Best of Santa Barbara: Funk Zone Wineries, Tours & More

By | Writer, Hospitality Consultant, Sommelier & Custom Cocktail Developer
Last Updated: September 12, 2022
Aerial view of Santa Barbara and wineries in The Funk Zone

Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone is an Urban Winetraveler’s dream destination. Known as the “American Riviera” due to its Mediterranean feel, Santa Barbara allows wine lovers to taste amazing local wines in a vibrant beach setting. Located between the Santa Ynez Mountain slopes and the Pacific Ocean, this patch of Santa Barbara was once home to manufacturing and marine industries and later revived by artists and creative businesses. Centered at the intersection of Yanonali and Anacapa streets, the Funk Zone’s eclectic mix of tasting rooms, restaurants, and shops covers a 12-block area between State and Garden.


Wineries in The Funk Zone

The Valley Project is the perfect place to start exploring The Funk Zone. Dedicated to educating visitors with wine, maps, books, and hands-on displays of soil samples, you’ll be able to dig deep into all 70 varietals grown in the seven Santa Barbara County AVAs. A massive pictorial map helps newbies find the vineyard that grew what they’re drinking. 

Next is Kunin Wines, The Valley Project’s sister winery. Here, the focus is on Santa Barbara County’s stunning expressions of Rhône and Loire grape varietals, like Viognier, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc. Enjoy a white or a red flight – along with fabulous Pacific views and people watching.

Municipal Winemakers has the quintessential “Funk Zone meets Wine” aesthetic. This former dive shop houses upcycled furnishings and thrift store paintings. Although the vibe is chill, they offer a serious selection of Santa Barbara wines with no pretense; you can gain as little or as much info about the wine in your glass as you like.

Riverbench Winery specializes in Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from Santa Maria Valley AVA. Riverbench offers flights of Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, and sparkling wines. Ask to try their sparkling Pinot Meunier, a grape rarely vinified as a single varietal, even in France.

The Santa Barbara Winery is the oldest commercial winery in Santa Barbara County. Founded in 1962 by Pierre Lafond, it made produces made fruit wines and Zinfandel, but today they produce everything from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to lesser-known grapes like Langerin and Primitivo. 

With approximately 20 tasting rooms, these are just a few oenophilic attractions The Funk Zone has in store for the urban Winetraveler. And if you are so inclined, don’t forget that Santa Barbara’s Wine Country is just a beautiful 40-minute drive north over the Santa Ynez Mountains.

Fun Fact: The 2004 movie Sideways, about two men, a depressed and unsuccessful writer and a past-his-prime actor, was filmed in the Santa Barbara Wine Country.

How to Tour Santa Barbara & The Funk Zone

Take the guesswork out and book a guided tour! Here are some of the best around: 

The Authentic Funk Zone Tour is perfect to get the lay-of-the-land. Live the local experience with a walking tour that includes wine and ice cream stops. Honestly, what else do you need? 

If you’re a social media maven, check out the Santa Barbara Funk Zone Food and Photo TourWith so many eye-catching sights, the Funk Zone is infinitely photographable, as are the dishes you’ll try. A local photo expert will help with tips for best ways to produce FOMO among your followers. 

A Private Wine Tour of Santa Barbara Wine Country is the best way to go further afield and go right to the heart of wine country. And since there are some tricky mountain passes to negotiate, let a pro handle the driving!

Or, slow down and explore hopelessly quaint Santa Ynez with a Santa Barbara Vineyard to Table Taste Tour by E-Bike. Work off that wine tasting just enough to be ready to explore some more!

Where To Stay in the Funk Zone

Since there’s so much to do and to experience in the Funk Zone and in broader Santa Barbara, make a few days out of it! Here are some options:

Hotel Indigo is a trendy new hotel within the Funk Zone that features a renovated historic building with modern touches.

The Harbor View Inn is a rambling hotel across the street from the beach at the edge of the Funk Zone, with large, standard rooms. 

The Wayfarer is a modern hostel with many private rooms. 

Hotel Californian is a luxury full-service hotel, with restaurants, a spa, and private event facilities.

Where to Eat Around the Funk Zone

The Nook is exactly as it sounds: tasty comfort food in a laid-back atmosphere. Try the famous Lama Burger (if you dare).

Pizza lovers, rejoice! Lucky Penny hears you and sees you. Wood-fired ovens turn out perfectly charred fare for post-tasting nibbles. 

Loquita is a must for maintaining that Latin-Mediterranean vibe. Authentic Spanish tapas, including pan con tomate, and an impressive wine list make Loquita a perennial favorite. 

Santo Mezcal is the go-to for a kicked-up Taco Tuesday, though why limit it to one day of the week? It’s also the place to fuel up with their fantastic breakfast options before a day exploring Santa Barbara. 

Finally, Figueroa Mountain Brewery is a local favorite and for good reason. Craft beers in a chill locale, Fig Mountain (as the locals call it) also dishes out some delicious plates to go with the brews. 

How To Get To Santa Barbara

From Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is an easy 90-minute drive from the north on Highway 101 exit on Garden or State streets.

An alternative to driving from Los Angeles is taking the Amtrak train from Union Station in Los Angeles to the Santa Barbara train station, which is right in the Funk Zone at 209 State St.

From San Francisco, Santa Barbara is a 4-hour drive south on Highway 101 exit on Garden or State streets. If you have some extra time, this route also takes you through Monterey Wine Country, Paso Robles Wine Country, and San Luis Obispo Wine Country!

Santa Barbara also has an airport that is serviced by Alaska Air, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines. You can view current flight deals to the area here.

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One Comment

  1. Great piece. Santa Barbara is high on my list and the Funk Zone sounds awesome! I love the diversity on offer. Now I just need to wait until we in the The North can come South again…Salud!

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