Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone might be the perfect urban wine tasting destination. In no other place can you sample wines from all corners of an appellation situated 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.

The Funk Zone’s history and its current eclectic mix of tasting rooms, microbreweries, restaurants, hotels, and shops may seem bizarre. Yet, once you’re there, it turns out to be an authentic transplant of the wine country it represents. It is centered at the intersection of Yanonali and Anacapa streets, spilling out, covering a 12-block area between State and Garden.


Fun Fact: Santa Barbara is known as the “American Riviera” due to its resemblance to the slopes along the Mediterranean coast of France and Italy.


The Funk Zone is the epitome of “Coastal Post-Industrial Chic,” full of renovated warehouses and manufacturing plants, buildings with peeling paint, dead-end streets, zigzagging railroad tracks, and artist murals that are barely distinguishable from graffiti. It’s an Urban Winetraveler’s dream destination.

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.

Where To Taste Wine in The Funk Zone

Now that you have the lay of the land, the best place to start exploring The Funk Zone and Santa Barbara Wine Country’s diverse microclimates and terrains is the tasting room at The Valley Project. Here you can bone up on the wines to come. 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 six Santa Barbara County AVAs. A massive pictorial map soars above the bar and navigates you to the vineyard site of the wine in your glass. The mural also illustrates a favorite quote of the founders of the Valley Project, Seth Kunin, and Magan Eng, “Santa Barbara Wine County’s dynamics, and diversity is like crunching all of France’s 12 major wine regions into a 29 miles area.”


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Next up is Kunin Wines, The Valley Project’s sister winery. Here you’ll experience the same passion and personality found at The Valley Project but focused on Santa Barbara County’s stunning expressions of Rhône and Loire grape varietals: Syrah, Zinfandel, Viognier, and Grenache, Mourvedre, Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc. It’s highly recommended to sit outside and have a glass of Jurassic Park Vineyard Sparkling Chenin Blanc while perusing their tasting flight offerings. There’s a white tasting, featuring Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, the Pape Star Blanc White Rhône blend, Viognier, and late-harvest Viognier, and a red tasting featuring Phoebe Rosé of Grenache, Pape Star Red Rhône blend, Mourvedre, Syrah and Zinfandel from Amador County. Another bonus at Kunin Wines is the view of the Pacific and great people watching.


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.


For the quintessential “Funk Zone meets Wine” aesthetic check out Municipal Winemakers. This former dive shop houses an assemblage of functional vintage metal filing cabinets and walls decorated with 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.

In its cozy and comfortable tasting room, Riverbench Winery specializes in Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from Santa Maria Valley AVA. Riverbench offers flights of Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, and sparkling wines—some of the few sparkling wines produced in the County. 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. They were founded in 1962 by Pierre Lafond. Back then, the winery made fruit wines and Zinfandel, but today they produce an array of varietals from Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, and Syrahs. Plus, lesser-known grapes like Langerin, Primitivo, Petit Verdot, and Sangiovese – these are the treasures to try that exemplify the range of Santa Barbara Wine Country’s budding potential.

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.

For information on things to do in the Funk Zone go to www.funkzone.net.

Where To Stay

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.

Restaurants and Cafes

The Nook

Lucky Penny

Loquita

The Lark

Helena Avenue Bakery

Tyger Tyger

Shalhoob’s Funk Zone Patio

Metropulos

Mony’s Mexican Food

Figueroa Mountain Brewery

Santo Mezcal


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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!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff or “JB” is a native to the San Francisco Bay area and wants to live in a world where wine is served with every meal. As a beverage and food professional with more than 20 years of experience, he’s contributed to The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine; The Pho Cookbook (James Beard Award Best Signal Subject 2018); Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert's Renegade Life (James Beard Award Lifetime Achievement Award 2018); Manresa: An Edible Reflection; Happiness is on the Plate: Episode #1; Wine Spectator; Wine Enthusiast; The Wall Street Journal; San Francisco Chronicle; and GQ Magazine. When he’s not “tasting” and eating he’s writing about food and beverage or developing recipes in his laboratory (AKA: kitchen).

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