South Central Coast: Santa Ynez Valley, Sta. Rita Hills

The far reaches of the Sta. Rita Hills are about a 30 minute drive from Santa Ynez. Distinct geology and geography combine to form a unique maritime corridor for producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The vineyards and wineries are scattered about two east-west oriented valleys (centered around Santa Rosa Road and Highway 246). Many wineries have tasting rooms, and several wineries' tasting rooms are in close proximity in the city of Lompoc at the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. Some wineries are on gravel/dirt roads. Refer to the appellation website ( for a good map.

Recommended Wineries

Alma Rosa Winery
Tasting RoomIn Buellton just off Highway 101; open daily afternoons.
WinemakerChristian Roguenant
OwnerRichard and Thekla Sanford
CommentsPinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and sparkling wines under the direction of iconic vintner, Richard Sanford. Tasting no longer at site made famous in movie 'Sideways,' but tastings on that ranch are scheduled to resume by special appointment.
PoP coverageAlma Rosa Winery & Vineyards
Au Bon Climat
Tasting RoomOpen daily at 813 An Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara
WinemakerJim Adelman, Jim Clendenen
OwnerJim Clendenen
CommentsJim Clendenen has been at it since 1982 and his Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays are legendary. At tasting room, current releases, library wines and large formats available. Also wines of Clendenen Family Vineyard, Ici/La Bas, BArham Mendelsohn, Vita Nota and Him's other creative endeavors. Over 100 wines in stock!
PoP coverageAu Bon Climat
Cargasacchi/Point Concepcion Wines
Tasting RoomTasting room in Buellton closed. Private tastings for mailing list members.
WinemakerPeter Cargasacchi
OwnerPeter Cargasacchi
CommentsPeter is a well-respected winegrower in the Sta. Rita Hills, and some time spent with him will give you considerable insight about growing and crafting Pinot Noir in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation. Three estate vineyards: Cargasacchi Vineyard (1998), Jalama Vineyard and Levante Vineyard (2008).
Clos Pepe Estate Vineyard
Tasting RoomTastings by appointment at Taste of Sta. Rita Hills in Lompoc
Production900 cases Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
OwnerSteve and Cathy Pepe
CommentsEstablished in 2000 by Steve and Cathy Pepe, now leased for 15 years to Hall/Walt Wines of Saint Helena, CA. This means Hall/Walt will be farming vineyard and bottling Estate wines under their label as well as continuing to sell grapes to a number of producers.
PoP coverageClos Pepe Estate
Fiddlehead Cellars
Tasting RoomLompoc Wine Ghetto, 1597 Chestnut Ave, Lompoc; Open Friday-Sunday or by appointment.
ProductionPinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, sweetie, bubbles
WinemakerKathy Joseph
OwnerKathy Joseph
Comments97 acres owned. Established in 1999.
PoP coverageFiddlehead Cellars
Flying Goat Cellars
Tasting RoomLompoc Wine Ghetto, 1520 East Chestnut Court, Unit A, Lompoc, CA 93436
Production2,300 cases
WinemakerNorm Yost
OwnerNorm Yost, Kate Griffith
CommentsPinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Goat Bubbles from Santa Barara County vineyards.
PoP coverageFlying Goat Cellars
Gypsy Canyon
Tasting RoomInquire
Production500 cases
WinemakerDeborah Hall
OwnerDeborah Hall
Comments Visit one of the last remaining Mission grape vineyards in California. Small production Estate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Estate Ancient Vine Angelica.
PoP coverageGypsy Canyon
Hartley-Ostini Vintners Hitching Post Wines
Tasting RoomDaily 4-6 at Hitching Post II Restaurant, 406 E Hwy 246, Buellton.
Production900 cases of Pinot Noir
WinemakerGray Hartley
OwnerFrank Ostini, Gray Hartley
CommentsWines are from top vineyards located in Santa Barbara County and are sold at the Hitching Post restaurant and through retail distribution. The wines and restaurant made famous in movie, 'Sideways.'
PoP coverageHitching Post Wines
Ken Brown Wines
Tasting RoomOpen Thursday-Monday
Production2,500 cases Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah
WinemakerKen Brown
OwnerKen and Deborah Brown
CommentsKen Brown is one of Central Coast's pioneering winemakers and he continues to produce a superb lineup of stellar wines.
PoP coverageKen Brown Wines
LaFond Winery & Vineyards
Tasting RoomWinery tasting room on Santa Rosa Rd open daily, Santa Barbara Tasting Room at 111 East Yanonali St. open every day also.
Production44,000 cases
WinemakerBruce McGuire (since 1981)
OwnerPierre Lafond
CommentsPinot Noir, Italian varietals, white wines.
PoP coverageLafond Winery & Vineyards
Rusack Vineyards
Tasting RoomOpen daily 11-5 . Great spot for picnic with majestic oaks and serenity.
Production7,000 cases Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah
WinemakerJohn Falcone and Catherine Stephens
OwnerGeoff and Alison Rusack
Comments17 acres owned. Established in 1995. I personally have not been to this boutique winery and vineyard in several years but used to admire the Pinot Noir wines.
PoP coverageRusack Vineyards

