Best of Santa Barbara 2012:

When we sat down and started discussing the past year, so much of our conversation revolved around the many trips to Santa Barbara that we took. It is always the place we make a quick escape to, as often as we can. Not only do we love Santa Barbara, but our two children have grown to love it too and look forward to going and doing some of their “favorite” things also. We tend to do little mini-vacations here every few months. Over the years, we have discovered many of our favorite places to wine taste, our favorite local eateries, favorite places to stay, best places to shop, great things to do with the kids and we always seem to discover something new along the way. We thought it would be fun to compile a Best of Santa Barbara List for 2012. We often get asked, “I am going to Santa Barbara. Where should I go? What should I do? Where should I stay?”  So here you go. This is it…The List. Guess you could say, “a few of our favorite things” in Santa Barbara from the past year. Did your favorites make the list?


Jaffurs Wine Cellars

Best Winery 

Jaffurs Wine Cellars We love to stop by here on every visit to Santa Barbara. Great tasting wine, great memories for us and even after their high ratings in Wine Spectator, their prices are still affordable.

Runner up: Santa Barbara Winery We have been enjoying this place for over 10 years now and it’s still one of our favorites. A great place to visit if you’re doing wine tasting in Santa Barbara for the first time.




Deep Sea Tasting Room

Best Winery With A View

Deep Sea Tasting Room After stopping here this past year for the first time, we really enjoyed the beautiful views of Santa Barbara that this place has to offer. You really get a good glimpse of what is called “The American Riviera.”  It’s located on Stearns Wharf, so it’s really the only winery in town with a fantastic ocean view!




Corks n’ Crowns

Best Wine Bar

Corks n’ Crowns A really fun place that offers great wine flights from small production wineries. And for those beer aficionados, craft beer flights available too!

Runner Up: Intermezzo For a more intimate place to enjoy a glass of wine. They also serve a variety of small plate appetizers. A nice place to just unwind after a day of touring the town or a spot to have a glass before heading to dinner or hopefully a concert at The Santa Barbara Bowl!



East Beach Wine Company

Best Wine Shop

East Beach Wine Company Very nice and knowledgeable owners, wine tastings and a great selection of local wines.

Runner Up: The Bottle Shop Looks like a gas station but their semi-disorganized large liquor selection can turn out to be a fun treasure hunt!




Bacara Resort & Spa

Best Hotel on a Splurge

Bacara Resort & Spa Ultimate luxury while in Santa Barbara. From the beautiful Spanish architecture to amazing ocean views to perfectly polished landscape…this place is amazing! Great spot for a relaxing romantic get away.

Runner Up: Spanish Garden Inn Love this place! This is where we stayed the night we got married so it will always hold a place in our hearts. Elegant Spanish style, beautiful romantic rooms and right in the heart of town.




Marina Beach Motel

Best Hotel on a Budget

Marina Beach Motel You just can’t beat the location (one block from the beach), nice-clean rooms and always affordable. Plus they have free bikes to ride and offer a nice selection for their free continental breakfast in the morning.





Los Arroyos

Best Mexican Food

Los Arroyos Bottome line…the best in town! We traditionally judge Mexican restaurants by two criteria. How is the shredded beef taco, cheese enchilada, rice and bean combination plate? And also, how are the chips and salsa? For us, this place serves both to perfection! Dave also discovers new favorites on the menu all the time.

Runner up: Hmmm…Haven’t found anything that compares yet! Maybe this will be the year???




Best Italian Restaurant

Bucatini When we are in the mood for Italian food in Santa Barbara, Bucatini is our go-to. We really enjoy the good food and always leave satisfied. They have a nice patio for outdoor seating too.

Runner up: Trattoria Mollie When we saw Oprah featuring Chef Mollie’s “Polpette alla Mollie” on her show (Italian meatballs made with turkey, spices and tomato sauce) we knew they had to be good…and they are!



Pierre LaFond Wine Bistro

Best California Cuisine

Pierre LaFond Wine Bistro Fantastic fresh food, great gourmet salads and an extensive wine list! Sit outside at the State Street location for some good people watching.






South Coast Deli

Best Deli

South Coast Deli Great place to grab a sandwich or salad. The menu offers many hot and cold “sammies” as well as a wide selection of salads. Outdoor seating is available for you to enjoy your lunch.

