We love Santa Barbara California. What’s not to love. This coastal city is between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Coast. The town is lovely. It contains of primarily whitewashed, adobe-like buildings with red tile roofs, with the oldest dating from the 1800s. State Street, the main commercial street, is particularly lovely, with all its courtyards, some of which are adorned with public art.
Down by the shore, the “Funk Zone” has a character of its own. This previously run-down, bohemian neighborhood is being rapidly gentrified; loaded with furniture and design shops, tasting rooms, bars and a growing number of restaurants.
We visited a number of places in Santa Barbara’s historic area.
Reagan Ranch Center. Ronald Regan loved Rancho del Cielo, where he lived for almost 25 years. The facility is owned and run by the conservative, Young Americans for Freedom. The organization acquired the ranch and displays a number of its artifacts, along with an audio-visual timeline of Reagan’s life and career. A guide took us through and explained the collection and its history within the context of Reagan’s life on his beloved ranch. Reagan bought the ranch at the end of his stint as California governor and it served as a very rustic, very informal Western White House. Here, he:
- Cleared his own horse trails, chopped his own wood and built his own fences;
- Tested the horse-riding mettle of the most athletic of Secret Service agent by jumping streams and fences; and
- Entertained stunned foreign leaders and dignitaries, including Gorbachev and Queen Elizabeth, by giving them tours in his jeep and by hosting them in his very humble home.
The main floor exhibits contain an interactive, audio-video timeline of his life at the ranch and artifacts including his jeep, his well-worn easy chair and the desk on which he signed his momentous tax bill.
Second-floor exhibits include his 50-year correspondence with Lorraine Wagner (the Ronald Reagan Fan Club president with whom he exchanged over 100 hand-written letters), a more detailed overview of his life and career, from his youth, through his Actor’s Guild presidency and time as GE spokesperson (until his view became too political for the company), his campaigns and his time as Governor and President. It includes artifacts including his hat, part of his gun collection and a number of painting he had hung on the ranch’s walls.
Santa Barbara County Courthouse. This large, beautiful (whitewashed adobe white with red tile roof), Spanish-Moorish-style structure has a multi-story stairwell adorned in colorful tiles and painted coffered ceiling. Its clock/bell-tower is adorned in hand-painted murals. And its long hallway is lined with graceful arches. Overall, it is a lovely building befitting the city in which it is located.
Santa Barbara Old Mission is a wonderfully preserved, 1820 structure (from the 1786 original). It originally served as living quarters for early missionaries and is now a museum with historic artifacts and Mexican art.
Santa Barbara is also home to several tasting rooms of area wineries. Unfortunately, we had time for only three on this trip. Hopefully we will visit more on our next trip:
- Au Bon Climate, where we saw potential in the 2013 Bien Nacido and 2014 Sanford & Benedict pinot noirs;
- Sanford Winery, where we saw very nice aging potential in three of its 2014 pinots noirs: Sanford & Benedict, Vista Al Rio, and Block;
- Pali Wines, one of several Funk Zone wineries at which we found some incredible bargains, such as for the 2016 Riviera ($24) and especially the dark fruit, savory, earthy 2015 Summit pinot noir.
Another reason to head back to Santa Barbara is that we only had time to visit two restaurants:
- Wildwood (now closed) is a BBQ restaurant, where we had a lunch of good, but not special pork ribs, BBQ beans and cornbread;
- Toma is primarily an Italian restaurant where we literally gorged on, but were unable to finish four huge appetizers, each of which we fully enjoyed. These were Ahi tuna tartare in sesame seed cones; steamed manila clams with chorizo, butter beans, aioli and garlic crostini; alder-smoked salmon flatbread with crème fraiche, capers and onion gremolata; and three large marrow bones with crostini with beef cheeks and beef cheek marmalade, citrus fruit and radishes. Dinner also gave us to discover yet another very nice Santa Rita Highlands pinot: a 2014 Crawford Family “Walk Slow”.