Few people outside of the wine world or the state of California realize that Santa Barbara  is a budding wine region.
The grandfather of Santa Barbara wineries is the Firestone Winery (5000 Zaca Station Rd., 805/688-3940, www.firestonewine.com , $10). You’ll enter a grand, elegant Napa-style tasting room with a trapezoidal tasting bar and various souvenirs and cases scattered around the room. The tones of the room and the lighting are warm, as are the manners of the staff up at the bar.
Zaca Mesa Winery (6905 Foxen Canyon Rd., Los Olivos, 805/688-9339, www.zacamesa.com , daily 10 a.m.–4 p.m.) is the kind of winery tasters love to discover. A mid-sized producer with a mid-sized facility and tasting room, Zaca quietly makes some of the best Central Coast  wines to be found anywhere in the region.
The first vineyards on the property were planted in the early 1970s, long before anyone else saw Santa Barbara  as a place with potential for great winemaking. The casual tasting room has been tempting customers new and old for almost 30 years.
The bar sits at the back of the room, and the procedure to pay your tasting fee is a little convoluted. But once you’re at the bar with your glass… oh my. A five-wine tasting can quickly become a 12-wine tasting if you chat up your pourer and express an interest in the vintages. The staff has amazing knowledge of the wines they’re pouring, and will enthusiastically tell you the story of each wine, the history of the grapes, and anything else you want to know.
Zaca makes many of the Rhone varietals that grow so well in the climate of the Central Coast , such as Viognier, Grenache, Roussanne, and Syrah. Classics lovers will enjoy the Chardonnay, and adventurous types shouldn’t skip the Syrahs and the Z Cuvee.