Recommended Lodging

1880 Union Hotel
CommentsBuilt in 1880 as a stagecoach stop. 14 rooms (from $105) with a country home design, some with bathrooms down the hall. Lovely back garden, a sitting room and a rowdy saloon.
Alisal Guest Ranch; Resort
CommentsMore a destination resort for families.Horseback riding, golf, swimming. River Alisal Grill (brkfst, lunch, dinner). Beloved by many.
Ballard Inn; Restaurant
Comments15 romantic rooms. Brkfst included. My favorite lodging in the area. Oustanding restaurant as well. (see under Recommended Restaurants).
Best Western Andersons, Motel 6, Santa Ynez Valley Marriott
CommentsTypical hotel accommodations close to Highway 101. Avoid Days Inn Windmill featured in Sideways.
Cabins at Jalama Beach
Comments7 newer pine cabins at Jalama Beach near Santa Barbara with magnificent ocean views. The cabins sleep 4 to 6 and have kitchens and baths. From $100 plus a $20 reservation fee, 2 nights minimum.
Chumash Casino Resort
CommentsLuxurious hotel that is affordable. Casino, Willows Restaurant (steak and seafood).
El Capitan Canyon
CommentsComfortable cabin camping and resort in the Santa Barbara foothills. Glamping (glamourous camping).
Embassy Suites Lompoc
CommentsA short drive to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto and Sta. Rita Hills wineries. Located in the heart of downtown Lompoc. Renovation and updating of hotel and grounds was undertaken in 2016.
Fess Parkers Wine Country Inn
CommentsDeluxe and expensive B&B lodging with DaVine spa. Marcellas Restaurant is new in 2008 (formerly Wine Cask).
Hadsten House Inn & Spa
CommentsNewly renovated and located in downtown Solvang. Solvang is pretty kitschy and touristy to me, but some enjoy the ambiance. Hygge Restaurant is in the Hadsten House.
Hotel Corque
CommentsA boutique hotel owned by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. Excellent restaurant by noted chef Bradley Ogden: Root 246. Rooms have state-of-the-art amenities. Perfect location to explore Santa Ynez Valley.
Santa Ynez Inn
CommentsVictorian styled 14 room B&B. Cooked breakfast.
Victorian Mansion Bed & Breakfast
CommentsUnion Hotel is a restored Wells Fargo Depot dating to 1880. The Victorian Mansion was built in 1864 and moved to its present location in 1980. There are six eclectic fantasy-themed suites. All of the original murals have been restored as part of a complete restoration in 2007.

