Dec 19 2007

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Wine tasting in Santa Barbara

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By Polly Sheridan

Losolivos

Since seeing the movie "Sideways," I had wanted to explore Santa Barbara wine country. So on our recent California vacation, we set aside several days in Santa Barbara to get the "Sideways" experience.

We first headed Los Olivos — about a 30- to 40-minute drive from Santa Barbara — to find a quick bite for lunch, but it turned out to be a great spot for wine tasting. The town’s main street, Grand Avenue, is lined with tasting rooms, so we were able to park the car once and visit several places. We found that tastings generally ranged from $5 to $15 and usually included five to seven wines. At many tasting rooms, the wine glass was included in the price.

You can pick up free brochures and maps of wine country almost anywhere, so if you want to do some driving, it’s easy to find other wineries. And landscape is so beautiful that we really enjoyed taking in the scenery.

I think the best tip we got was to share a tasting. It’s not about saving money so much as it is about being better able to enjoy a greater variety of wines and wineries. Splitting one tasting two ways still gave each of us two small sips — and when you’re tasting several wines at each spot, that’s plenty!

I love food as much as I love wine, so I was thrilled to find Los Olivos Grocery. It’s stocked with gourmet cheeses, beautiful pastries, breads and produce. The deli in back also offers, soups, salads and made-to-order sandwiches, so it’s easy to put together a great picnic. Beware: The panini really are that big, so split one and save room for dessert! Many of the wineries have patios where you can enjoy a glass of wine with your meal.

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Polly is an editor for Orbitz.

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