By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 25, 2006
I'm going to Santa Barbara, Calif., to see the wine country and was wondering if you had any advice or tips regarding tours.
Elena Carrington, Washington
A The "Sideways" hype has finally died down in Santa Barbara County's wine country, but the vino is still flowing freely. In fact, you'll need several days and a high alcohol tolerance to visit all of the Southern California area's wine producers. "We have about 75 wineries, and 35 or so have tasting rooms," says Shawn Farrell, owner and operator of Wine Edventures (805-965-WINE, http://www.welovewines.com/ ), which offers daily wine tours in its purple minibus, which appeared in the 2004 film. "Trying to accomplish it all in one day or one vacation would be near impossible."
Santa Barbara's grape land has three main valleys -- Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley and Los Alamos -- that fan out from the Pacific Ocean to the Santa Ynez and San Rafael mountains. Due to the climate, some areas are known for particular vintages, such as chardonnay in Los Alamos (home to one of Kendall Jackson's vineyards) and pinot noir in Santa Rita Hills. The bulk of the wineries are concentrated along highways 154, 246 and 101. (Highway 101 is also the main road to Santa Barbara, about 45 minutes away by car.)
However, don't expect a Northern California experience. "The tasting rooms are more laid-back than Napa and more rustic," says Fran Clow, executive administrator of the Santa Barbara County Wine Association. "You are going to find places that aren't commercial looking; it's not a corporate atmosphere." Because many of the wineries are smaller operations, be sure to call ahead to reserve a tour, if offered. Most tasting rooms open daily at 10 a.m., close between 4 and 6 p.m., and charge $4 to $12.
To explore the region, drive or be driven. For self-navigators, Clow says to "pick one particular area; don't go from one area to another or you will spend most of your time traveling." There are also a handful of tours, which vary in group size (private to double-digit), mode of transportation (Jeep, limo, bike, etc.) and winery stops (quantity and vintage). Wine Edventures, for example, leads $95-per-person tours that include visits to four wineries, guide, lunch and tasting-room fees. Some tour companies also partner with hotels, creating wine-and-stay packages. Edventures, for instance, works with the Fess Parker's DoubleTree Resort and five properties affiliated with the Santa Barbara Hotels Group.
For tours, maps and other information on Santa Barbara and its wine country: Santa Barbara County Wine Association, 805-688-0881, http://www.sbcountywines.com/ ; Santa Barbara Conference and Visitors Bureau, 805-966-9222, http://www.santabarbaraca.com/ .
I'm traveling to Africa in December and want to lay over in Paris for a couple of days. How would I engineer such a layover and would it add substantially to my airfare?
Kari Cohen, Washington
Flights from Washington to Africa are long -- 17 hours on a direct flight to Johannesburg, for example -- so a layover along the way is not a bad idea. But be prepared to pay a small sum for that leisure. "It will cost a bit more, but not drastically," says Valerie Paul of Adventure Travel Desk (800-552-0300, http://www.african-safari.com/ ), a Massachusetts retail and wholesale agency specializing in Africa travel. "It will be about 15 percent more." A round-trip direct flight from Washington to Johannesburg on South African Airways, for example, currently starts at about $1,110, before taxes.
SA, along with its codeshare partners, offers a triangle fare that lets travelers rest up in Europe for a couple of days -- but only one way; price varies according to season. Other airlines also permit stopovers in either direction, but if you want a long layover coming and going, you'll have to pay $100 to $150 on top of the single-layover price. In addition, the European stopover destination is often determined by the carriers' routes and hub cities: Air France parks in Paris, Northeast-KLM in Amsterdam, British Airways in London, etc.
For booking, some online travel sites offer multi-city itineraries, but for convenience and competitive fares, consult with a travel agent or a consolidator, such as Airline Consolidator (888-468-5385, http://www.airlineconsolidator.com/ ) or Wholesale Fares Inc. (877-253-3800, http://www.wholesale-fares.com/ ).
In addition, as with any ticket changes, if you want to shorten or lengthen your layover, "it will be very expensive to change midstream," says Paul.
Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@wash post.com), fax (202-912-3609) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include name and town.