Runner up tie: Metropolus Fine Foods Merchant and Norton’s Pastrami and Deli.




Chocolats du Cali Bressan

Best Chocolatier

Chocolats du Cali Bressen Beautiful hand-crafted chocolates with flavors that are to die for!  We used to make a pit-stop at their place in Carpenteria to pick-up our favorite chocolates. We are so happy that they now actually have a shop on State Street in Santa Barbara. We love it when the “rose” bon bon is in season!

Runner up: Chocolate Maya




Santa Barbara Roasting Company

Best Coffee

Santa Barbara Roasting Company David’s must-go-to for coffee every morning when we are in Santa Barbara. He likes the Rincon Red blend, a dark roast that’s earthy and woodsy. Their website describes its characteristics with hints of wine!

Runner up: The French Press






Canjun Kitchen

Best Breakfast

Cajun Kitchen DELICIOUS!!! Serving up some of the best local breakfast in town. We have been going here for over 12 years and they have never let us down. Good sized portions, reasonable prices and they serve breakfast until 2pm.

Runner up: D’Angelo’s Bread & Bakery Change up your breakfast standards and try their Eggs Rose. Two poached eggs on top of fresh Kalamata bread with an artichoke paste. Their cappuccinos and pastries are extraordinary too!




Santa Barbara Zoo

Best Things To Do With The Kids

Santa Barbara Zoo A smaller zoo, but perfect for spending hours of fun with the kids. 

Runners up: Wheel Fun Bike Rentals, Ty Warner Sea Center at Stearns Wharf, Chase Palm Park (Antique Carousel) and Lil’ Toot Water Taxi.





State Street

Best First Time Visiting

Walk State Street So many great places to shop, eat and explore. You’ll get a good taste of what Santa Barbara has to offer.  

Runner up: Take The Scenic Drive and get a sense of the Santa Barbara surroundings with some amazing views and many points of interest along the way…The Mission, The Court HouseEast Beach and Hope Ranch just to name a few.


Honorable mentions: Best Seafood: Brophy Bros. Best Sushi: Arigato Sushi. Best Cajun: Palace Grill.



Santa Ynez Valley Wineries

Here’s our picks in Santa Barbara “Wine Country” (broken down into different sub-regions) which is 30 miles north of the town of Santa Barbara:



Alma Rosa Winery

Best “Santa Rita Hills Wine Trail”

Alma Rosa Winery Historic estate, rustic and charming setting…and delicious Pinot Noir.

Runners up: Sanford Winery and Melville Vineyards & Winery.






Demetria Estate

Best “Foxen Canyon Wine Trail”

Demetria Estate Incredibly beautiful surroundings and some really great Santa Barbara wine. Bring some cheese and crackers and spend the afternoon!

Runners up: Foxen Winery and Zaca Mesa.






Flying Goat Cellars

Best “Lompoc Wine Ghetto” 

Flying Goat Cellars Located in an industrial park with 19 other tasting rooms. Flying Goat pours some incredible Pinot Noir!…and some nice bubbly too!






Los Olivos Tasting Room

Los Olivos Tasting Room

Best “Los Olivos Promenade” 

Los Olivos Tasting Room Mostly pouring handcrafted wines from the smaller local producers who don’t have their own tasting rooms. We’ve discovered many great wines here over the years and you will too!

Runners up: Andrew Murray Vineyards and Longoria Wines.

And while you’re here, grab some delicious lunch at Los Olivos Cafe & Wine Merchant (they have wine tasting too!) or a gourmet sandwich at Panino.




Presidio Winery

Best “Solvang Wine Walk”

Presidio Winery We really enjoy their boutique style wine.

Solvang tips: Breakfast at Paula’s Pancake House or Ellen’s Danish Pancake House. Coffee at Santa Ynez Valley Coffee Company. Grab a sandwich for lunch at El Rancho Marketplace, they also have a great local wine selection.




Well like they say, “2012 is now history!” We have really enjoyed the launch of Winery Explorers this past year and have had so much fun “exploring” and sharing all of our discoveries with you. It has been a year filled with lots of amazing wine, food and travel. We’re so looking forward to what lies ahead in 2013 as we continue on our journeys and as always, can’t wait to share our findings.

Happy New Year!

David & Tonya