The Santa Barbara Hills in Southern California (situated just north of LA, beyond Malibu) are currently producing some of the most exciting wines in the whole of California. Whilst less established than Napa Valley or Sonoma further North, this wilder territory has attracted a young generation of winemakers who are not scared to experiment. Just a few decades since the first vines were planted in the region, there is now a burgeoning scene of premium wineries producing a wide array of wines in every varietal and style you can think of.
The excitement in the region has seen an influx in visitors exploring the wineries as well as the surrounding world-class beaches and world-renowned food. With so much to offer, we caught up with Matt Dees, winemaker at both Jonata and the Hilt – two top wineries based in the Santa Barbara Hills – to find out how best to spend your time when visiting the region.
Tell us about your ultimate Saturday in Santa Barbara?
First thing, I would head out to the Santa Barbara Farmers’ Market – the wealth and quality of food on offer is fantastic. Be sure to stock up on lots of treats to take with you to the beach…
An hour’s drive from the city is my favourite beach – Jalama. It is an incredible surf spot and a beautiful beach. Seek out the burger shack on the beach for ice cold beers.
In the afternoon I would drive right through the Santa Rita Hills stopping off at wineries’ cellar doors sampling the abundance of different wines grown in the region.
For dinner I would recommend the El Encanto restaurant which has beautiful sweeping views across Santa Barbara city. The food is awesome too.
Don’t forget to stop off at the Mercado Ice Cream Parlour too. This place has got to be making some of the best ice cream in California.
Which other restaurants would you recommend in the region?
My personal favourite is Ca’Dario, a sort of no thrills Italian restaurant – the food is really authentic.
Obviously anything at the Farmers’ Market is worth trying and makes for a great visit.
We also have some of the best Mexican food being made in the US. These restaurants really are some of the jewels of the city. I love El Bagio but there are loads of great ones to choose from!