Wine Tasting in Santa Ynez Valley – 9 Best Wineries You Should Try

California is the American home of viticulture and is respected worldwide for its unique variations on European winemaking methods. Hundreds of different wineries exist throughout the state, each offering something different. For example, the Santa Ynez Valley has many great wineries that you can try if you’re a resident or just want to try a wine destination a little off the beaten path.

Thankfully, the crowds here won’t be as overbearing as in other California wineries! Not that those wineries are no good. No, not at all. You will find fantastic wineries at Paso Robles as well as great options in Temecula.

It’s just that Santa Ynez offers something unfrequented.

Old Windmill in Solvang, Santa Ynez Valley, Californioa

Where is Santa Ynez Valley?

Santa Ynez Valley is nestled between the Santa Ynez and San Rafael Mountains in Santa Barbara County.

The region has about 20,000 residents spread across multiple cities, including Ballard, Bulleton, Solvang, and Santa Ynez. This small-town atmosphere makes this area quite attractive and fun to visit.

The region is typically about 30-40 minutes from any more populated California areas, such as Santa Barbara, which has many tasting rooms.

Residents love coming to this area to hike, swim, and check out many different restaurants and camping locations.

Over the years, its viticulture has expanded in many ways as well.

Santa Ynez’s location between two mountains creates a pretty broad array of different weather types that produce reasonably warm and dry climates mixed with relatively cool and foggy temperatures.

As a result, winegrowers typically find it challenging and rewarding to grow grapes.

Typically, winemakers grow grape varieties like Pinot Noir, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay and produce some fantastic wines.

The Zins and Rhone wines are particularly acclaimed, as they have a pretty diverse array of tastes that make them well worth considering for your home.

Even better, there are many wineries with tasting rooms in this 5.1-square-mile region, each providing a slightly different experience.

Many are located on hills and mountains to create the kind of beautiful views that California wineries are known for these days.

9 of the Best Wineries in Santa Ynez

After researching heavily and trying out some wines in this region, it was possible to narrow down to the top options in the area.

It wasn’t always easy because so many of them are high-quality and worth your time. However, the options below should be the best choices for most people.

Map of The Best Wineries in Santa Ynez

1. Brander Vineyard

  • Website: Brander Vineyard
  • Address: 2401 North Refugio Road, Santa Ynez, CA 93560
  • Phone Number: (805) 688-2455

The Brander Family operates this winery on 52 acres of land and has one of the longest winemaking vintages in the area.

While this winery has been open since 1975, the original Brander immigrant from Sweden, Fritz Brander, was already making wine in the early 1900s.

As a result, many European traditions have been passed down to the Brander family through the years, including an attention to grape quality.

Over the years, the Brander Vineyard has been acclaimed as one of the best wineries in the nation, with their Sauvignon Blanc being called the best in the state, if not the country.

Brander is also one of the many wineries in the state that focuses on sustainable growth throughout the region.

They use no artificial or petroleum-based additives and pay attention to things like leaf days, fruit days, and flower days to ensure that their vines grow as vigorously as possible.

Don’t forget: you can take a tour of those vines and check out how they grow and harvest grapes!

This option is often a fun and informative way to learn more about viticulture and experience the unique array of winemaking methods available throughout the state and the region.

Another thing that makes this winery so great is its diverse array of wine options.

As mentioned before, their Sauvignon Blanc is often considered the best in California, which is honestly saying something.

However, the Cuvee Natalie, Cuvee Nicolas, Sauvignon Gris, and Semillion are also great.

Other amenities to consider when visiting include:

  • A surprisingly fun on-site museum that specializes in Latin American Folk Art
  • Regular on-site events, particularly folk art showings at the museum
  • A gorgeous, on-site two-bedroom home for weekend, weekly, or monthly rentals
  • Large-scale private reservations for multiple occasions, including weddings

2. Sunstone Vineyards & Winery

Do you want a wine tasting room that’s open seven days a week and which is a great place to visit with family and friends?

Sunstone may be the option for you. This friendly winery offers a six-wine flight, along with glass and bottle wine that makes it a fantastic opportunity for many.

