The Wandering Wino Blog

Gainey Vineyard Santa Barbara Santa Ynez

(Recently shared in my wine segment on air (1590 News-Talk) with the Tom & Sandy show)  (Riverbench mentioned on air, but not listed below) 

Visiting wine country in Santa Barbara County and Edna Valley, California, may fulfill wine tasting dreams for any wine fan. One can drive up the sun-filled coast in a convertible or at least lower the windows a bit. Not only is there great diversity in regions and wine, but the Central Coast has some of the most picturesque wineries. While hitting the wine trail can be so much fun, planning the trip can be almost as exciting.

Planning where you eat on the wine trail can be an important part of any wine-tasting day. Doing a little research can pay off big for your wine-tasting experience. Some of the most beautiful places do not always necessitate a visit, because we all know there are so many aspects to visiting a winery like: friendly staff, good wines, values, and knowledge.

 A few things to consider packing for your trip ahead of time:


  • Cooler of water and stay hydrated. If it is hot, you can put your wine in the cooler to keep from damaging the wine. 
  • Cutting board 
  • Cheese knives
  • Ziplock plastic bags are ideal for left-over foods, and even dirty utensils.
  • Silverware 
  • Napkins
  • Grocery bags work great as trash bags at the end of the picnic. They are also ideal for dirty cutting boards.


The main focus is on beautiful spots to plan your picnic, so here we go! 

Gainey Vineyards Santa Ynez of Santa Barbara

You may recognize this first photo as being on the home page. This pretty wine country spot can be found at Gainey Vineyards in Santa Ynez Valley, part of Santa Barbara County. Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir can all make excellent picnic wines and they are all offered here. Former Rusack winemaker John Falcone is now at the helm of the wine-making team and I for one am excited about Gainey's future.

Rusack Vineyards Ballard Canyon of Santa Barbara

Sitting underneath a shaded oak-studded, deck overlooking Ballard Canyon, just might be on anyone's short list of top picnic spots in Santa Barbara County. There was a time not too long ago that Rusack's wine club want-to-be's were on a wait list. Great wines and exceptional values (around $18-$40) can be found here.

Cambria Santa Maria Valley of Santa Barbara

There is a key spot on the grounds of Cambria in Santa Maria Valley (inside Santa Barbara County) that overlook miles and miles of vineyards. It does stay cool up in this region for those amazing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes to grow, so consider packing a sweatshirt for this glorious area. 

Lincourt Santa Barbara

I have had the rare occasion when rain has attempted to disrupt my day. My attitude is that wines taste the same if raining or not, and do not allow it to detour my fun. Knowing where covered picnic spots are located can be valuable, for shade if nothing else for those hot, summer days. Lincourt in Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County is one of those spots. Great views and friendly people!

Zaca Mesa Vineyards Santa Barbara County

Ever consider playing lawn chess at your picnic? Check out Zaca Mesa on the Foxen Trail (Santa Ynez Valley) of Santa Barbara County. Consider a hike up the hill for a great view, or stay cool in the shade. Some of the best Rhone values can be found at this great tasting room. 

Foley Sta Rita Hills of Santa Barbara

When hitting the Sta Rita Hills, check out Foley on their lush lawn where there is no shortage of picnic tables or Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. There is great beauty in the surrounding vineyards and modern tasting room. 

Alma Rosa Sta Rita Hills of Santa Barbara

If more privacy and a heavy tree-shaded area is more your speed, consider Alma Rosa, Richard Sanford's winery in the Sta Rita Hills. Fantastic wines come out of this winery and it is a must stop for any Sta Rita Hills tours. 

Bridlewood Santa Barbara

One of the most beautiful locations is reserved for wine club members only at Bridlewood (Santa Ynez Valley). My experiences have been that there is a lot of privacy in this amazing sanctuary of natural beauty. 

Bridlewood Picnic Santa Barbara

For those non-members of Bridlewood, many other tables are available up near the tasting room.

Roblar Santa Ynez of Santa Barbara

For an easy/quick access location in the heart of Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County see Roblar just off Highway 154.

Curtis Santa Ynez of Santa Barbara

Are you a big Rhone wine fan? Some high caliber wines come out of Curtis (Santa Ynez Valley) and are very reasonably priced (around $15-$30). While it does get hot in this region during the summer months, there is plenty of shade among the handful of tables.

Laetitia Arroyo Grande SLO

Just off the 101 freeway in Arroyo Grande (north of Santa Barbara County) is Laetitia. This winery is SIP certified, is dog friendly, and you may even play bocce ball. Great views abound and the winery has super easy coastal freeway access. This winery offers many wines: however, Pinot Noir is their flagship wine. Laetitia also produces great-tasting sparkling wines that would be perfect for any picnic.

Talley Edna Valley SLO

If you are heading further north to Edna Valley inside San Louis Obispo, then Talley is a must stop. While this winery may be a bit further to drive, might I suggest it is well worth it and it. Talley produces great wines with a Pinot Noir focus. Some of the very best staff provide high level customer service even in a very busy tasting room.

Wolff Vineyards Edna Valley SLO

Also in Edna Valley is SIP certified Wolff Vineyards. A small, family-run tasting room hosts a deck with a great view of their vineyards. 

Chamisal Edna Valley

A must stop for anyone touring Edna Valley is Chamisal. This winery produces excellent Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Grenache. Sit out front or in their newly expanded back patio. 

Chamisal Picnic Edna Valley

There is no question there are more places that could easily be added to this list, but I must stop somewhere. When the Wine Bloggers' Conference comes to Santa Barbara County, I have no doubt that some of these wineries will be visited for a deeper dive. Which one do you want to visit? 


  • gwendolyn
    Posted Thursday 20 June 2013 21:53
    Great post, Shawn! Lovely, enticing photos will surely stoke the pre-WBC14 fires and stir winery loving hearts everywhere!

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