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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? You can hop over to Funk Zone and explore the Urban Wine Trail (it's very 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 beautiful, packed with scenic vistas, sunshine and wildlife. Deer sightings are not uncommon.

Once you arrive in downtown Los Olivos, 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, TerceroCarhartt... 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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If you're strolling the main street of Los Olivos and you see a very small building - a building much too small to hold even a handful of people, let alone be one of the more popular tasting rooms in the area - then you've found Carhartt. Do not be deceived by the diminutive size of its exterior, Carhartt's tasting room boasts a large 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?


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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. You can also try Lea wines, made by Jennifer Tensley, Joey's wife. Lea offerings include locally-grown, vineyard-designated roses and Pinot Noirs. 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.


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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.


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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.




Visit this light and bright tasting room in Los Olivos to try wines made using grapes from some of the best vineyards in the region. Like the name suggests, Crawford Family Wines is family owned and operated. Winemaker Mark Crawford Horvath immersed himself in the wine business in Sonoma before moving south to be the associate winemaker at Babcock before taking over at Tres Hermanas winery. Crawford Family Wines is his personal project with his wife Wendy. Made in nearby Buellton, the wines you'll sip in the Los Olivos tasting room include whites, Pinots and Rhone varietals that showcase the flavors of the Sta. Rita Hills.


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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.


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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 little ways on a narrow lane through some of the most marvelous countryside 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.




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 it's vineyard workers. In fact, the profits from one of its wines - La Cuadrilla - are divided among them at the end of the year.


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!


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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 - 5 (island time).


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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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