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The Best Wineries (And More) to Visit in Santa Barbara

Though Santa Barbara County was earning a reputation for fine wine by the 1970s, the actual City of Santa Barbara only became a hub for wine culture in the 21st century. Up until 20 years ago, there were only two tasting rooms in Santa Barbara proper, which lies about 45 minutes south of where wine grapes are grown in the Santa Ynez Valley.

There was the granddaddy of it all, the late Pierre Lafond’s Santa Barbara Winery, which started making and selling wines out of a former fish processing warehouse in an industrial waterfront neighborhood back in 1964. Then in 1994, Jaffurs Wine Cellars launched a Rhône-inspired project out of a small building on the city’s Eastside, near the taquerias and autobody shops of Milpas Street.

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Today, the formerly overlooked neighborhood that Santa Barbara Winery found 60 years ago is a thriving food and wine destination known as the Funk Zone, home to multiple restaurants, breweries, a distillery and more than a dozen tasting rooms. The Eastside, meanwhile, picked up a handful more wineries as well, and so did the rest of town, from the promenade of State Street up to the Presidio Neighborhood and all the way out to the suburbs of Goleta.

There are so many tasting options in Santa Barbara now that you could spend an entire wine vacation within city limits and never get bored, especially due to the wide variety of cuisine, full-service resorts and a laundry list of activities to do. (Of course, a trip to the Santa Ynez Valley is highly recommended.)

But don’t just take my word for it. To best navigate this ever-evolving landscape, I also spoke to local industry professionals to round up the best wineries in Santa Barbara, along with where to eat and sleep while you’re in town.

Funk Zone

Let’s start down in the Funk Zone, where Santa Barbara’s urban wine experience exploded in the mid-2000s.

Municipal Winemakers
Image Courtesy of Municipal Winemakers

Municipal Winemakers

Municipal Winemakers was one of the earlier entries to the Funk Zone, and this hothouse of hipness remains a beloved place for stylishly packaged, mostly affordable, always creative blends. Owner Dave Potter also runs the higher-end single vineyard-focused Potek Winery a couple miles away, where he serves both brands right next door to Third Window Brewing Co.

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Wine writer and social media influencer Vanessa Vin suggests them both. “The ambiance is both relaxed and eclectic and probably the only place to try a multi-year vertical of sparkling Shiraz this side of the world,” she says.

Where to Eat: Keep the vibe tasty and casual with a stop at Mony’s, a family-run taqueria just blocks away where the carnes run from familiar al pastor and carne asada to deeper cuts like cabeza (head), buche (pork stomach) and chicharron (pork skin).

Where to Stay: Located on State Street near the Funk Zone’s entrance, the Riviera Beach House offers contemporary rooms, some of which boast private patios, overlooking the buzz of lower State Street. The high-end, agave-powered cuisine of Santo Mezcal on the bottom floor is a bonus.

Pali Wine Co.
Image Courtesy of Pali Wine Co.

Pali Wine Co.

Pali Wine Co.’s evolution tracks much like Santa Barbara County’s itself. The brand started out on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, picked up Rhône and Bordeaux blends along the way via the brand Tower 15 and then dove into the natural scene with Neighborhood Winery. They recently expanded from their original 2012 Funk Zone location into a much bigger indoor-outdoor space a block away, where they pour all of the above wines.

Where to Eat: Keep the outdoor hang going at the Shalhoob Funk Zone Patio, where the longtime butchery company serves grilled meats and more as cornhole bags fly.

Where to Stay: Finish up the day with a dip in the pool at The Waterman. The chic hotel, which mixes natural materials with colorful accents for a cool contemporary vibe, is strategically perched between the Funk Zone and the intersection of State Street and the 101.

Margerum Wine Company
Image Courtesy of Margerum Wine Company

Margerum Wine Company

During the three-plus decades that he owned the Wine Cask restaurant and retail shop with his family, Doug Margerum was a primary player in bringing Santa Barbara wines to the international stage. Then he started Margerum Wine Company; now he produces elegant versions of Burgundian and Rhône wines, served alongside a complex menu of small bites, flatbreads and salads. (Margerum’s tasting room in Los Olivos also does oysters and bento boxes.)

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Where to Eat: The Lark made gourmet cuisine a part of the Funk Zone upon opening in 2013, and it remains one of Santa Barbara’s most buzzed-about restaurants to this day, thanks to Chef Jason Paluska’s endless dedication to showcasing regional farms, fishermen and ranchers. Its sister restaurant Loquita serves Spanish-influenced cuisine just down the street.

Where to Stay: Right across the way is the tony Hotel Californian, a sprawling complex of Spanish-Moorish design with views of the ocean from both the rooms and rooftop pool.

