Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail
Since my husband Tony and I have been living in Thousand Oaks, CA for the last couple of months, we have taken full advantage to explore the nearby wine country, mostly centering around the Santa Ynez Valley. We discovered Santa Ynez on the way up to Pismo beach for a friend's wedding, and have been back several times (we also became members of the Roblar Winery where we get to sit on the member's only patio and do food and wine pairings every time we visit).
And although it's great fun to drive around the countryside, stopping in at winery after winery, we were wondering if there is any good wine tasting we could do by foot instead of in the car. One Saturday we were at our favorite local stop, the Wineyard, and decided to ask the owner if she had any ideas. She came back and handed us a brochure titled "The Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail", and immediately we knew where we would be headed the following weekend.
The Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail is an associated formed by 15 like-minded wineries located in downtown SB that all hope to offer the wine tasting experience within an urban environment.
We set off around 3pm on a Saturday afternoon and easily found our first stop just 2 blocks in from the beach: Municipal Winemakers. The best thing about this winery was the atmosphere-- the tasting room is in a large industrial space, but made homey thanks to lots of interesting and quirky arts and decor.
Parts of the inside were decorated like an old schoolroom (with those chairs with the attached desks), and one wall was lined with a huge file cabinet filled with wine glasses instead of files. The service was very friendly and after a few pours at the bar we took our glasses outside to the front porch to soak up a little sun. Although the wines weren't my favorite overall, I did enjoy the final Reisling, which was cold and very refreshing for the warm afternoon.
Our next stop happened by chance because it was only 2 blocks away: The Santa Barbara Winery.
It was completely packed when we arrived but we managed to sneak in a little space at the bar and were taken care of immediately. I really enjoyed the whole tasting list, but the standouts were a Reserve Chardonnay and a Sangiovese. We met up with friends and continued to drink and enjoy the interesting wine-related items for sale.
We knew we wanted to try the Carr Winery, so that's where we headed next, but right before arriving we got delayed at the Telegraph Brewing Company, which is literally right next door to Carr. They offered what looked like a delicious and refreshing beer tasting and we decided to go for it to take a break from wine. The service was super-friendly and the pours were very generous-- and delicious (they served big pretzels too which was a bonus). After us girls were forced to chug our last beers because the guys were finished and anxious to get to Carr, we moved next door.
The Carr Winery was by far one of the greatest tasting rooms I have ever seen. It wasn't only a place to sample wine, but also to just have fun-- there was a pool table, shuffleboard, and a live band playing right in front of the stacked barrels. I have to be honest that by this point I don't remember exactly what wine we tasted, but I do remember playing shuffleboard and really liking the band. We vowed to come back later in the night after dinner since we heard it stayed open later into the night than most other places.
Dinner was at the Wine Cask, and it didn't disappoint. You enter onto a mission-style courtyard that is beautifully lit at night, and the main room has big, cozy fireplace. I ordered asparagus with poached egg to begin, and then tried the diver scallops with leeks and a very light and refreshing pesto. For dessert our waiter recommend we try the homemade cookies just baked by the chef and served with gelato-- not bad. The wine list has lots of local and interesting selections from the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara County, although I would have liked to see a few slightly more economical bottles. Overall we had a really fun, long and romantic dinner.
For brunch the next day we decided to head to a place called Brophy Brothers, because we wanted to be right on the water and drink white wine and eat seafood. It wasn't warm enough for the terrace to be uncovered yet, but we did get a table with a view of all the boats and the ocean. We started with their famous garlic baked clams, which were surprisingly rather light and very tasty. I ordered a bouillabaisse as my main and was also really impressed with the flavor and giant chunks of succulent seafood. I would have preferred more space seated on a large, open terrace, but the food and wine were good enough and it was the last perfect meal by the sea before heading home.