Napa has long been the “Queen” of wine regions and generally gets loads of attention when wine lovers pay a visit to California. However there are so many other, often smaller and lower-key, regions that are well worth exploring.
A visit to a lesser-known region can mean fewer crowds, a warmer reception and a chance to really delve into a new appellation (and maybe a chance to meet some of the personalities behind it). What’s more the roads won’t be as crowed and hotels might be less expensive than what is standard issue for some parts of wine country.
While there are few totally unexplored regions in the iconic state of California, a handful can still have pockets to be discovered. The Santa Barbara region was immortalized in the 2004 almost-a-wine-flick movie Sideways. Many of us got a really good look, and fell in love with, the dramatic vistas and charming inns and restaurants of the pristine countryside of the area for the first time.
One of the great plusses of this area is that you can hop out of the tiny, regional Santa Barbara airport, grab a car from the rental desk next door and drive off into the wonderland of the vineyards. The whole experience is much less traffic and tourist-filled than many other areas, particularly in off season. It is also an area to keep an eye on in terms of innovative winemaking developments in the green and biodynamic categories. There’s also no dearth of beautiful places to stay and eat.
A Winery You Can’t Miss
The Fess Parker Winey is a magical place to visit. The icon himself, who passed away a few years ago, used to play Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone on TV in the 1950s and 1960s before buying a 714-acre ranch here back in 1988.
The acreage was ideal for cattle and perhaps a few grape vines. He welcomed his family into the business and to this day they still pour great French Rhône varietals as well as Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay. The winery also runs a cozy, on-property inn and spa.
Driving around the small, hilly back roads of the Los Olivos area, outside of Santa Barbara, feels like a slice of heaven. At the divine Petros Greek restaurant, also located inside the Fess Parker Inn, fresh feta mixes well with octopus and sunshine almost any day of the week.
Don’t take my word for it. Get out there and enjoy this lesser known wine region for yourself. It is plentiful with charm, beauty, and prices that won’t require you to break your piggy bank. Happy tasting!