just a few miles southwest of Santa Ynez and Los Olivos.
Back at the junction, the drive down Grand Avenue brings you to the little town of Los Olivos. The town had a modest beginning in 1885 with Alden March Boyd obtaining a two-story home and 157 acres of farmland upon which he planted olive trees and called the place Rancho de Los Olivos. Nowadays it is more famous for wine than olives with nearly 20 wineries or tasting rooms.
Visit the Wilding Art Museum (M1). Here you will see art inspired by the wilderness, dedicated to America’s extraordinary landscapes, flora and fauna. This is the only museum in the country with the sole focus on America’s wild places and has attained national recognition for its educational pursuits and emphasis on preserving the country’s natural heritage.
Grand Avenue turns into Roblar Avenue at the second stop sign. Turn left and taking the third drive on the right brings you to the aromatic Clairmont Farms. This organic family-owned lavender farm grows Grosso lavender known for its rich fragrant oil as well as other types of lavender. Visitors are welcome to stroll through the fields, picnic or shop for soaps, lotions, cookie mix and other lavender related products. Mid-June to late July is the best time to view acres of purple blooms attracting bees, artists, and photographers to its nectar and beauty. Along the driveway take notice of the olive trees that line the road. These trees were planted over 180 years ago by the Spanish missionaries. The grounds are home to 300-year old oak trees.
Continue on Roblar to one of the more distinctive wineries, Roblar Winery and Cooking School. Roblar practices sustainable agriculture and showcases fine food. Along with grapes, fruit and vegetables are grown, and Southdown Babydoll sheep were brought onto the property to help with weeds. These small-statured English sheep are ideal for fitting in the rows of vineyards and orchards. Attend cooking demonstrations that highlight pairings of food and wine, sit back and sip wine in the tasting room or take in a behind-the-scenes tour.
Also on Roblar is Bridlewood Estates Winery. As you enter the tree-lined drive, note the Spanish style tower complete with mission bells, the architecture reminiscent of California’s mission heritage. Bridlewood was once an Arabian horse farm and horses are still a part of the farm. On weekends, enjoy a ride around the gardens in a horse-drawn carriage before sampling their specialty estate grown Syrah or Viognier.
Leaving Bridlewood, continue to Mora Road and turn right. At the end of Mora Road is Happy Canyon Road, the southerly entrance into the Figueroa Mountain Recreation Area (where our previous loop would rejoin).
However, before reaching that, consider turning left on Baseline Avenue and crossing over CA-154 to the entrance of Seein’ Spots Farm, where the Marchi family rescues and raises Mediterranean Miniature Donkeys. Visitors are welcome to meet the donkeys up close and small kids can ride them. This was the former location of the Ballard Apple Farm with 12 varieties, some of them antique varieties from Europe. The farm is open for apple picking from late August to November. Around the corner from the farm is the old Ballard one-room schoolhouse, built in 1883. It still serves today with a kindergarten class.
If you’re craving water recreation, continue the side trip on CA-154 to Lake Cachuma (W1). Nestled within the Santa Ynez and San Rafael Mountains, the picturesque man-made lake is a glorious sight. Enjoy a 2-hour guided nature cruise aboard the Osprey. This pontoon boat holds 30 people and a naturalist will ferry you to the far reaches of the lake to see area wildlife such as deer, bald eagles, hawks, osprey, kites, waterfowl, and other migratory birds. There are also hiking trails, fishing, boat rentals, and camping with cabins and yurts available by reservation. Swimming in the lake is not permitted as it is a water source for Santa Barbara but there is a swimming pool nearby.
On your way back to Alamo Pintado Road, a stop at the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum and Parks-Jane Carriage House (M2) is an excellent way to learn about the history of the valley through 8000 artifacts and exhibits depicting the Chumash Indians through the Mission era to present day. There is a working model train diorama at 1/48 scale depicting the Pacific Coast Railway that once ran to Los Olivos. In the carriage house you find one of the finest collections of more than 36 early American carriages, stagecoaches, saddles, and tack.
From Baseline go to Alamo Pintado Road, turn left heading south, and stop in at Blackjack Ranch Vineyards and Winery where the tasting room is constructed from salvaged materials from the original ranch and the serving bar is made from wood rescued from the old Solvang Bowling Alley. The name of the winery honors the card game “California Blackjack” invented by owner Roger Wisted. Interesting names are carried through to the vineyard plots such as Billy Goat Hill, Suicide Hill, and Hamburger Hill where a resident Black Angus resides. Enjoy tasting Syrah, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.
As you drive into Lincourt Vineyards you will see mature vines of Sauvignon Blanc adjacent to the yellow 1926 Sears Craftsman farmhouse that serves as the tasting room. Originally a dairy farm, the barn and other buildings are now used as the winery and barrel room. The grapes come from the Santa Ynez vineyard as well as from their property in the Santa Rita Hills. This gives them the ability to produce wines reminiscent of the Burgundy area in France, favored by owner, Bill Foley. Enjoy a tasting and leisurely picnic amidst the majestic grounds and gardens.
Just next door to Lincourt is the Quicksilver Miniature Horse Ranch. While individual tours are not available here, you can view and photograph the tiny horses from the side of the road.
From here, continue south to the Danish Village of Solvang on CA-246. Before entering the main part of town stop at Old Mission Santa Ines (A1). Founded by Father Estevan Tapis, in 1804, this is the 19th of 21 California missions, established by Franciscan priests. The Padres ministered to the Spanish and Mexican population of the area and to the native Chumash. Today the Capuchin Franciscan order serves the parish. There is a small entrance fee to tour the church, museum, gardens, and cemetery. Explore the rich collection of paintings, vestments, manuscripts, statuary and artifacts. The Mission is named after Saint Agnes, the patron saint of purity and chastity, and a statue of her resides above the main altar in the church. A gift shop is also located in the mission building offering books, medals and souvenirs.
Your wine tour would not be complete without a visit to Solvang, founded in 1911 by Danish settlers. All of the buildings in town display Danish architectural elements and several large windmill structures are located throughout the village. Stroll the quaint streets and Danish-style bakeries, sweet shops, and restaurants as well as gift shops featuring European imports, clocks, handmade linens, clothing, dolls, and more. The city features a vibrant theater scene, museums, and of course wine tasting and tours.
From Solvang drive east on CA-246 past some of the Valley’s finest horse farms. Just before reaching the town of Buellton and the intersection of US-101, you will find one of the most unusual attractions, Ostrichland USA (A2). Here on 33 acres, more than 60 ostriches and emus stroll the grounds. Experience the thrill of feeding these remarkable birds and be sure to hold the pan securely because when an ostrich pecks, he doesn’t do it delicately. Fresh ostrich and emu eggs are available and they also have ostrich meat from other farms for sale as these birds are not raised for consumption. The gift shop offers a variety of ostrich inspired items such as jewelry, hats, scarves, purses, and decoupaged ostrich eggs. This is a fun place for the whole family to enjoy.
Our scenic drive ends at Buellton famous for Andersen’s Pea Soup and US-101 which will take you south to Santa Barbara.