“Welcome to the Hotel California…” Yes, the Hotel Californian was built in 1925, fifty years before the classic Eagles song was released, but close enough. As the song insists, you can check out any time you like—but you may not want to ever leave.
Just blocks from Santa Barbara’s beach and Stearns Wharf, the Hotel Californian was built in the Spanish Revival (or Andalucian) architectural style. The stately hotel on State Street is now owned by the entertainment-oriented Foley family, which also owns the wineries featured in The Californian’s new winemaker dinners. Foley Entertainment Group also operates the Las Vegas Golden Knights NHL team, the AHL Henderson Silver Knights, the 6,000 seat Dollar Loan Center in Henderson, NV and Hotel Les Mars in Healdsburg, CA.
Santa Barbara, surrounded by wine country, is an ideal place for a day of wine tasting. The city is temperate and cool, compared to the steamy summer heat of the wineries further inland. With several tasting rooms nearby, The Californian is now raising the ante with a series of monthly wine dinners, marrying the Foley Family Wine portfolio with the hotel’s outstanding cuisine.
The monthly Winemaker Dinner series is hosted at the hotel’s Blackbird restaurant. After a mellow reception on the patio, visiting winemakers from wineries such as Merus, Chalk Hill, Foley and Chalone present their vintages. The wines are paired with a four-course dinner of local, sustainable dishes curated and prepared by Hotel Californian Executive Chef Travis Watson.
The next Winemaker Dinner at Blackbird, on August 18, features winemaker Eric Baugher of the Merus winery in the Napa Valley, known for its Cabernet Sauvignon.
Winemaker Baugher, who grew up along the California coast, was fascinated with fermentation from an early age. He says, “I was fascinated with what wine represented, it’s like a time capsule of events in that vintage of a bottle.” Before joining Merus, he started as a chemist at Ridge Vineyards, where he ultimately became Head Winemaker and Chief Operating Officer. At Ridge, Baugher achieved a pair of 100-point scores for the winery’s cabernet and Bordeaux blends.
Future wine dinners at Blackbird will include wines and winemakers from Chalk Hill (September 15), Four Grace (October 20), Chalone (November 17) and Foley (December 15.) Prices for the dinners vary from $150 to $295. Wines featured at the dinners can also be tasted at The Society: State & Mason tasting room in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone neighborhood.
Those staying at the Californian can mosey back to their rooms, which are tastefully renovated and relaxing, to rest after the feast. The hotel has some packages to tempt those trying the dinners. On Thursdays after the winemaker events, California locals can enjoy a 10% discount when booking with code PLAYLOCAL. (The stay deals are for Sunday through Thursday nights.) Non-CA residents can use the Get Out & Play Package, which includes the best available rate, complimentary valet parking and breakfast for two at Goat Tree, the hotel’s outdoor gourmet café.
In the morning one can work off the wine dinner with a brisk walk at the beach or on Stearns Wharf, where you might see a sea lion playing along the pier. If the beach is your destination, the hotel offers beach chairs and umbrellas for guests.
Bicycles are also available at the Californian. The hotel also offers a fitness center, a rooftop pool, a spa, and yoga sessions.
Outdoor fitness classes are curated by Los Angeles-based fitness instructor and founder of Recharge Wellness Co., Rachel McClusky. The classes include sun salutations, barre, Pilates, dance cardio, healing meditation and more.
The pool is on the 1,300 square foot rooftop deck of the Californian, with 360-degree views of the mountains and coastline. The deck also includes a jacuzzi and plenty of comfortable lounge seating by the pool.
Santa Barbara has a small airport, but it’s easy to get to The Californian by car from California’s coastal 101 freeway. It’s about a 90-minute drive from Los Angeles. An even more classic way to arrive is by train. Amtrak’s Surfliner stops within easy roller bag distance of the hotel. The occasional train whistle is part of the hotel’s charm, as much a part of the local ambiance as the cool sea air.
“Hotel Californian is at the core of what makes Santa Barbara one of the most fascinating travel destinations,” says Mia Giobbi Thomas, Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “No matter the season, guests will be greeted with a dynamic mix of engaging events and immersive experiences.”
The Hotel Californian is part of the I Prefer Hotel Rewards loyalty program from Preferred Hotel Group. I Prefer extends points, status, and other benefits to its 4 million members upon eligible stays at more than 650 participating hotels and resorts worldwide.
When the moon is full, The Californian offers indoor fun for adults. Djinn, the hotel’s library bar (named after the genies from Moroccan folklore) hosts HOWL @Djinn on full-moon nights. The evenings feature cocktails based on the lunar cycle, personalized Tarot card readings and classic board games. A DJ from local record label Val-Mar Records spins vinyl. Upcoming dates are Friday, September 9 (Harvest Moon), Sunday, October 9, (Hunter’s Moon) and Monday, November 7, (Beaver Moon.)
And on every Sunday through September 4, the Hotel Californian offers Sunset Sessions at Mirador, the rooftop deck, with craft spirits, small bites, and a live DJ. You can gaze on the Pacific as the sun sets on the American Riviera.