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Sipping, and staying, in California's lesser-known wine regions

Posted by Melanie Nayer  August 9, 2013 08:30 AM

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firestone-vineyard.jpgPhoto: Firestone Vineyard, Santa Barbara. Photo credit: Firestone Vineyard

There's a lot to do and see in California, and wine country is usually somewhere on the list. Napa and Sonoma Valleys have long been regarded as some of the best in new-world wine making, producing complex Cabernets, bold Merlots, and buttery Chardonnays. But just south of California's famous wine regions are some equally fantastic vineyards worth exploring.

Just a few hours north of Los Angeles is Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez. The road trip can be done in a day, making it a perfect escape from the chaos of L.A.

Forbes Travel Guide names some great places to stop, see, sip and stay.

Head first to Santa Barbara and start your day at some of the historic landmarks (Casa de la Guerra), luxury shopping (Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom) and art galleries (Artamo Gallery, Gallery 113) in the center of town. Some Santa Barbara wineries you shouldn't miss include:

Firestone Vineyard: Daily tours (11:15 a.m., 1:15 p.m. and 3:15 p.m.)
Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard: Private tours and tastings arranged daily.

Just a little further up the coast is the Santa Ynez wine region. Often overlooked by its beautiful big sister, Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez is the perfect blend of simplicity and tranquility among thousands of acres of open land. Head straight into Los Olivos, a tiny town flanked with art galleries (Gallery Los Olivos), boutiques (Bonita Summerland, Los Olivos General Store) and dozens of wine-tasting rooms. Don't miss:

Byron Estates: Open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Artiste: A unique boutique that blends impressionist art with limited edition wines. Open daily 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Forbes also recommends staying at some of these star-rated resorts:

The Four-Star Bacara Resort & Spa features three heated saltwater swimming pools, an outdoor hot tub and a full-service Four-Star spa for ultimate relaxation with treatments such as healing stone therapy (using warm and cool basalt stones), Arnica massage infusion (with elements of Swedish, Shiatsu and Thai massages), and more.

The Four-Star Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara has three restaurants, a pool and spa, and also offers tastings of wines from around the region.

The Four-Star San Ysidro Ranch, where former first couple John and Jackie Kennedy spent some of their honeymoon, is a bit more rustic on 550 acres, and will make you feel like you’re in your own little Santa Barbara hideaway.

Readers: Where's your favorite California wine region?

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Melanie Nayer is a travel writer who spent many years in the newsroom before jetting off to see the world. Her goal is to bring readers the best insider information More »

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