Recommended Restaurants

Avant Tapas and Wine
Phone805-686-9400 x5
Comments30 wines by half glass or glass using key card. Comfortable room looking out on winery with videos of winemaking constantly showing. Home to Ken Brown, Hitching Post, others. Excellent small plates. Open 11:00-8:00 Thursday thru Sunday.
Ballard Inn; Restaurant
CommentsBudi Kazalis fusion cuisine. Intimate dining and superb wine list and service. Wine-tasting bar Fri-Sun, 12-4:30 (Kenneth-Crawford, Ken Brown, Lane Tanner, etc.). Very highly recommended.
Brothers Restaurant at Mattei's Tavern
Comments19th century stagecoach stop.
Cold Spring Tavern
CommentsBLD in an 1860's stagecoach stop. Tri-tip sandwiches a specialty. Live music frequent. Favorite of young winemakers and cellar rats. Indoor and outdoor dining.
Full of Life Flatbread
CommentsArtisan flatbread pizzas. Ingredients organically grown within 400 miles. Organic frozen flatbread pizza maker during the day, transforms into a restaurant four nights a week (Thurs-Sun). Popular spot for area winemakers. Candied apples are signature dessert. Dinner Fri-Sun only. Nothing over $25.
Global Gardens Caliterranean Cafe and Store
CommentsChef Theodora Stephan opened this restaurant in 2013 in Los Alamos. The restaurant occupies the town's historic mercantile building which is shared with the Casa Dumetz wines of Sonia Magdevski. Cooking is mostly vegetarian with globally inspired flavors. Her Global Gardens specialty food company makes 50 different products from olive oils to fruit vinegars, mustards and spice blends and these products are sold in the Los Alamos store.
Hitching Post II Restaurant
CommentsLong-standing tradition in the Santa Ynez Valley. Home of Harley-Ostini Hitching Post Wines which you can sample and purchase. Very popular since the movie Sideways. Steaks, ostrich, grilled artichokes.
Industrial Eats
CommentsPart takeout, part butcher shop and part order-at-the-counter restaurant. Lunch or dinner. Wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches and deli plates ideal for sharing. Lamb shawarma pizza with feta and harissa, Siracha, farm egg and crispy pig ear pizza, excellent salads made from nearby farm produce, and don't forget the Whopper cookie.
Jalama Beach Cafe
CommentsBreakfast, Lunch, Dinner. Great hamburgers "Jalama burger"). Central Coast wine list with most wines under $30. Winemaker dinners.
Los Olivos Cafe; Wine Merchant
CommentsCalifornia cuisine and Central Coast wines. Wine store. Featured in Sideways.
Root 246
CommentsBradley Ogden is the consultant for this restaurant located at Hotel Corque in Solvang. The Chumash Indians purchased the old Royal Scandinavian Inn and refurbished it. The fresh American cuisine is executed by Chef Jonathan Hall, a protege of Ogden's. Contemporary with two bars.
Sissy's Uptown Cafe
CommentsGrilled sandwiches, inexpensive. 300 different local wines with some limited production and hard to find bottlings. Wine tastings including Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noirs for $3 per taste.
SY Burrito
The Cold Spring Tavern
CommentsA stagecoach stop in the 1880s. Order the tri tip sandwich. Many bikers on Sundays.
The Porch Restaurant at Los Olivos Grocery
CommentsCasual, wine at retail. Gourmet grocery.
The Vineyard House
CommentsCalifornia regional cuisine. Patio seating. L&D. Located adjacent to the Santa Ynez Inn.

Picnic Supplies

Bell Street Farm
CommentsA market/restaurant serving sandwiches, salads and rotisserie chicken Fridays-Mondays 10:00 - 6:00.
Epicurean Picnic
Comments100 artisan gourmet cheeses and specialty meats.
Farmer's Markets
CommentsA family-owned restaurant chain serving Italian inspired soups, salads and sandwiches in Santa Barbara County.

Wine Country Tours

Central Coast Outdoors
CommentsBike and van tours of wine country.
Cloud Climber Jeep Tours
CommentsTours to the top of the Santa Ynez Mountains and over wine country back roads to get to vineyards and tasting rooms.
Santa Barbara Wine Country Cycling Tours
CommentsCycling trips and tours in various wine tasting areas for every level of rider.

Appellation Websites