The following text is a copy of a customer blog post, a recent wine-touring review, sent to us from Carolyn in New York.
Dear transportation company that helped us experiencing the vacation of a lifetime last week. We – me and my hubby, – went on a four-day last minute trip to Santa Barbara, California. We travel here a lot for the great beaching, shopping on State Street, and just living the easy life for a few days with the gorgeous Mediterranean feel of the American Riviera. Last time we were bringing the kids, which of course meant a few visits to the local zoo among other kid friendly activities. On this particular trip, my husband and I decided to go on a date trip without friends or kids for once. The freezing New York weather helped us greatly in picking location; it had to be either Key West or Southern California. After researching one night on the computer, my husband turned over to me with a smile: “You know babe, our wedding anniversary is coming up pretty soon, let’s plan on a trip to SoCal!”, he said. “Why SoCal? We could go to Miami and find something cool there?’, I replied. He then showed me something he had been researching apparently since the last time we traveled to SoCal: “Santa Ynez wine tour selections”! Right there and then, we both agreed to celebrating our wedding anniversary exploring the wineries and tasting-venues in the area.
Arriving in the American Riviera
While at the hotel in S.B., we started asking and researching what Santa Ynez wine tour we should go for. There were so many options to choose from!! After consulting with the hotel receptionist and actually asking at a local restaurant, we checked out Santa Barbara County Limousines. After calling them and a couple of other more expensive alternatives, we went for the best rated – and surprisingly also the cheapest one, – that we could fid. We also knew that we wanted a larger vehicles than a standard stretch, and some of the services apparently did not offer party bus services. While some were expensive, we liked that this particular company also offered a price match guarantee, which none of the other Santa Barbara limo service companies seemed to do. Early Saturday morning the chauffeur had arrived – fifteen minutes before time – which was actually kind of nice, as we were a bit worried with the traffic, accountability, etc. We wanted the day to be perfect. And that is really what it was. Firstly, we went for our first tasting at the Bridlewood Winery Estate. And this place was magnificent!!! Prior to the trip we of course knew that California produced more than 90 % of all wines in the country, but we always thought this was more true of Northern California. While touring the vineyards though, we actually both agreed – it was in fact NICER than the vineyards of Sonoma- and Napa Valleys. We were totally taken back by the natural beauty of these rolling hills, greenery, and vineyards as far as the eye could see.
Bridlewood: Oak trees and gorgeous nature
When driving up the rather long driveway leading to Bridlewood Winery, we thought at first this gorgeous structure looked like a mission. After hearing its history be were even more baffled. It was once an Arabian equestrian ranch, and was bought by its current owner complete with everything from racetracks to ponds and animals. The tasting rooms were cozy and large, and we preferred sitting outside as it was a sunny day to take in the gorgeous surroundings. The more than 100 acre property is filled with vineyards, rose gardens, ponds, old oak trees and beautiful greenery. We brought some groceries, found a place by ourselves under the oak trees, and picnicked and drank wines like teenagers in love. It was a beautiful moment: 75 and sunny, surrounded by Spanish architecture and great wines, and best of all, with my husband all to myself. Before we jumped in the waiting party bus and took off for our next destination, we checked out their gift shop and stacked up on some of our favorite varietals.
Firestone: Flagship winery of the Santa Ynez Valley
When leaving Bridlewood’s long driveway in our luxurious bus, we were certain that this must be the most beautiful among the wineries in the region. On what was supposed to be a fifteen minute drive to the Firestone, we could just pass Los Olivos after having seen it from the road. This quint, tiny village/town had an awesome little walkable road with numerous cafes, artist galleries, and of course, tasting venues. We decided for a bite at Los Olivos Merchant Cafe, which was fabulous. After buying a few souvenirs at Los Olivos General Store, we were ready to continue our Santa Ynez wine tour experience. Firestone winery we quickly learned was the first winery in the valley. Founded in 1972 by the Firestone family, their vineyards have more or less become an icon for tasting in SB County. Covering vineyards on an area larger than 500 acres, Firestone MUST be the nicest winery in the valley! It’s huge winery nestled in between the oak trees made the perfect end to touring the vineyards. With the view from the island bar overlooking the never-ending vineyards, with a great wine in my hand watching the sun go down over the hills, our touring was over and we got a Carpinteria limousine to take us back to coast.
My conclusion is, if you like (aka love) wines, go for some great touring of the vineyards in Southern California! It’s an experience of a lifetime. If you are thinking about visiting these vineyards, a great tip is to check out the movie Sideways from 2004, which depicts for example the local cafe we visited in Los Olivos and several wineries and vineyards, including Firestone. See you next time, SB!