West Coast US, Western US

Spring break in Santa Barbara, part I

My sister moved to Los Angeles in 2016 and, until March 2023, I’d never visited her there. It’s not for any dramatic reason. It’s just that she shares a small apartment with a roommate and they both work from home, the roommate often on evenings and weekends, so having overnight guests isn’t super feasible. And until recently, neither of us had enough of a salary to afford multiple nights in a hotel instead. Plus, you know, Covid happened.

Long story short, I was very overdue for a visit to LA. Well, my sister’s 30th birthday was this past March, so it was the perfect excuse for me to finally make the trip!

A couple months in advance, we decided she would pick something she’s always wanted to splurge on and I would fly to LA on my spring break for a belated birthday celebration. Her choice: taking the train up to Santa Barbara to go wine tasting. I’m not much of a wine drinker, but for her I figured I’d give it a shot.

Wine not, as I always say.

(Full disclosure: I actually borrowed that from How I Met Your Mother. It’s a pun I try to use as often as possible, much to Pat’s chagrin.)

So when mid-March rolled around I hopped on a plane, trading snowy Colorado for sunny rainy California. Our two days in Santa Barbara were book-ended by three days in LA, which I’ll be writing about soon. But for now, it’s time for wine!

It’s about a two-and-a-half hour ride up to Santa Barbara on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner route, and the second half – once the train reaches the coast – is theoretically a very scenic journey. For us, however, it was rainy on the way there and dark on the way back, so the scenery was not as stellar as it could have been. My least splotchy photo is below.

View from the Pacific Surfliner

We were on the first train of the day, along with a whole bunch of other eager wine tasters. Clearly this is a popular activity for Angelenos. One group was obnoxiously loud and rowdy for the entire train ride and they hadn’t even started drinking yet; I can only imagine how annoying they were the rest of the day. Thankfully, we didn’t encounter them again.

Anyway. We arrived in Santa Barbara around 10:00am and, after dropping off our luggage at our hotel, we set off for the first of our three planned wine tastings. When it comes to alcohol, both of us are embarrassing lightweights and neither of us enjoy being drunk, so this was going to be a lesson in pacing ourselves.

Amtrak Station, Santa Barbara

There are few things in life my sister enjoys more than cupcakes, so when we were researching for this trip and stumbled across Corks ‘n Crowns, which serves sparkling wine flights paired with cupcakes on Sunday mornings, we immediately knew it would be our first stop. The flights included three different wines each paired with a mini cupcake, and not only was this my favorite of the three locations we visited, but the Saracco Moscato d’Asti ended up being my favorite wine I’ve ever had.

(That being said, my wine-related opinions should be taken with a grain of salt. I only enjoy sweet white wines. I can reluctantly tolerate drier whites and rosés, but red wines make me scrunch up my entire face in disgust while Pat laughs at me (and captures my reaction on video). The only alcohol that’s more disgusting than red wine is whiskey. Actually, that’s not true; it’s a tossup as to which of those I dislike the most.)

The cupcakes were also delicious – the coconut one was my favorite, which was unsurprising since coconut everything is my favorite – and I very much enjoyed the many puns and other humorous wall decorations in the tasting room. We took our time here, slowly sipping the wines and savoring the cupcakes while listening to the pitter patter of rain against the windows.

Corks ‘n Crowns
L-R: Lampo Brut Prosecco, Allimont-Laugner Brut Rosé, and Saracco Moscato d’Asti

Our next stop was located just a few blocks away, so we burrowed back into our rain coats and set off on foot, thankful that the rain had slowed to a light drizzle. Melville’s predominately offers red wines, so this was predictably my least favorite of the three. My sister very much enjoyed her red wine flight, though, while I sipped on a glass of the only white wine they offer (I think it was a chardonnay but I don’t actually remember). We also ordered the pita chips and hummus to help soak up some of the alcohol. The hummus was deliciously garlicky and the pita chips were fried and crispy, and are some of the best I’ve ever had.

We were definitely feeling the wine at this point, so before our third and final stop of the day, it was time for some lunch. We ended up at the pizza place around the corner and enjoyed a brick oven-style margherita pizza in their covered outdoor seating area.

Our final stop of the day was Paradise Springs Winery, where we opted to share their flight of six: three reds, two whites, and a rosé. My sister, obviously, drank the reds while I drank the others.

