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Sip your way through Los Olivos' best wine tasting rooms



You're visiting Santa Barbara - or perhaps you're a local - and you're craving a little (or big) taste of those Central Coast grapes everyone is always talking about. So what do you do? If you want to stay close, you can hop over to Funk Zone and explore the Urban Wine Trail (it's fun and quite convenient). But if you love adventure and scenery, we recommend that you set aside a day to visit Los Olivos.

Los Olivos is a small town about half an hour north of Santa Barbara. Although it's not very far away, you will feel like you have been transported to a different place entirely. The drive there is gorgeous. It's all scenic vistas, sunshine and wildlife. Deer sightings are not uncommon.

Once you arrive, you'll fall in love at first sight. Wineries and restaurants line the main street, and people are almost suspiciously friendly. This is actually very dangerous because you can easily follow the wrong smile and end up in what looks like a super-fun tasting room, only to discover that it actually pours just-ok wine. 

10Best to the rescue! This list of the 10 best tasting rooms in Los Olivos will help you avoid the tourist traps and go straight to the good stuff. Kaena, StolpmanTercero, ... every place on this list serves wine that completely validates Santa Barbara's reputation as a viticultural force to be reckoned with.


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Carhartt Vineyard & Winery


If you're strolling the main street of Los Olivos and you see a very cozy cabin, then you've found Carhartt. Do not be deceived by the woodsy appearance of its exterior, Carhartt's tasting room boasts a large, warm space out back that's dog and group and drinking friendly. For a small tasting fee, you can try their excellent blends and enjoy some chit chat on the relaxing patio. There's even a good chance that one of the winemakers, either Brooke or Mike (or their son), will be the person who is pouring for you. Who better to tell you about the process? Carhartt's wines aren't available at restaurants or wine bars. You have to visit to try!

Recommended for Los Olivos' Best Wineries because: Carhartt has it all - a fun tasting room, high-quality wines, charming patio and friendly staff.

Geneva's expert tip: Want to extend your visit to Los Olivos? Stay at Carhartt's vacation retreat in the middle of their Sangiovese vineyard. It books up in advance, so reserve online well ahead of time.

Read more about Carhartt Vineyard & Winery →


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Los Olivos
Tensley Wines


A family-owned and operated winery, Tensley Wines shares a small tasting room in Los Olivos with Carina Cellars. Winemaker Joey Tensley worked at several respected regional wineries before launching his own label in 1998. Tensley produces only vineyard-designated Syrahs from Santa Barbara County - each with a unique flavor profile that reflects the grape's growing conditions. In 2017, Joey and his wife Jennifer also launched "Fundamental Wines." They chose the name because they felt it perfectly reflected the brand's philosophy â€" make fundamentally sound, straightforward wines that over-deliver for the price on every level. Priced at about $18 per bottle, the brand has been a hit with the critics. The tasting room is comfortable, with a stand-up bar and plenty of bottles to contemplate while you sip. Free parking is available right out front and many, many other tasting rooms are within walking distance.

Recommended for Los Olivos' Best Wineries because: Love Syrah? This is your go-to spot with multiple delicious Syrahs available to taste!

Geneva's expert tip: Pinot-ed out? That can happen in Santa Barbara. Visit Tensley for a refreshing change of pace, with nary a Pinot in sight.

Read more about Tensley Wines →


Beckmen Vineyards


The tasting room for Beckmen Vineyards is cozy and painted red, just the sort of place you imagine you'll find on a wine tasting expedition. There are flowers, scenic vistas, friendly cats and - oh! - super wines, too. Beckmen's estate vineyard, Purisima Mountain, is reputed to grow some of the finest Rhone varietals in the region. Lovers of Grenache will find a favorite at Beckmen, one of the better area wineries to produce a pure, unblended wine. Join the wine club to enjoy a 15-25% discount (depending on your membership level). There's a duck pond with lovely gazebos that are perfect for picnics, so plan ahead. Downtown Los Olivos is just a short drive away. Plenty of parking.

Recommended for Los Olivos' Best Wineries because: Go for some of the best Grenaches in the valley! Great with food or by itself.

Geneva's expert tip: Pack a picnic or pick something up at Los Olivos Grocery to enjoy by the duck pond. Call ahead to make reservations for the best spot!

Read more about Beckmen Vineyards →


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Los Olivos
Dreamcote
Photo courtesy of Dreamcote


Looking for something a little different on your next trip to Los Olivos? Duck down a side street and into Dreamcote, a hidden gem of a winery with friendly service and a sparkly soul. What do we mean by that? Well, in addition to a changing roster of bright, juicy white, red and pink wines, you'll also find sparkling varieties and hard cider. In their own words, "We don't believe there is one varietal out there that everyone should be drinking. Life is short. Drink what you like." Bottles are affordable, and they're happy to talk about food pairings with you. Peckish? A sweet little paper bag of flavored popcorn comes with your tasting. Shopaholic? You're in heaven; the tasting room has a cute gift shop area too.

Recommended for Los Olivos' Best Wineries because: This intimate tasting room is photo-ready and packed with treasures, from wine and cider to popcorn and souvenirs.

Geneva's expert tip: Stop by Dreamcote when your palate is getting tuckered out from tastings. Their sparkling ciders and wines will wake it right up!

Read more about Dreamcote →


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Visit Samsara to try small production wines that use grapes from carefully selected micro-sites within Sta. Rita Hill's most distinctive vineyards. The winery specializes in cool-climate Pinot, Syrah, Grenache and Chardonnay. Winemaker Matt Brady spent a little over a decade at Jaffurs Wine Cellars before joining Samsara. The single-vineyard, single-varietal wines he produces now use whole cluster grapes and native fermentation for results that are generally big on spicy aromatics and savory flavors with a smooth mouthfeel. The tasting room is clean and peaceful, with outdoor space, and not far from other tasting rooms and great restaurants.

