Ten months out of the year, LA has the rest of the country beat when it comes to mild, gorgeous weather. But when valley temperatures hit 105 in July, and the Santa Ana winds do whatever it is they do in August, summer in LA can leave you screaming for a coastal escape. Luckily, the scenic route to Big Sur offers stunning views, cool ocean breezes and some of the California Central Coast’s best wineries. Here’s where to stop and taste along the way, and always – always – taste responsibly and use a designated driver!
Cruise up the 101 and make your first stop the Santa Barbara Funk Zone- five or so blocks jam packed with tasting rooms and breweries between the freeway and the beach. You could spend all day here hopping from flight to flight, but if you only have time for one stop, make it Municipal Winemakers on Anacapa Street. Hip, funky décor offsets the no-frills, straight-talking wines with names like “Pale Pink” and “Dark Red”, and a patio built for people watching.
Lost Point Winery
Head inland through the San Marcos Pass towards Santa Ynez wine country; a collection of little towns and vineyards famous for starring in the movie Sideways, and producing kickass wines. If wooden shoes and windmills are your thing, head to Los Point Winery in the kitschy Dutch town of Solvang, where you can taste classic Central Coast wines on the second story of an actual windmill.
Coquelicot Estate Vineyard
Backtrack a little down the 154, or take scenic Ballard Canyon Rd across the valley to Los Olivos. You’ll find the Coquelicot tasting room among a quieter strip of shops and art galleries in the center of town. Refined, refreshing reds like the Estate Sangiovese and Pinot Noir are the way to go here; sip them over a game of bocce ball out back in the lush SoCal garden.
If you haven’t scrapped your weekend plans and decided to stay in Los Olivos forever, keep trucking up the 101 towards Santa Maria and the heart of Central Coast wine country. Stop at Presqu’ile for elegant, balanced wines in a dramatically sleek, modern tasting room and luxurious patio. If you have the time, the 90-minute tasting tour is well worth the $45 price tag, and be sure to check the winery’s schedule of summer events and concerts.
Make one more stop off the 101 near Arroyo Grande and park yourself at Kynsi Winery on gorgeous Corbett Canyon Road. These beautiful, cool climate wines are made in small, limited productions with loads of care and attention. The winery and tasting room are on a rustic, picturesque ranch tucked in the Edna Valley, making Kynsi the perfect place to take a peaceful afternoon break before heading west toward the coast for the final leg of the drive to Big Sur.