At tastings held daily from June to August, Jaffurs Wine Cellars tempts oenophilic tongues with five Rhône varietals. Growers in the fertile Santa Ynez, Santa Rita, and Santa Maria wine regions carefully cultivate the future intoxicants on small lots, observing high farming standards and ancient Bacchanalian rituals. With a limited production of about 5,000 cases each year, Jaffurs' winemakers can thoroughly inspect each individual grape, screening out overripe fruitlets and anthropomorphized raisins. The results are red and petite syrahs, grenache, and mourvedre wines that play pleasantly atonal chords of fruit across the palate, an aromatic white viognier with floral and peach intonations, and other varieties that croon seductive verses to receptive taste buds. A private tasting appointment, necessary for groups of more than six, may incur an additional fee ($5/person).
Mike and Chris Brown's story of Cantara Cellars starts as many success stories do: with a humble beginning. Back in 2002, the husband and wife team started off with just 250 pounds of chardonnay grapes that had been hand-picked from Mike's parents' vineyard in Lodi, which eventually transformed into their first 18 gallons of wine. And like most creative endeavors, the winemaking was a labor of love, something the couple doted upon, developed, and refined over the coming years. In 2007, once they had accumulated a huge amount of knowledge?and inventory of wine?the tasting room opened to the public, where visitors could relax, snack on small plates, and enjoy vinos by the ounce, full glass, or bottle. These days, Cantara works with more than 50 tons of harvested grapes each fall, and crafts more than 10 varietals throughout the year.
Oreana Winery's festive, eclectic style is embodied in its facilities, housed within a revamped historical tire shop. While in the tasting room, dabbling imbibers will enjoy dipping their senses into a rotating selection of six different wines, ranging from charming chardonnays to mystical merlots (a $10 value per person). Each tippling pair will receive a bottle of signature 2007 Oreana pinot noir, in which aromatics of wilted rose, strawberry, and wild berry bolster an elegant structure and dimension before fading to a delicate finish (a $30 value). After bathing tongues in sophisticated flavors on Oreana Winery's outdoor patio and attempting to describe a particular sensation as "supernatural taffy," tour the wine shop, gourmet gift market, and fully functional winery.
According to the clever folks at Giessinger Winery, the best wine is the one you like. Following that logic, they invite visitors into tasting rooms to sample the winery's many varieties and figure out which most agrees with their palate. Bestowed with the honor of Santa Barbara's Best Winery and Best Tasting Room in Santa Barbara by the U.S. Commerce Association in 2013, resident winemaker Edouard Giessinger and his associate Justin Tatum also lead groups through the nuanced process of crafting wines during comprehensive classes, wherein visitors can learn how wine is made, visit the production facility, and even taste wines.
As a significant stop on the Urban Wine Trail, Margerum and Au Bon Climat curate an experienced team of vintners who bring the best of their vineyard-grown gems to downtown Santa Barbara. Glass tippers can traverse the neighboring spaces of the Au Bon Climat and Margerum tasting rooms in whatever order they wish, guiding palates through a tasting tour that includes one full flight of wine from each winery. Flatbread and cheese plates from the nearby Wine Cask Restaurant provide ideal escorts for lonely glasses of handmade vino. In each room, guests savor the complex tastes of a flight of a rare or limited-edition vintage, from classic Burgundian-style beverages to estate-grown nebbiolo, teroldego, and petit verdot.
Whitcraft Winery practices Old World wine traditions and lets nature run its course to fermented-grape-juice perfection, crafting its vegan-friendly wines only from handpicked grapes, yeast, and a bit of sulfites. During the tasting, guests sample four to seven of the winery's signature wines, which are never fined or filtered so as to remain true to the grape varietal's flavor. While hand-bottling a wide assortment of foot-crushed reds and lightly pressed whites, Whitcraft specializes in chardonnay, pinot noir, syrah, and grenache. The 2008 Aubaine pinot noir hints of blueberries, blackberries, and white pepper, and the 2009 Kick-On Ranch chardonnay keeps white-wine enthusiasts happily krumping long after the chalice is empty. Customers can check the current wine offerings and purchase their favorite flavors at 20% off (prices range from $26 to $75 for vintages from 2007 to 2009).