Recommended for Los Olivos' Best Wineries because: If you're a wine geek and you want to try whole cluster, single-vineyard wines, head to Samsara.

Geneva's expert tip: If Lee's there when you're tasting, be sure to say hello. He's been with Samsara for almost a decade and helps make the wine!

Read more about Samsara Wine Co →


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Los Olivos


Tercero Wines is the brainchild and passion project of winemaker Larry Schaffer. If you're looking for Rhone varietals, both red and white, this is where you will find something special, made in such small batches that it is truly a treat. Tercero sources grapes from a number of Santa Barbara vineyards, including Larner and Thompson. The fun tasting room is typically open Thursday through Monday from 11 a.m. until 5ish, but can be reserved at other times by appointment. Visitors can taste a rotating list of five or so wines for a small fee, which will be waived if you buy a few bottles or decide to join their very reasonable wine club. Plenty of free parking on nearby streets.

Recommended for Los Olivos' Best Wineries because: Go to Tercero for a fun and educational experience. You'll try some excellent Santa Barbara wines in a totally un-stuffy atmosphere.

Geneva's expert tip: Who's that gregarious guy chatting away in the tasting room? Oh, that's Larry, the winemaker - he's there (and great) more often than not!

Read more about Tercero Wines →


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The Demetria Estate is hands down the prettiest place to taste wine in Santa Barbara County, and the fact that their wine is delicious certainly doesn't hurt matters. Call ahead to make a tasting reservation. At the appointed time, you will drive a little ways past Los Olivos, enter a secret passcode at a large gate, and then drive another short distance on a narrow lane through some of the most marvelous countrysides in the area. You will see goats, maybe hawks, maybe deer. And then, oh then, you will pull up to a large estate, be seated on a picnic-friendly sunny courtyard, and enjoy some very fine sips of Pinot Noir and Syrah, among others.

Recommended for Los Olivos' Best Wineries because: Enjoy wonderful wines while marveling at one of the prettiest views in the area.

Geneva's expert tip: Call ahead to make a tasting reservation, otherwise, you probably won't get let in!

Read more about Demetria Estate →


Larner Vineyard & Winery


If you're looking for quaint, this is it. A boutique, family-run winery with a vineyard in prize-winning Ballard Canyon, Larner Vineyard & Winery has a small tasting room in Los Olivos. Pop in to taste their wines, and we're sure you'll leave with a bottle (or two). The Larner family grows several Rhone varietals at their vineyard, including Mourvedre, Syrah, Viognier and Grenache. Larner grapes are also much sought after by other winemakers. Located in the Los Olivos General Store, this tasting room is a must if you're in the area. There are plenty of other tasting rooms nearby, too, so be sure to designate - or hire - a driver for your return trip!

Recommended for Los Olivos' Best Wineries because: Larner grapes are the star of many local wines. Stop in here for an unadulterated taste.

Geneva's expert tip: This tasting room is tucked inside the Los Olivos General Store - it's just the place to pick up an amazing souvenir or two.

Read more about Larner Vineyard & Winery →


Stolpman Vineyards


Stolpman's Los Olivos tasting room is housed in a little red farmhouse. There are cool concrete counters inside and wine-barrel topped tables outside on a sunny brick patio. They are well known for their range of excellent Syrahs and for L'Avion, a white wine made with rich Roussanne grapes. Grapes are dry-farmed on their 220-acre property nearby which lies on three major limestone ridgelines in Santa Barbara County. Dry farming means that their vines aren't irrigated after they set, stressing the crops into naturally yielding fewer grapes with more concentrated flavor. Stolpman Vineyards is a family affair; founded by Tom Stolpman, it's now managed by his son Peter. This label also has a close relationship with its vineyard workers. In fact, the profits from one of its wines - La Cuadrilla - are divided among them at the end of the year.

Recommended for Los Olivos' Best Wineries because: Like unusual whites? Try Stolpman's L'Avion, a delicious full-bodied Roussanne.

Geneva's expert tip: Hot? Tired? Overworked taste buds? Pick yourself up with "Love Me Bunches," Stolpman's carbonic Sangiovese. It's a tingly red that's best served with a slight chill.

Read more about Stolpman Vineyards →


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Los Olivos
Kaena Wine Co
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives


Los Olivos may be inland, but that doesn't mean that the mindset of every tasting room is! For some great wine with a hint of, well, Hawaii, seek out Kaena's tasting room. Does this mean they sell wines that are pina colada sweet? Heavens no. Instead founder Michael Sigouin, a native Hawaiian, creates delicious wines - many of them blends - using only Santa Barbara County fruit and gives them Hawaiian names like 'Hapa' and 'Hale.' Sigouin endeavors to keep his wines as natural as possible; this means native yeast, no enzymes and no ML bacteria. Try their Grenache Rose for a refreshing treat. Open daily from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. (island time).

Recommended for Los Olivos' Best Wineries because: Kaena has a delicious rose, wonderful Grenaches and great blends. Nothing too sweet or cloying.

Geneva's expert tip: This Hawaiian-inspired tasting room runs on 'island time' so they might open a little early and close a little late... or vice versa!

Read more about Kaena Wine Co →


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Meet Geneva Ives

Geneva Ives moved to Santa Barbara in 2000 on a whim (ok, and to go to college) and never looked back. She loves Santa Barbara because it’s really one of America’s greatest small towns - it...  More About Geneva

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