As their tasting room is open seven days a week from 11-5, you should find plenty of time to enjoy their wine options.

Just as importantly, you’ll get a fantastic view of the Santa Ynez Mountains, as this 55-acre estate looks out over some of the best views in the whole state.

The interior tasting room is comfortable and friendly, with plenty of attractive decorations that draw the eye and keep you engaged.

The bar is staffed by friendly people who clearly love their job and who are willing to do what they can to make your experience that much more enjoyable.

If you’re into outdoor seating and want a fantastic experience, Sunstone won’t let you down!

This winery includes beautiful outdoor seating areas filled with fragrant rosemary and lavender that will make your experience that much more enjoyable during your visit.

When it comes to wines, the Rapsodie and Cabernet Sauvignon are fantastic, as is the Pinot Noir.

However, I was pleasantly surprised by the Brut Rose, which had a nice red texture and a slight undertone of raspberries that made it well worth a purchase.

Other amenities here include:

  • A beautiful French-inspired courtyard where you can relax outside
  • Stone barrel-aging caves that you can visit while on tour here
  • Private tasting and event bookings that keep your event low-key
  • Membership options that give you access to over 20 different unique wines
  • Accommodation options available at their villa

3. Roblar Winery & Vineyards

Many Californian wineries are renowned for their red wines, and Roblar is no different.

While they also make white, rose, and sparkling wines, they are most respected for their reds. Their diverse array of red wines is quite attractive and honestly hard to beat in the region.

Roblar requests reservations before arriving, as their popularity remains high, and reservations let them book appealing 90-minute tasting options for their customers.

This option may seem frustrating but booking in advance ensures a private experience for your group.

Even better, this winery has a surprisingly rich array of different food options that go well with their wines.

For example, their Birds ‘N’ Bubbles events on Thursday include free-range chicken paired with seasonal and rotating sides, so you get something new each week! They also host a Sunday Brunch every Sunday.

As for wines, you can expect several California staples.

The Sauvignon Blanc is an obvious choice, though the Viognier and Sangiovese are also quite good.

When paired with their surprisingly rich food options, you simply can’t go wrong.

Other amenities you may experience here include:

  • A ranch-inspired tasting room where you can feel right at home
  • Estate tours among the many acres of vineyards around the tasting room
  • Probably the best view in the area from their outdoor tasting spots
  • Wine club membership for people who want early access to great wines
  • Barn Hoedown held every year

4. Rusack Vineyard

  • Website: Rusack Vineyard
  • Address: 1819 Ballard Canyon Road, Solvang, CA 92463
  • Phone Number: (805) 688-1278

Rusack Vineyard boats some of the most gorgeous views in the region, which is saying something considering some of the wineries on this list!

However, what you’ll particularly notice are not just the beautiful fields and hills but the vineyards you drive through as you come to the winery.

This clever design introduces you to the winery before you’ve even gotten there, immersing you in viticulture quickly and efficiently.

Even better, you can enjoy the outdoor seating room on the redwood deck that will help make these views even more exciting and unforgettable.

If you’re more into indoor seating, you can relax inside their tasting room, which has an attractive custom-made tasting bar with unique pottery custom-made for the winery.

There’s art here you won’t see anywhere else, which makes this a fun destination for art fans throughout the region.

While they don’t provide a large number of food options, they do have some great cheese and crackers, which is obviously a favorite for all wine fans.

Their sharp cheddar is particularly good, though their provolone goes well with just about any wine you may want to try.

As for their wines, you typically get a great selection of Semillon, Petite Sirah, Sauvignon Blanc, and Zinfandel. I’d say the Petite Sirah is a favorite, though your taste may vary depending on what you enjoy.

There are a handful of unique amenities that you may experience when visiting here:

  • Canyon Terrace Deck with fantastic winery views and light lunches
  • Icon wines that include some surprising tastes and undertones
  • Private reservations for small parties that keep the winery to just your group
  • Membership options that give you first access to new and tasty wine options

5. Barbieri Winery

  • Website: Barbieri Winery
  • Address: 2369 Alamo Pintado Avenue, Los Olivos, CA 93441
  • Phone Number: (805) 688-8882

Barbieri Winery is one of the newer options on our list, having been in operation since just 2005.