There are at least a dozen other wine tasting venues in town; we just barely scratched the surface on this trip. But both of us were maxed out at this point, so we headed back to our hotel and spent the afternoon lazing around and watching March Madness. We’d booked a room at Castillo Inn on the Beach, a small hotel just a couple blocks from the ocean, and it was great! They held our luggage both before we checked in and after we checked out, and upgraded us to a suite. It was clean and quaint and quiet, and the only thing that could have improved our stay was if they had a continental breakfast.

That evening, once the effects of the wine had mostly worn off, we dragged ourselves out of bed and walked down to Point Castillo for sunset. It was too cloudy for there to actually be any color in the sky, but the evening air and ocean breeze felt nice and it was a lovely end to the day.

Looking back at Santa Barbara from Point Castillo

Up next: part II of our Santa Barbara sojourn. Stay tuned!

33 thoughts on “Spring break in Santa Barbara, part I”

  1. I’d have a tough time choosing between red wine and whiskey, too! As an ambivalent wine drinker in general, I’ve found that the first glass of any wine is not good … and then they get better! Ha! Sounds like a really nice way to spend time with your sister.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We lived in prime wine country in Oregon, so taking guests on wine tours was something we did. But like you, Diana, I’d prefer a brewery tour. Being the Northwest, there were several to choose from. Sound like you and your sister made the most of it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually wouldn’t mind a real winery tour, I don’t know much about the wine making process. It would be interesting to learn I’m sure. But I definitely prefer drinking beer to wine.


  3. It must have been nice to finally visit your sister in LA, especially to celebrate her 30th birthday. It’s a bit of a bummer about all the rain though. But it sounds like you had a fabulous time with the wine tasting in Santa Barbara.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Glad you go to spend some time with your sister. Like you I am not a fan of wine but your Aunt Charlotte is so we have done some wine tastings here and there. Come to Texas and I will take you to Fredericksburg the heart of Texas wine country. US 290 from Johnson City to Fredericksburg is known as the Wine Road. Probably you would prefer Fitzhugh Road that’s where the microbreweries are. Much better than wine in my opinion and obviously yours also.
    When we lived in NC we used to go to Gatlinburg TN and do moonshine fights. There’s some stuff that will kick your ass!
    Uncle Rick

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brewery route sounds much better to me but my mom and sister would prefer the wine one for sure! Maybe you can convince my mom to take you to a local brewery (or the cidery, she loves it) when you visit.


  5. I’m sure your sister appreciated your willingness for wine tasting for her birthday. I was in Santa Barbara a couple of years ago visiting some friends and I couldn’t believe how rainy and chilly it was- nothing like the California coast you think it will be.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Like you, I’m a lightweight and I’ve at times embrrassingly tapped out too early at wine tastings. Never been wine tasting in SB, but it sounds like it was a wonderful time, despite the rain; the cupcake-wine flight sounds like my jam! Santa Barbara is a beautiful part of central California, and I’ve only had brief visits, so I’d love to return for a proper visit! Looking forward to your LA posts soon. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh my gosh, so much to say here. I’m going to enumerate.
    1. I’m totally noting the wine train and that train station is gorgeous. It looks like it should be on the historic register. I’ve long wanted to go to Santa Barbara, but didn’t realize it was a wine destination, so now I doubly want to go.
    2. Wine and cupcakes on a Sunday morning. Breakfast of champions!
    3. I started out (in my 30s) liking wine, starting with whites, and gradually learned to like reds. Now, I drink the rainbow! (But tonight we’re having pizza, so it’ll be red.) I’m with you on whiskey, though. Tastes like nail polish remover (I presume.)
    4. Boo and hiss to the winery that served the flight in plastic cups. Never mind the environmental impact, wine just flat out tastes better in glass (so does Snapple, incidentally, but it seems they’ve moved almost exclusively to planet-destroying plastic).
    5. When I told the husband the wine you liked the best, he chuckled and said, “That’s basically pop.” 😉
    Sounds like a fun trip. Looking forward to hearing about part two.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If I recall correctly, that station is on the historic register. Hopefully one of these days you can see it for yourself. The winery with plastic cups want my favorite. In addition to the environmental impact it just felt cheap… which it wasn’t at all!

      And yes, I admit my favorite wine is more like sparkling cider than wine. But it’s just so good!

      Liked by 1 person

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