State Street

Running from Stearns Wharf all the way through town to Goleta, State Street cuts through the commercial core of downtown Santa Barbara, past the many theaters, museums, restaurants, galleries, retail shops and, today, numerous breweries and tasting rooms.

Longoria Wines
Image Courtesy of Longoria Wines

Longoria Wines

Richard Longoria’s legacy dates back to the 1970s, and his recent sale of Longoria Wines to Brooke and Lindsey Christian did not signify his leaving of the building. The founder still works with new winemaker Eric Wilson, whose own career started with Longoria many years ago. The polished, comfortable lounge room in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara serves the wide array of Wilson’s wines, from the standards of Pinot Noir and Blues Cuvée to experimental lots of Graciano and Mencia. (They also have another tasting room at the winery in Lompoc, which is also Wilson’s hometown.)

Where to Eat: The inventive Indian cuisine of Bibi Ji just moved from its original location to a completely refurbished former McDonald’s in the Arts District across from the Granada Theater. The uni biryani is a must-try.

Where to Stay: Embrace the classic (and luxurious) vibe of old State Street with a stay at Hotel Santa Barbara, which is the most centrally located lodging in the city.

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Melville Winery

Ron Melville was one of the early gamblers on the Sta. Rita Hills region when he planted his vineyard there in 1996. His son Chad Melville turns those grapes into thrilling Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay for their Melville Winery, and pours them in this tasting room—just blocks from the beach, but right on the bustle of State Street. (There’s also an estate tasting room in the Sta. Rita Hills.)

Where to Eat: The pan-Asian influences at Secret Bao are revelatory, from the namesake sandwiches stuffed with fried maitake, chicken and shrimp for lunch to the curry crab noodles, soy chili dumplings and kalbi short ribs on the ever-changing dinner menu.

Where to Stay: One of the first brand new hotels to open in the heart of downtown on State Street in years, Drift remodeled a historic Scientology building into a space-saving, digital-entry spot with chic natural materials throughout the rooms and fantastic city and mountain views. The coffee shop Dawn and Baja-inspired bar Dusk serve as the lobby.

Presidio Neighborhood

Set around the oldest part of colonial Santa Barbara—which includes the second oldest building in California, 1783’s El Cuartel—the Presidio Neighborhood is like a small Funk Zone for those who are more focused on the wine than the scene. Just the historic El Paseo complex alone, which claims to be California’s first mall, is home to estate wineries like Grassini Family Vineyards and Happy Canyon Vineyard (whose properties aren’t open to the public) and negociants like Jamie Slone Wines. Eateries abound as well, from world-class pastries at Alessia Patisserie to excellent Mexican cuisine at Rudy’s.

Au Bon Climat
Image Courtesy of Au Bon Climat

Au Bon Climat

The prominent corner of El Paseo is home to the tasting room of Au Bon Climat, the winery founded four decades ago by Jim Clendenen, who died in 2021. “Hands down the deepest collection of library wines in Santa Barbara County,” says Tristan Pitre, the wine and hospitality manager of San Ysidro Ranch. “It shows the breadth of Jim’s work, featuring wines from ABC, Clendenen Family Wines and every other project he took on over the years. It is a real history lesson to drink the wines from here.”

Where to Eat: Right across the breezeway sits Intermezzo by Wine Cask, occupying the historic restaurant and former retail space that first touted Santa Barbara County wines. Chef Josh Brown came out of private cheffing to return his cuisine to fans, ranging from those seeking a simple pizza to multi-course, fine-dining affairs.

Where to Stay: The Kimpton Canary Hotel is Santa Barbara’s most big-city-esque hotel, with four stories of modern-meets-traditional design and a rooftop pool (with retro-style baby blue and white umbrellas) right at the busiest corner of town. Finch & Fork serves excellent food in the lobby.

Frequency Wines
Image Courtesy of Frequency Wines

Frequency Wines

Right across the street from Au Bon Climat, with a red-tiled roof straight out of Santa Barbara architecture’s central casting, is Frequency Wines, where Zac Wasserman is mastering Rhône and Burgundian wines served with an educated smile. “It’s located in the heart of Santa Barbara and a great place to sit back and relax and sip some crisp Grenache Blanc while listening to the relaxing sound of running water from an outdoor fountain,” says Vin.

Where to Eat: Looking straight at the Presidio in the heart of Santa Barbara’s once thriving Chinatown in a former Chinese restaurant is The Pickle Room bar and Three Pickles Sub & Sandwich Shop. Try the pickle martini with a reuben egg roll, or just the Good Land Club with crispy capicolla.

Where to Stay: A few blocks uptown is the recently reopened Courtyard Marriott, a sleek, midcentury modern-inspired project led by former star of “The Bachelor” and Firestone Winery heir Andrew Firestone. Make sure to check out happy hour on the rooftop bar while you’re there.

