Santa Barbara’s New Hidden Gems


Stretching from the Pacific Inland, Santa Barbara’s transverse valleys cradle a rolling landscape of vineyards and ranches, a hidden gem primed for a new generation of wineries that lure with modern hospitality experiences. Under the cool influence of the ocean, the Sta. Rita Hills to the west are the ideal location for producing exceptional chardonnay and pinot noir wines, while in the Santa Ynez Valley to the east, Bordeaux varietals reign. These stylish wineries are easily accessible from Highway 246 on either side of Route 101, offering an effortless escape.


A lounge setting at Brave & Maiden

Brave & Maiden managing director Jason Djang said, “Our goal is to not only be great vintners, but gracious hosts as well.” They took the next step in building a new winery and tasting room designed by Backen, Gillam & Kroeger Architects. Principal John Taft took inspiration from the quieter rural feel and diverse agriculture of the region, beginning with the main entrance, which crosses over a protected stream.

Recalling traditional horse barns, three buildings clad in stone and bald cypress wood surround a central courtyard looking out onto the vineyards. In the airy tasting room, exterior materials wrap indoors, combining with structural steel elements and walls of glass to create a modern and luxurious experience. The fireplace features a waterfall art installation by artist Carlie Stracka—inspired by the local Nojoqui legend behind the name—as a focal point where acclaimed winemaker Paul Hobbs oversees the wines.



An exterior view of Spear Vineyards

When Spear Vineyards vintner Ofer Shepher had the opportunity to build a new winery and tasting room on the hilltop estate, he worked with Los Olivos architects Jones & Jones to preserve the look of the existing 1920s dairy barn using the same footprint, sheathing it in whitewashed reclaimed red cedar. Inside is a state-of-the-art winery with naturally insulated cellars dug 30 feet below. With an emphasis on the vineyards, the tasting room takes full advantage of the valley views below. They put a modern spin on the interiors of the old dairy barn by installing a long zinc bar, polished concrete floors and warm wood paneling.



Modern hues and forms at Hilliard Bruce

In contrast to classic barn vernacular, Hilliard Bruce Winery makes a bold statement in the valley with a LEED®Silver design by architect Vladimir Milosevic. With a two-story, 120-foot-wide expanse of glass overlooking the vineyards, owner John Hilliard said, “We craved natural light and a sense of the connection with our land…and color!” Designed with water and energy efficiency throughout, the subterranean cellar gains natural light through 40-foot solar tubes. Colored LED lighting adds a sense of fun and style, including a statement-making chandelier in the tasting room that uses the energy of a single light bulb.