CORK CORNER: Tasting the Funk Zone

A long time ago, it was not uncommon to visit some wineries where the proprietor would offer visitors a taste of some of his wares.

Don’t expect that in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone these days: Most tastings cost around $12 for five or six samples. Just some five years ago, the price per tasting was about $6.

At last count, about 25 wine tasting rooms could be found in the area roughly from the beach to the 101 Freeway, bounded by Salsipuedes Street and Calle Cesar Chavez on the east and the Amtrak Station on the west. Within those confines is the Santa Barbara Wine Trail, but even more tasting rooms can be found downtown.

The variety of Funk Zone wine tasting rooms ranges from the rather elegant Santa Barbara Winery on Yanonali Street to somewhat rustic Municipal Winemakers, located in a former dive shop on Anacapa Street, to the small, but friendly Pali Wines.

At least one tasting room, Oreana, has weekend live music and sells a variety of souvenirs. By contrast, Kunin Wines has nothing but some of the best reds in the Funk Zone. It may seem that the Zone is heavy on red and blends, but that varies from year to year. Pinot Noirs are quite popular.

The varietals that most likely can be found in the Funk Zone include: Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah, Primativo, Sangiovese and among the whites Chardonnay, Viognier and

In the complex that used to be the Bay Café, the Lark restaurant is at the center of a complex that houses several wine tasting rooms including the Wine Collective, Riverbench, Area 51 and even a spirits distillery. The complex includes the Guitar Bar, which has no bar, just guitars.

Although most of the Funk Zone tasting rooms are within walking distance of each other, one of the best is on the fringes of the Zone: Carr Winery, known for great Pinots and red blends. It’s on Salsipuedes Street, which is a three-block walk and under the freeway.

It’s been said about the Funk Zone that it’s a good place to take Amtrak up from Los Angeles or down from San Luis Obispo and spend the day tasting, lunching and strolling on nearby Stearns Wharf. Make sure to bring some good walking shoes and a windbreakerwine-bottleswine-bottles