A Great Day Trip To The Santa Ynez Valley
On our final port stop in Santa Barbara, we booked a day trip for cupcake and wine tasting in Santa Ynez Valley.
On a cruise along the California coast, we found lots of opportunities for wine tasting. We started with wine tasting in the Guadalupe Valley outside of Ensenada, Mexico. Oceania Cruises provided wine tasting events and educational sessions on California wines. And on our stop in Santa Barbara, we joined Santa Barbara Wine Country Tours for an interesting wine tasting day trip.
Setting Up Our Day Trip
We often booked our excursions through the cruise ship. This ensured that we always made it back to the ship on time. On our cruise along the California coast, we booked some excursions through the cruise ship. But we visited Santa Barbara several times before and felt we could find the perfect excursion on our own.
We knew we wanted to visit the wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley. This would be a new winery region to add to the long list of wine regions we visited in 2019. When we saw Cupcake and Wine Tasting in Santa Ynez Valley, we knew we found the tour for us.
It was easy to set up the winery tour online. And we got good instructions on where to meet them on shore. The port visit was long enough that there was no risk of missing the ship sailing.
Meeting Up On Shore
In Santa Barbara, the ship was anchored and we needed to get a tender boat to the dock area. Our meeting time was for 10am so we figured that a 9am tender would give us lots of time. We were not prepared for a very busy tender. And huge swells that made loading the tender very slow.
We visited Santa Barbara many times before. On our spring road trip along the California coast, we visited the harbour area for our seafood fix. As our tender approached the dock, the dock area was very familiar to us.
After landing, we rushed off the tender and walked up to the main street in search of the tour tents. We immediately saw a van at the curb and found Caco. He was our driver and guide for the day. Another couple from our cruise ship was also on this tour. Once we met up with them, we were on our way.
Driving To The Santa Ynez Valley
Caco drove us out of Santa Barbara and got on State Route 154 through the San Marco Pass. As we drove along, we learned about recent fires that threatened Santa Barbara. In several places, traffic was reduced to single lanes as road work was done. We passed Lake Cachuma and drove through the Los Padres National Forest.
As we drove along, we saw farming up on the hillsides. Approaching the end of the road in Los Olivos, we started to see vineyards. We knew we were close. It was time to begin cupcake and wine tasting in Santa Ynez Valley.
First Stop At Rideau Vineyards
Our first winery in the Santa Ynez Valley was at Rideau Vineyards. The grape vines were empty and the leaves had changed to fall colours. It was a quiet day so we had the tasting room almost to ourselves.
There were two different wine flights available at the Rideau Vineyards for our tasting, each with 6 different wines. David tried the Signature flight with Roussanne, Viognier, Mourvèdre, Syrah and a signature red blend (Chateau Duplantier). I tried the Adobe Flight with two white wines of mixed Rhone varietals, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and a red Malbec blend (Brassman Red).
It was great to do back to back tasting of so many different varietals on two different flights. We found we liked the wines in the Adobe flight better. The Chardonnay was buttery with no heavily oaked taste. The Brassman Red was a smooth and easy drinking red wine. We liked the Camp 4 Sangiovese with its fruity taste.
When we finished our tasting, we took the Sangiovese wine outside. We enjoyed a short break on the chairs by the vineyard. It was a lovely spot for wine tasting in Santa Ynez Valley.
Brander Vineyards For Our Lunch Stop
The second stop was at the Brander Vineyards. This was another great vineyard resplendent in fall colours. When we went inside, we saw the tasting room all decorated for the holiday season.
The Brander family were pioneers in the Santa Ynez Valley. They were known for their Sauvignon Blanc wine. We tried 3 different versions of their signature wine. The Au Natural was called the champagne of Sauvignons and its sweeter taste was better for our palette.
When the host learned that a few people in our group liked sweeter wines, he opened up a Semillion late harvest wine. This was not produced quite like the ice wines we found in Canada. As a result, we found the wine sweet but not thick and syrupy. David of course had a second serving.
