• April 21
Santa Barbara County Vintners Association Festival
"No viticultural region in America has demonstrated as much progress in quality and potential for greatness..as the Santa Barbara region."
All Organic or Biodynamic
Some Organic or Biodynamic
These wineries' estate vineyards are certified (but they also source grapes for blends from further afield).
• Alma Rosa
A Few Organic or Biodynamic
• Au Bon Climat
This year the festival is being held in a much better location than last year's festival, which was on a very unlevel and windy field in Lompoc.
Los Olivos is a much prettier town, filled with tasting rooms. (Unlike Napa or Sonoma where tasting is onsite amid the winery and vineyards, more SBCounty wineries have tasting rooms only and many of them are located in Los Olivos). The town is the location of a number of famous scenes from the movie Sideways.
The grand tasting is on Saturday afternoon; Sundays are open in order to visit individual wineries, which have food, live music, deals and generally get festive. Tickets are $75. Direct buses also will run from Santa Barbara and other locations to the festival.
The crowd is very Santa Barbara - you'll get a good hit of SoCal vibes, and a crowd that ranges from 30s to 50s in general.
Accommodations: Last year I tried out the Motel 6 in Lompoc where the price was right ($40). There are dozens of beautiful pampering places in the region.
If you are going down from the Bay Area for a weekend, try to add a few more days to your trip to enjoy area sights. You could also stop off and see the Paso Robles wineries as well. Biodynamic Ambyth Estate and French-owned Tablas Creek would be at the top of my list there. See my map for more details.
For me, the winningest reason to go to this festival is that all of the winemakers themselves show up - and pour and chat - which is something you won't find when you visit their tasting rooms.
Au Bon Climat, Qupe and Verdad also have awesome sales on Sunday, in their warehouse, which you is not open at any other time of the year. The warehouse is located near Bien Nacido, one of the ultimate vineyards in all of California. Its in a steep, secured canyon (which has a few organic blocks).
• May 5-6
Hopland, Mendocino County
This is one of my personal favorites - the wines are affordable! And there are tons of organically grown ones to try!
Hopland Passport is famous for having great deals on wine so be sure to come with an empty trunk. Stock up! It's better than the supermarket wine you'd be buying the rest of the year. And why not buy *and drink* local?
I've blogged at length about Hopland Passport. Read this post for all the details on which wineries to visit and where to stay.