One of our recent travel experiences was right up there in the top 10. We traveled to Santa Barbara for Mother’s Day weekend and my wife’s birthday. We used a couple of free night certificates to stay at an expensive hotel so we could be pampered all weekend. While in town, we spent the afternoon sampling from the local wine shops.
Staying at the Kimpton Canary Hotel
When we arrived at the Kimpton Canary Hotel, we were greeted very warmly and had our room upgraded to a King Suite (a $800 a night room). Inside the room was a bottle of champagne, some snacks, and a couple of cold beers. From the time we arrived until our departure a couple days later, we were treated like royalty and the front desk always remembered us by name.
At the front desk, Ian provided us a map of Santa Barbara and gave us his recommendations for some great wine tasting rooms to explore as we walked about the city. Ian also gave us some coupons for 2-for-1 tastings to save us a little cash along the way.
But first, a little breakfast
Before we headed out for the day on Saturday, I walked with Timmy to grab some donuts from Spudnuts. Along the way, we stopped at the local fire station and were given a tour of the fire trucks by some really nice firefighters.
After we picked out our donuts, we grabbed a dozen for the fire station and dropped them off as a way to say thanks for the special attention… and as thanks on behalf of the community for all the times they risk their lives keeping everyone safe.
First stop, Sanford Winery Tasting Room in the La Arcada section of Santa Barbara. The Winemaker’s Flight was $20 with a Pinot Blanc, two Chardonnays, and two Pinot Noirs. The Estate Selections was $30 and had two Chardonnays and three Pinot Noirs. They also offered artisan cheese plates. The tasting room is dog friendly, which we love!
We chose to do the Winemaker’s Flight. We favored the Pinot Blanc and the last Pinot that was from 40+ year old vines. The decor was rustic and we’d love to upgrade our dining table to one like theirs! The two servers were polite and gave most guests a lot of attention. The wine pours were pretty generous, which certainly helped!
When we went to pay, we presented the 2-for-1 tasting cards that the Kimpton Canary gave us, but they told us that they were offering free tastings to guests of the Canary, so that was a pleasant surprise! We didn’t buy any of the wines because it was the beginning of the day, and we wanted something that would knock our socks off.
Next, we ventured to the El Paseo area, where there’s a heavy concentration of wine tasting rooms.
Jamie Slone Wines
Our first stop was Jamie Slone Wines, a family owned winery run by a former race car driver. We met not only Jamie Slone, but his wife and two daughters, who all were working the store that day.
They offer the Classic Tasting Flight, where you get four wines out of the five choices for $15 or the Red Obsession for $20 where you get all five of their red wines. The Classic had two whites, a rose, and two reds. The Obsession offered a Pinot, 3 blends, and a Cab. Anna ordered the Classic while I picked the Red Obsession. The pours were a little stingy, so it was more difficult to enjoy and compare which we liked best. There were no 2-for-1 tasting discounts offered.
Time for lunch at Paseo Nuevo
We stopped for a little lunch at California Pasta at Paseo Nuevo, which was across the street from El Paseo. I customized some chicken and pasta with garlic, while Anna had the Santa Barbara pasta. Scarlett LOVED sharing Mommy’s pasta, and Timmy reinforced that he is my son by ordering pizza.
Margerum’s MWC 32
Next stop back at El Paseo was Margerum’s MWC 32, which is their higher-end wines (also known as their Reserve Room). It was on the entrance to the courtyard, so there was plenty of space for Timmy and Scarlett to run around outside since this tasting room was only big enough to handle about 7-10 guests seated comfortably. For $15, you are able to taste four wines, two blends, a Grenache and a Syrah.
Au Ban Climate
For the last winery of the day, we visited the Au Ban Climat. They offer the Classic or Spring Whites Flight for $15 each or the Pinot Reserve Flight for $20. The Classic is a combo of three whites and three reds, while the Spring Whites is an all white sampling. We chose the Pinot Reserve flights since we had a 2-for-1 from Kimpton Canary. The pours were average size, and the wines were tasty. I’d say they were the best wines of the day.
Kimpton Canary Wine Hour
After we finished our tastings at the Au Ban Climat, we went back to the Kimpton Canary to freshen up for dinner and to enjoy the Kimpton Wine Hour that each Kimpton holds from 5pm to 6pm. You can choose between the red and white wines that they cycle through. Some locations have a little something extra to nibble on or drink. For example, The Buchanan in San Francisco offers sake in addition to the normal wine choices.
At the Canary, they were offering deviled eggs to sample while getting served the wine.
One final winery – Deep Sea Conway Family Wines
On Sunday, we walked about a mile down State Street (the main drive in Santa Barbara) to get to the Pier. Along the way we passed the Amtrak station. Knowing how close everything is once you get off the train makes me feel a little more confident in taking the train the next time we visit Santa Barbara since the city is so walkable, and we felt really safe the entire time.
On the pier is Deep Sea Conway Family Wines. They’re on the 2nd floor at the end of the pier; a little tucked away, so keep your eyes open. They offer three tasting choices – Santa Barbara Signature Flight for $12, which is two Chardonnays and three Pinots; the Conway Reserve Flight for $20, which is one Chardonnay, a Pinot, a Syrah, and two Cabernets; or the Red Tasting Flight for $22, which is all reds – two Pinots, a Merlot, a Cab/Merlot blend, and two Cabs. We went with the Reds. Again, we had another 2-for-1 from Kimpton Canary.
Deep Sea also offers the Deep Sea Glass Pass, which is a $10/month and allows you to buy any wine on their menu for $8 each (which can be a huge savings since glasses run $9 to $18 each), two-for-one tastings, no commitments to shipments, 10% discount on bottles, and every 10th visit you receive a glass for only $0.10!
While we tasted the wines, we bought Timmy an ice cream from the shop downstairs and let him play on their great patio. This compromise made everyone happy!
We enjoyed some great wines over Mother’s Day weekend and Anna’s birthday in Santa Barbara. The recommendations of Ian at the front desk of the Kimpton Canary helped lead us in the right direction. Although we didn’t buy any bottles this time around, our desire to come back and explore the area further has grown, and I’m hoping to book something for us in the fall.
This experience shows how you can have a great “adult” experience with your spouse, even while dragging along two young children. Timmy and Scarlett behaved really well, and I think it is because we expose them to adult situations on a regular basis. I strongly believe our travel adventures are so much better because of this approach.