We tried two red wines. The Merlot was an interesting wine that tasted light and fruity and more like Malbec. The estate Cabernet Sauvignon was drier and we were told this one would age well.
We took a glass of wine out to the private secluded patio. Our cupcake and wine tasting tour included lunch. We enjoyed the large fresh sandwiches and snacks with our wine.
Wine tasting in Santa Ynez Valley at Brander Vineyards was a great way to try some signature wines. And have a lunch break too.
Olive Oil And More At Rancho Olivos
Our timing was good for our tour day, so Caco added one unplanned stop for us. A short distance from the Brander Vineyards he pulled into Rancho Olivos. We drove up the driveway lined with olive trees. It reminded us very much of the vast olive tree farms we saw in the Puglia region of Italy.
There was a good variety of olive oils available to taste test and to purchase. The flavoured olive oils all had great taste. When we talked with the owner, he noted that the flavours were put in before the olives were crushed. The meant that the sediments settled out in the barrel and the oils were all very clear.
As we drove through this region, we saw a lot of olive trees. We understood why the town at the end of SR 154 was called Los Olivos. And we were happy to try the great olive oils from Ranchos Olivos when we went cupcake and wine tasting in Santa Ynez Valley.
Cupcake and Wine Tasting At The Saarloos And Sons Tasting Room
We were excited when we pulled into the small town of Los Olivos for our last stop at the Saarloos and Sons Tasting Room. We would finish with cupcake and wine tasting in Santa Ynez Valley.
When we entered the tasting room, the first thing we saw was a display case filled with small cupcakes. For our cupcake and wine tasting we got an interesting flight of 6 cupcakes.
The wine tasting was done with each wine paired with a different cupcake flavour. There were wines and labels dedicated to family members. The Mom Grenach Blanc was sweetened by the triple vanilla cupcake treat. And the Sauvignon Blanc paired perfectly with the Cranberry Mojito cupcake. The blackberry Syrah cupcake had a dark chocolate centre which went perfectly with the Family Man Syrah wine.
There were three chocolate cupcakes – brown butter, chocolate maple caramel and nutella. These we tried with the Niece Petit Verdot and the Courage Cabernet Sauvignon. In all cases, the chocolate paired well. Although we found that the very sweet brown butter cupcake made the wine taste bolder.
We love when we get pairings with our wine tastings. It is always fascinating to see how a pairing can change the wine taste. Cupcake and wine tasting in Santa Ynez Valley was the sweetest pairing we have done. Although when we went ice wine tasting in Canada, the very sweet wines were paired with food smoked right at the table.
A Different Path Back To Santa Barbara
It was finally time to head back to Santa Barbara. Caco took a different route that wound us through Solvang before we hooked up with Hwy 101 and headed south. A drive through the Danish town of Solvang showed us windmills and cute Danish village architecture. There was even a small statue that reminded us of the Little Mermaid we saw when we visited Copenghagen.
We got a great view of the California coast as we drove down Hwy 101. Off in the distance we saw the Channel Islands. Another spot we want to visit one day.
When we arrived back at the dock, there was still lots of time before the last tender boat. But the fog had rolled in. Our ship was not visible out in the harbour. Every now and then we heard the ship’s fog horn blow. It was a bit of a spooky ride out to the ship.
A Sweet Day Cupcake and Wine Tasting In Santa Ynez Valley
We were so glad we booked cupcake and wine tasting in Santa Ynez Valley. Our tour with Santa Barbara Wine Country Tours was the perfect way to spend a day in Santa Barbara. We got a brief look at this interesting wine region. And we know where to return the next time we visit California.
Santa Barbara was the last stop on our cruise along the California coast. When the ship pulled anchor, we headed back to Long Beach.
Have you tried cupcake and wine tasting in Santa Ynez Valley from Santa Barbara? Did you enjoy this wine region?
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