However, they remain a great place to visit if you’re into bold wines with fairly deep tastes. Their tasting room may not be too flashy, but their wine quality is fantastic.

That’s not to say that their tasting room is ugly or unattractive. In fact, it’s actually a nice and cozy place to hang out, one that focuses on comfort and wine quality.

You won’t be dazzled by art, no, but you’ll feel relaxed while you sit and will enjoy some fantastic wines for fair prices.

Their wine remains so good because it is run by an Italian winemaker (sommelier) who knows old-school European winemaking techniques.

As a result, you get a bit of the Old World touch with your wines in a way that you just don’t get with other, more American, style blends.

One thing to note is that their tasting room does close on Tuesdays and Wednesdays after January 1 up to June 1 of the same year.

But, beyond that, their tasting room is typically open seven days a week, which should give you plenty of options for enjoying their wines.

As for their wines, you typically want to try the sparkling options, as these have the right blend of acidity and sweetness that you want from a sparkling. You can also try out various cheese, baguettes, jam, and honey while you’re here, finding a pairing you’ll love.

Other amenities include:

  • Bi-annual pickup parties for wine club members
  • Luscious four-course meals during these pickup parties
  • A low-key atmosphere that may work well for many people
  • Gorgeous vineyard views that will keep you coming back for more

6. Carr Winery

Carr Winery
Source: @carrwinery
  • Website: Carr Winery
  • Address: 3563 Numancia St, Santa Ynez, CA 93460
  • Phone Number: (805) 688-5757

While Carr Winery has a handful of different tasting rooms throughout the area, their main facility is in Santa Ynez.

This 3,800-square-foot warehouse is located in downtown Santa Ynez and is a comfortable and relaxing place to drink wine.

This warehouse area is open from Friday through Monday, giving you a fun weekend, early week, and late week wine destination.

If you want to check out Carr Wines on Tuesday-Thursday, check out the Santa Barbara destination, which is open from 12-6 every evening.

Carr Winery 2
Source: @carrwinery

These tasting rooms have the low-key and comfortable atmosphere Carr Winery tries hard to cultivate. You’re always free to visit, though you can book reservations and private events ahead of time.

However, Carr welcomes people just coming in off the street for a drink.

Beyond that, Carr Winery is also a common downtown destination in both Santa Ynez and Santa Barbara because they house various events, like art shows and even album-release parties!

Visitors during these events may get access to unique vintages chosen just for the event.

Carr Winery 3
Source: @carrwinery

When choosing wines, Carr has many options that may suit various tastes. Their Pinot Gris is very appealing, as is their Sangiovese.

In fact, one of their wines, the 2018 Grenache from their Paredon Vineyard, was featured in 805 magazine!

Other amenities you may experience here include:

  • Private winery events, such as high-quality tastings
  • Multiple live music options throughout the year
  • Excellent wine club you can use to get discounts on various wine options
  • Attractive downtown tasting center at the Quonset Hut in Santa Barbara

7. Firestone Vineyard and Winery

Firestone Vineyard and Winery is something of a local legend, as the very first vine in Santa Ynez Valley was planted here in the early 1970s.

Since then, it has become an institution in the area and a business that helps keep nearby Los Olivos thriving economically.

One thing you’ll notice is the beautiful scenery, which you can view either sitting outside or inside.

The interior seating options include very comfortable seats where you can relax and enjoy time with friends and family or even meet new friends while you sit and relax!

Beyond its seating options, Firestone also offers a few different wine clubs that let you pick and choose various membership levels.

Take advantage of these clubs and get high-quality wine earlier than anybody else in your area! You also save money on a per-bottle basis when joining this club.

While this winery doesn’t have an on-site dining option, they do let you bring a lunch and hang out in one of their many picnic areas.

If you forgot your lunch, you could visit nearby Los Olivos. This town is very friendly to winery visitors and includes food options like pizza, burgers, and Italian meals.

