One of the best parts about California’s Central Coast is the warm, temperate climate that allows us to enjoy all this region has to offer year-round. Here in Santa Barbara County wine country, fun and exciting events that are sure to please any wine-o’s palate happen throughout the year – from bud-break in the spring to sunny summer days, harvest in the fall and new vintages in winter. With so much to see and do from here, we have to ask, when is the best time to visit California wine country?
Believe it or not, the answer is: during winter.
You may be surprised to learn that winter is often the best time to visit wine country. While spring and fall have their own unique happenings, winter offers unique benefits to guests. When you take your winter vacay to wine country, you’re more likely to catch our local winemakers in their offseason. By winter, the harvest is complete and new wines are typically aging, which allows winemakers to spend more time in their tasting rooms chatting with guests while the vines hibernate. By springtime, winemakers spend less time in the tasting rooms and more time in the fields tending to the new grapes.
To take advantage of this extra access to winemakers, be sure to book your tasting in advance at one of more than 30 tasting rooms in and around Santa Maria Valley. The region’s flagship varietals — cool-climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah; and nearby regions’ Bordeaux-style wines offer a vintage for every wine lover.
Outside of the tasting rooms, winter is usually less busy than other seasons all around. This means more affordable hotel rooms and fewer crowds at local restaurants and attractions. Speaking of attractions, winter is a great time to get outdoors in Santa Maria Valley. If you visit between October and February, don’t miss the monarch butterfly migration at one of the nearby groves. Birdwatching enthusiasts should visit Oso Flaco Lake, where you’ll spot a variety of bird species. Plus, you can enjoy one of the 24 nearby hiking trails in the cool weather without breaking much of a sweat!
December through February in Santa Maria Valley, temperatures range from highs in the mid-60s to lows in the 40s. You’ll be plenty comfortable with long-sleeved shirts and pants paired with light jackets. These are also the wettest months of the year, with a 20% chance of precipitation each day, on average (those wine grapes can’t grow without a little rain!) – so pack a rain jacket just in case!
Before you book your winter wine country getaway, you can read more about the Santa Maria Valley AVA and brush up on the surrounding wine-growing regions. We also recommend browsing our wine weekend itinerary and tasting guide to be inspired for your trip.
In Santa Maria Valley, there’s so much to do from here. Hit the road and explore it all with our 24 hiking trails, 34 tasting rooms, seven unique AVAs, 13 beaches, and a growing selection of local breweries, all within a beautiful 30-minute drive. There is no need to venture far if you are looking for sand dunes, cycling and authentic Santa Maria Style dining. You’ll find it’s the perfect home base, where you can eat, drink and do more for less.