Dee Tours advertises themselves as a wine country tour, but this does not do the tour justice. We were picked up promptly at 9:00am at our hotel by Sandy, Dee's boyfriend, and we did not return to our hotel until 5:30pm. Without a doubt, we tired much earlier than Sandy did, and I'm sure he would have continued his tour if we had had more energy! We liked best that our tour was tailored to our interests, making the tour much more personalized and intimate than others. We also liked that the tour was cheaper than comparable tours ($125/each for two guests and $99 for four or more guests). Even at $125/each, this tour was cheaper than many of the other wine tour operators, and Dee Tours offered a more personalized and intimate experience. Most importantly, we liked that Sandy genuinely loves Santa Barbara and the surrounding areas and he enjoys showing people around Santa Barbara and wine country. This made our experience fun and memorable.
We visited four wineries, including Bridlewood, Sanford, Tercero, and one other winery that I cannot recall the name of. We appreciated that the wineries varied in size, distribution of wines, and type of wines offered. Tasting fees ranged from $10 to $15 per person, but these fees were covered in the tour cost. We tasted some viogniers, pinot noirs, and syrahs that we enjoyed. Sandy took us to three wineries and then gave us a choice in regards to the fourth stop. We picked up lunch in the middle of the day at an organic grocery store. Lunch consisted of a sandwich of your choice and chips and salsa or carrots and celery with ranch. Sandy set up a picnic lunch for us (bottled water, homemade banana bread, fresh strawberries) at Sanford and we ate outdoors with a beautiful view of the vineyard and the valley.
Throughout the day, we also made several non-winery stops. We were given a 20-minute tour of Santa Barbara, including the restaurants and shopping of State Street and a drive by the court house, famous tree, and the Natural History Museum. As an animal lover, I really enjoyed the animal-related stops. We stopped at a petting zoo, which allowed us to pet and take pictures of donkeys, a pot-bellied pig that grunts when pet, a rabbit, a turkey, a goat, and a dog. We even saw a zonkey--half donkey, half zebra! We stopped at Quicksilver Ranch, where we viewed miniature horses, some of which had just been born in the past two months! We stopped to see African animals that have long, hollow horns, but I don't remember the name of them. We stopped for an olive oil tasting, which offered at least ten different types of olive oils. It was delicious and unique and we would recommend this to anyone and everyone. We stopped at a strawberry stand and picked up some of the largest and sweetest strawberries we have ever tasted. We stopped at a gourmet cupcake shop that bakes miniature and regular-sized cupcakes that are filled with wine (Syrah, Chardonnay). We purchased six miniature cupcakes (a sampler) for $10, and it was by far one of the best decisions we've ever made. We spent 30 minutes or so in Solvang, a nearby Danish town, where you can choose to eat Danish snacks, take pictures of the cute town, shop for souvenirs, or indulge in additional wine and/or beer tastings. We ended the day with a drive along Stagecoach Road, where we viewed an amazing bridge and passed by Cold Springs Tavern, which seemed to have tons of locals hanging out, drinking beer, and listening to music. Sandy informed us that they have the best tri tip sandwiches and offered to stop for a visit, but we were simply exhausted by the end of the day.
Some general tips:
- If you can afford to, go on a tour on a Sunday through Thursday, as wineries are much less crowded and this makes your visit much more enjoyable.
- Bring small bills to tip wineries along the way (and to tip Sandy or Dee as well).
- Be mindful of the fact that if you visit four wineries, you will drink an entire bottle of wine. Keep this in mind if you need to drive home in the evening!
- Tell Dee and Sandy what you would like to see on your tour. They are very accommodating and will customize the tour to your interests!
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