As for the wines, the Merlot tends to be the most acclaimed, as it has a diverse array of different aromas, flavors, and undertones like cherry, oak, and red currant.

Other amenities that you can experience when visiting this memorable and high-quality winery include:

  • Concerts and other in-person events that keep you entertained
  • Occasional food events that help bring more flavor to the winery
  • Private hosting options that keep the winery to you and your group

8. Fess Parker Winery

  • Website: Fess Parker Winery
  • Address: 6200 Foxen Canyon Rd, Los Olivos, CA 93441
  • Phone Number: (805) 688-1545

Fess Parker Winery has a unique history due to its founder, Fess Parker.

Though modern readers may not remember Fess, he was legendary during the 50s and 60s as the television version of both Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone.

When he retired, he founded this winery to keep himself busy.

Thankfully, Parker was serious about his dedication to winemaking and wasn’t just opening up a new vanity project.

Over the years, Fess Parker Winery has become a popular option due to its three generations of family wine growing and various other amenities that make it stand out.

While you’re visiting, you can learn more about Fess’ impressive Hollywood career, see photos of him in action both on set and at the winery, enjoy outdoor seating experiences, and even spend time meeting new people while relaxing in the indoor tasting room area.

Fess Parker Winery also has a surprisingly tasty dining experience at their nearby inn, including cocktails, delicious Italian foods, flatbread pizzas, and much more.

Of course, all the Fess Parker wine you could want is also available here, meaning you should find plenty to enjoy.

As for wines, there are plenty of great options here.

Fess was a huge Syrah fan in real life, so the Syrah here is up to his very exacting standard. You may also enjoy the Pinot Noir, the Viognier, or the Chardonnay, depending on your taste.

Amenities you may experience here include:

  • Wedding destination options that make this an attractive place to visit
  • Beautiful inn with rooms where you can relax and enjoy yourself during a visit
  • Horse rides through the 714-acre ranch that will delight your family
  • Multiple cycling trails, including bike rentals for interested riders

9. Saarloos + Sons

  • Website: Saarloos + Sons
  • Address: 2971 Grand Ave, Los Olivos, CA 93441
  • Phone Number: (805) 688-1200

Are you interested in a winery with a more modern or even hip atmosphere?

If you’re bored of breathtaking views and old-fashioned farm wineries (not sure how that’s possible, but…), you’ll love Saarloos + Sons, a winery that prides itself on being a little different.

First of all, their tasting room is located in downtown Los Olivos, rather than up in the mountains or hills of the region.

Some may find this disappointing, but others will appreciate the chance to go shopping, stay in town, and check out the tasting room before heading back to their hotel.

Once inside, you can either relax in the tasting room and bar area or head outside by the fire pit and enjoy wines named after different “family” members.

Their wine club gives members the chance to get a wine named after them, depending on their membership level. Just don’t call it a wine club!

Visitors may also enjoy the different flavors they produce at Saarloos + Sons.

Fans of more traditional or old-school wines may find the Citrus Sauvignon Blanc a bit much, but those who want something a little different will love what this fun winery has to offer.

If trying what Saarloos calls “the best wine on the planet,” you should experiment with the Chocolate Blackberry Syrah, the Caramel Pinot, or the Raspberry Nectarine Chardonnay.

Saarloos has a quirky and fun personality and amenities that make your trip worth the visit:

  • A fun gift shop where you can buy shirts, hats, and much more
  • The quirky “Not a Wine Club” family that provides great deals on wine
  • Private reservations and tours that take you throughout the winery
  • Engaging branding that makes the winery feel a bit hipper than others

Overall Best Santa Ynez Winery

This section is always the most challenging part to write: how do you pick just one great winery when all these options are great?

But, when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, I have to go with Brander Vineyard.

Their dedication to green and sustainable growing and their fun and exciting on-site museum is hard to ignore, making this an excellent place for families to visit and hang out.

In Summary

No matter what your wine preference, you should find at least one or two wineries that meet your needs.

The significant part about this region is that every winery has something unique to offer and typically produces wine that most people will enjoy.

It all comes down to personal preference, though the top winery pick here is probably the best overall for wine quality and winery experience.

Emma Miller