We started our road trip in the early afternoon to Oxnard, CA. It usually takes less than 2 hours to get to Oxnard from Orange County, but since it was a weekday afternoon, the LA traffic added an hour delay to our arrival time. We arrived at the Hampton Inn Channel Islands Harbor with time to check-in and get ready for the evening. It is a cute hotel right on the Channel Islands Harbor marina. Although we did not get a marina view room (the last one was given out 5 minutes before we arrived), it was spacious with a view of the pool. The 2-Queen Bed Non-Smoking room has two comfortable queen beds, 32” LCD TV, work desk, coffeemaker, and free WiFi. Our room also had a balcony to enjoy the seafront weather. Unfortunately, it was very humid during our stay so we were not able to use it.
- Travel tip: Santa Barbara hotel rates can be daunting during the summer with rates as low as $250 per night, but most are closer to $500 per night. Hotels in Ventura, Oxnard, and Camarillo might be a better option if you are keeping to a budget. The drive to Santa Barbara can range from 35 to 60 minutes from Oxnard. You’ll have to decide what is more important to you: longer drive time and saving money versus accessibility and higher hotel rates.
Santa Barbara, CA is a beautiful city situated to the west of the Santa Ynez Mountains with coastlines on the Pacific Ocean. The climate is similar to the Mediterranean and is also known as the “American Riviera”.
Our first adventure in Santa Barbara was the California Wine Festival’s Old Spanish Nights Wine Tasting held at the historic Casa de la Guerra. As the gates opened, we were serenaded by Latin music performed live in the courtyard. Wine tasting and Spanish/Latin American food purveyors lined the perimeter of the courtyard with the perfect balance of wine and food.
Cantwell’s Market served up Salmon with Mango Salsa. The salmon was perfectly cooked with succulent, tender fillet with the buttery flavor of the natural salmon fat. The mango salsa provided a little bit of acidity along with sweetness from the mango. Rating: 5/5
Lone Madrone, from Paso Robles, CA, served up a variety of wines.
- 2010 Old Hat ($47.50) is dry-farmed and made from 71% Zinfandel and 29% Petite Sirah. Tasting notes: Smoky aroma; Smoky and black cherry experienced on the palate. Rating: 3/5
- 2012 Sheep Camp ($45) is dry-farmed and made with 100% Zinfandel. Tasting notes: Complex with raspberry experienced on the front and bitter on the back. Rating: 3/5
- 2014 Le Mezcia ($25) is made with 71% Grenache Blanc and 29% Albarino. Tasting notes: Citrus aroma; Crisp, tangy grapefruit experienced on the palate. Rating: 4/5
Santa Barbara Tamales To Go served up a variety of tamales.
- Chile and Cheese tamale ($3.50) is roasted poblano chiles blended with provolone, jack cheese, crushed tomatoes, and wrapped in masa. It tasted like a chile relleno inside a tamale and I love chile relleno. Rating: 4.5/5
- Pork tamale ($3.25) is chunks of lean pork, diced bell pepper, corn, and cheddar cheese. The pork was seasoned really well and worked perfectly with the bell pepper, corn, and cheddar. Rating: 5/5
Joya Sangria, imported from Spain, served up their red and white sangrias.
- Red Sangria ($12.95) is a blend of tempranillo, garnacha, and bobal grapes layered with the essence of Mediterranean fruits. It is surprisingly light for a red and refreshing on a hot summer night. Rating: 4/5
- White Sangria is airén grapes layered with the essence of Mediterranean fruits. It is very light and crisp with summer fruit flavors – peach, plum, citrus. Rating: 4/5
Standing Sun, from Buellton, CA, served up their 2013 Syrah Rosé. Tasting notes: Beautiful rosé color; Fruity aroma; Nectarine and sour citrus experienced on the palate. Rating: 2.3/5
Coastal Specialty Products, from Ventura, CA, served up a variety of munchies like Truffle Potato Chips (my favorite), cheeses, olives, and pickles.
Casa Blanca Restaurant & Cantina, from Santa Barbara, CA, served up street tacos. The carne asada was marinated and grilled skirt steak topped with onions, salsa, and cilantro. The skirt steak was tender and juicy with grilled flavor. Rating: 5/5
Santa Barbara Brewing Co. served up some of their brews and BBQ Pulled Pork.
- BBQ Pulled Pork is eight-hour braised pork served with tortilla chips. The pork was tender and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. They added just the right amount of barbeque sauce to add a smoky, sweet flavor without overpowering the pork. Rating: 5/5
- VAT 629 IPA tasting notes: Strong hoppy aroma; Strong hoppy flavor yet very clean and does not linger on the palate. Rating: 4/5
Kerrygold served up a variety of cheeses & their famous butter.
- Kerrygold Salted Butter is always a favorite when I see them at wine festivals. It’s always slathered on a good piece of bread and it is just addictive. It’s the creamiest butter you’ll ever have!
- Dubliner Cheese is a robust aged cow’s milk cheese. It has a texture similar to cheddar, but a bit more granular. It’s nutty, sharp, and sweet. This is a great cheese to pair with wine.
- Aged Cheddar is a pasteurized, grass-fed cow’s milk cheese that is aged for one year. It is rich and creamy. This would be perfect for a fondue blend, fancy mac n’ cheese sauce, or paired with wine.
Figueroa Mountain Brewery served up their Danish Red Lager. Tasting notes: Clean, crisp, and refreshing. Rating: 4.5/5
Our first night in Santa Barbara was complete. What a special way to introduce us to this beautiful city!
For more information:
California Wine Festival
- Winter Wine Classic – Santa Barbara (February 20, 2016)
- California Wine Festival – Orange County (April 15-16, 2016)
- California Wine Festival at Sea – Alaska (August 2016)