Too Many Tasting Rooms?

As reported elsewhere in this issue, there are 25 wine tasting rooms in Santa Barbara.  If you live there or nearby, you can take it easy on a weekend afternoon, stop in one or two of them, have lunch, visit the sights and head home.  But for those of us for whom a visit to Santa Barbara is either a vacation or the extension of some other trip, we don’t have the luxury of trying lots of wineries over an extended period of time.  Whatever wineries we’re going to stop at, we’re going to have to visit over just a few days.

The bar of the tasting room at Happy Canyon Vineyard.

So many wineries, so little time.

Here are a few tips for optimizing your time, in Santa Barbara or any other in-town tasting destination.

  • Start with a winery you know.  At the very least, you’ll be assured of finding at least one spot where the wines are familiar to you and, we assume, that you like.  For example, we began our most recent excursion at Au Bon Climat, where we have been before and whose wines we often buy.  And then the big question: We asked our server where else she would recommend in the area.  Her tastes might not be the same as ours (they weren’t) but at least we weren’t picking places at random.
  • Leave some time for serendipity.  Now for the contrary advice.  If you are in a region where all or most of the wines are unknown to you, pick one and try it out.  So, for instance, we were at that point in the day when we’d ask ourselves, “One more or call it a day?”  Opting for the first alternative, we passed Longoria on State, which has more of a vibe of a night club than a tasting room.  We enjoyed it greatly and will publish a review in a future issue.
  • Too many is too much.  Just because there are ten tasting rooms within three blocks of each other doesn’t mean you have to try them all.  In fact, if you did try ten in a day you’d be a menace to your own health and to those around you.  For goodness sake, don’t get behind the wheel of a car.  Or jaywalk, for that matter.  Even if you’re walking from place to place, set a limit on how many tasting rooms you’ll enter and the stick to your intentions.
  • Enjoy the ambience as well as the wine.  Whether you’re relaxing in a well-appointed room, such as at Happy Canyon Vineyard, soaking up the sun on a terrace or partying in the Funk Zone, you don’t have to bolt as much wine as you can as fast as you’re able.  The whole premise of Power Tasting is that the experience of wine tasting can be as important as the wines themselves.
  • Take advantage of the rest of what the city or town has to offer.  Yes, you’re there for wine tasting, but have a nice lunch and see the sights.  And don’t soak up so much alcohol during the day that you haven’t got the room for a good bottle of a local wine with your dinner, if you’re staying over.

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