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Check out our wine travel guide to Santa Barbara Wine Country.
Buellton is a small town, conveniently located in the center of Santa Barbara Wine Country and Santa Ynez Valley. The town is a 10-minute drive from Los Olivos. While Buellton doesn’t have the sheer volume of wine tasting options like Los Olivos, there are still a handful of producers that are worth seeking out. The town of Buellton also offers many lodging and dining options.
The star of the restaurant scene is The Hitching Post II, which is heavily featured in the movie Sideways. The restaurant is known for its off-menu hamburger and wines branded under the name Hartley Ostini Hitching Post.
Frank Ostini, owner and chef at The Hitching Post, and his good friend Gray Hartley were making wine at home back in 1979. In 1984, the process was moved to a winery and they started making wines exclusively for The Hitching Post restaurant. Today, the winery focuses on producing Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Syrah. Most of the wines are available by the glass at the restaurant. The wines are big and dense enough to be paired with the meat dishes on the menu.
A newer establishment called Industrial Eats is on its way to securing the spotlight. The appeal is justified on many fronts: free corkage; an inviting open concept kitchen; everything is cooked in a wood-fired oven, and plenty of off-menu items. Its Beef Tongue Pastrami Sandwich might just be one of the best sandwiches in the world.
Three Wineries in Buellton that You Shouldn’t Miss
At the Alma Rosa tasting room, which is right next to Industrial Eats.
Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards
Alma Rosa translates to “soul of the rose”. Richard Sanford disconnected from his original namesake project, Sanford Winery, and started Alma Rosa in 2005. Alma Rosa focuses on cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with additional production of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Richard Sanford is an astute selector of the best vineyard sites, as one might already expect that from the first man who planted Pinot Noir in what is now known as the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. In 1983, Richard planted the region’s first organic vineyard in Rancho El Jabali. In 2012, he became the first vintner from Santa Barbara County to be inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame. The Alma Rosa estate vineyards are certified organic. The wines here are incredibly bright and suitably fruit-driven. We are particularly fond of the Alma Rosa Pinot Noir Clone 667 and Alma Rosa Pinot Blanc La Encantada Vineyard.
Ken Brown Wines
In 1977, Ken Brown became the first winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery. In 1984, he founded Byron Vineyard & Winery. And in 2003, he started his own label, Ken Brown Wines, to focus on high-quality Pinot Noir wines. Ken was among the first vintners to recognize the promise of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the county. This is a must-stop if you’re interested in tasting wines that are birthed by some of the most illustrious vineyards in the county.
Margerum Wine Company
This producer makes wines from several grapes, with an emphasis on Rhône varieties. The Margerum wines have rich texture and ripe tannins, and these polished wines come with attractive prices. One of their signature wines is called M5. However, the single-vineyard Syrah wines stand out the most to us.
Charine and Matthew have captured Santa Barbara Wine Culture with passion and aplomb, making recommendations that are amazingly sympatico with my local favorites. As a Santa Barbara winemaker since 1994, I offer enthusiastic praise for ‘Sipping Santa Barbara’ and would offer it to friends and family as a one-stop guide for planning and executing an amazing trip to one of the most underrated and bucolic wine regions on planet earth. If this publication doesn’t get you fired up for a trip to our Wine Country, nothing will!
Being from Santa Barbara, I have a lot to say when the topic of Santa Barbara wine producers comes up in conversation. Sipping Santa Barbara is going to be the primary source document I recommend everyone pick up when desiring to learn more about Santa Barbara Wine Country. From the formative producers to the most important newcomers, Charine Tan & Dr. Matthew Horkey paint a full picture of the diverse winegrowing that happens from the Southern tip to the Northern most point of Santa Barbara County.
Cover Photo: The Hitching Post II Restaurant & Winery, by Jeremy Ball.
The ideas expressed in this article are personal opinions and are not associated with any sponsors or business promotions.