Kunin wines
Image Courtesy of Kunin wines

Kunin Wines

Tying much of recent Santa Barbara wine history together is Kunin Wines. Founded a quarter-century ago by the late Seth Kunin, who died in 2017, it was one of the first tasting rooms in the Funk Zone, the first production winery in Goleta and then one of the first to be booted from the Funk Zone when the ‘hood got popular. Kunin’s widow Magan Kunin relocated to Frequency’s first tasting room on Santa Barbara Street, sharing space with the Cheese Shop, whose fine fromages are well paired with Kunin’s eclectic array of wines.

Where to Eat: After years of running the popular Picnic brunch spot in Barcelona, Santa Barbara native Tara Penke and her chef husband Jaime Riesco opened Gala Restaurant in 2023, bringing modern Iberian cuisine to a busy corner of downtown.

Where to Stay: The elegantly modern, beach house-inspired, hospitality-first Palihouse Santa Barbara is tucked into a Spanish-style building just a block away.


Milpas Street is Santa Barbara’s second main street, driving from the sands of East Beach through a dense stretch of Eastside eateries, businesses and homes up to the doorstep of the Santa Barbara Bowl, a magical outdoor concert venue.

Image Courtesy of Sanguis

Sanguis Wines

You’d never think that a winery hides behind the minimalist facade on the one-block strip of nondescript Ashley Avenue, but that’s exactly what you’ll find at Sanguis Wines, where Mattias Pippig explores all sorts of blends. “I am more in love with these wines than ever,” says Tristan Pitre, the wine and hospitality manager of San Ysidro Ranch. “Matthias has really owned the style of wine in recent years. While still powerful, there is an ever-increased balance and freshness to the wines they are producing. Throw in his newest sparkling wine project and this, to me, is a can’t-miss stop.”

Where to Eat: Located right across from the beach, Convivo serves consistently exquisite and inventive “Nomad Italian” cuisine, which doesn’t make much sense until you’re enraptured in its pan-Mediterranean charms.

Where to Stay: After eating at Convivo, stumble upstairs into the warmth of the Santa Barbara Inn, a classic Spanish Mediterranean-style resort with seemingly endless views of the ocean and mountains.

Image Courtesy of Whitcraft

Whitcraft Winery

Chris Whitcraft was an early legend of Santa Barbara wines, going back to the start of Whitcraft Winery in 1985. But his son, Drake Whitcraft, who took over before Chris died in 2014, only amplifies the family’s reputation for light-bodied, long-aging, downright ethereal bottlings. Appointment-only tastings occasionally include older vintages.

Where to Eat: Who’d ever think that Korean beef, crunchy shrimp and ahi poke tacos would play so well inside a batting cage complex? East Beach Tacos, that’s who.

Where to Stay: Right across the street from East Beach is the iconic Mar Monte Hotel, whose ornate, Spanish-style lobby and recently renovated modern-meets-classic rooms once played host to A-list celebs like Marilyn Monroe. Its onsite restaurant Costa Kitchen & Bar is a serious sit-down eatery.


The mostly suburban lands of Goleta to the west of Santa Barbara feature a friendly if slightly funky Old Town and numerous strip malls along Calle Real and Hollister Avenue (the extension of State Street) that are actually packed with numerous family-owned restaurants rather than chains. Wine is new here, with just two production spaces, but expect more to come, as breweries and distilleries have been warmly embraced.

Image Courtesy of Samsara

Samsara Wine Co.

Winemaker Matt Brady led the push for Samsara Wine Co. to move from Lompoc to Goleta in 2018, following the lead of his friends at Kunin Wines, which opened a winery here the year before. Located next to Captain Fatty’s Brewery, the California Highway Patrol and a recently built mosque, the inviting tasting room is tucked in a regular old strip mall but feels like someone’s living room. It provides a peaceful setting to reflect on the brilliantly brisk wines coming out of the cellar, from standards to newbies like Gamay Noir and Clairette Blanche.

Where to Eat: Long a primary purveyor of locally caught seafood, the Santa Barbara Fish Market opened a retail outlet and cafe in Goleta in October 2023. Chef Paul Osborne serves sandwiches and other simple dishes that transparently showcase the utterly fresh fish, yet with haute flair. And he also buses tables.

Where to Stay: After an extensive re-envisioning of the former Pacifica Suites, The Steward opened in 2023. Its airy, neutral-hued rooms, comfortable outdoor lounge spaces and vibrant yet cozy lobby beckon guests to stay and relax on the property. Chef Augusto Caudillo’s farm-to-table menu at onsite restaurant Terra makes it all the more difficult to leave.