Updated June 21, 2019: Great news. Margerum Wines has now opened a tasting room just steps from the Santa Barbara Funk Zone–across the street from the Hotel Californian. I love Margerum’s small tasting room in El Paseo, too. Doug Margerum has been a key player in the Santa Barbara wine scene for over 35 years and he makes really good juice.
How To Spend A Day In Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone
Located just two blocks from the beach, between Cabrillo Blvd. and Highway 101, is Santa Barbara’s unusually hip neighborhood.
Known as The Funk Zone, it was originally an industrial area taken over by artists who have turned the abandoned warehouses into studios. In addition to artist galleries you’ll find wineries, tasting rooms, farm-to-table restaurants, unique shops, a micro brewery and Santa Barbara’s first distillery.
Wildly popular with tourists on holidays and weekends, locals love it too. I have no trouble getting my local friends to spend a day with me in the Santa Barbara Funk Zone.
I’ve been traveling to Santa Barbara for over fifteen years, and though it is undeniably beautiful it can be very quiet. The Funk Zone definitely adds to Santa Barbara’s fun factor.
Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone
In addition to exploring Santa Barbara wineries, one of my favorite things to do in the Funk Zone is to simply walk around and look at the street art, murals and graffiti, and talk to the pop-up vendors.
But, back to the wine tasting. The Funk Zone is part of Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail (more about that in future articles). Approximately half of the twenty plus tasting rooms that comprise the Urban Wine Trail, can be found in the The Funk Zone. And the beauty of it all, it’s 100% pedestrian friendly. Enjoying a great day of culture and wine tasting in Santa Barbara couldn’t be easier.
Follow me on a photo walk through the tasting rooms, street art, and restaurants of the Funk Zone.
A good place to start is at The Valley Project. The tasting room is dedicated to educating customers about Santa Barbara county wines via maps and displays of soil samples. There are fifty-five varietals grown in Santa Barbara County’s eight AVAS (American Viticulture Area). You can try wines from all of them at The Valley Project. I love the huge chalk map and other visual education materials that decorate the tasting room.
Riverbench wines are made from 100% estate grown grapes, specializing in chardonnay and pinot noir. They produce four sparkling wines made in the methode champenoise – this is why I go to Riverbench, I love their sparkling wine. I tried the Blanc de Noirs and the Brut Rose. Both are made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes. The Blanc de Noirs had strong bubbles and a nice crispness with pear and citrus on the nose. It’s not cheap but it’s a great value compared to a French champagne of similar quality.
The Brut Rose is already sold out so that tells you something. Softer bubbles with more berries on the nose, this wine is easy drinking – so watch yourself.
Pali is known for their Pinot Noir. The owners have recently planted vineyards in Santa Barbara and Sonoma Counties; their 2015 vintage will feature wines made from the fruit of these vineyards. Prior vintages are sourced from Santa Barbara County, Oregon, and Sonoma county. They offer Pinot Noir flights and wines by the glass.
Slow Down and Enjoy the Funk
As you’re wandering from one tasting room to the next, take time to notice the street art and the flowers. Even the doorways to the artist galleries, museums and studios tell you a story.
If wine is not your thing try Figueroa Mountain, a California microbrewer with multiple locations up and down the Central Coast. The Santa Barbara Funk Zone location has live music and has become a local hot spot for late night revelry.
Hungry? I always want to eat everything in sight when I’m in Santa Barbara. I’ve never had a bad meal there.
Needless to say, I had to go to The Lucky Penny. Look at that cool exterior covered in copper. And who doesn’t appreciate a sense of humor. Seating is communal with benches and tables outside. Lucky Penny is known for their wood-fired pizzas and salads, so we went with that and as you can see, we liked it.
Their sister restaurant, The Lark, is booked well in advance. They were closed for lunch but we wandered through and I took some photos. I think one of the things California does consistently well besides wine, food, and scenery, is interior design. I loved this whimsical space.
The Lark was named one of the 100 Best Restaurants on Forbes 2016 list. Dine on oysters on the half shell, gnocchi with Dungeness Crab, or marinated and grilled Hanger Steak. I definitely plan to hit this place next time I’m in Santa Barbara.
131 Anacapa St. next to The Lucky Penny
Michelin rated dining in the Santa Barbara Funk Zone
Helena Avenue Bakery – brings upscale Southern cuisine to the Santa Barbara.
Shopping the Santa Barbara Funk Zone
Artists gave birth to the Santa Barbara Funk Zone, so be sure to spend some time browsing the shops and galleries. Don’t miss The Mermaid’s Chest, which you can see is right next to a Segway rental. On the left is the Surf Museum.
The Guitar Bar – I don’t play the guitar but I love music and this store. The big sofas and ottomans scattered about look so comfortable I want to just plop myself down and hang out for a while. If you are in the market for a guitar maybe you’ll find it here? If not, you’ll sure have fun trying.
137 Anacapa St.
The Funk Zone is bordered by State St., Garden St., Cabrillo Blvd., and Highway 101. Cabrillo Blvd. runs along the beach and State St. is the main drag so you can not possibly get lost. Across State St. is the Amtrak station.
Depending on where you are staying you can either walk, bike, hire an Uber car, or a pedicab. Santa Barbara is an easy city to navigate, especially around the beach. The only issue can be parking, though that is less of a problem in the Funk Zone.
See a map of the Funk Zone.
I’ll follow up this article with more tasting rooms on the Urban Wine Trail. Meanwhile, enjoy the funk.
Have you been to the Funk Zone?
All materials copyright Penny Sadler. All rights reserved.