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This story originally appeared in California Winery Advisor. Urban Wine Tasting Napa, Sonoma, Santa Ynez Valley, what these places have in common is that they are wine regions. What they also have in common is that they are in close proximity to cities – Napa and Sonoma to San Francisco and Santa Ynez to Santa Barbara. While a trip to wine country is always welcome, these days you do not have to leave the city to go wine tasting. Both San Francisco and Santa Barbara offer urban wine tasting experiences, featuring the wines of the neighboring wine regions but with the convenience of being in the city. SANTA BARBARA Santa Barbara Wine Country is forty-five minutes north of the city of Santa Barbara. With Los Olivos, Solvang and the Lompoc Wine Ghetto, as well as all the estate wineries, there is plenty of wine tasting to be done in the area. But over the past few years, many of the wineries have been opening wine tasting rooms in downtown Santa Barbara, also known as “the American Riviera”. While there are no vineyards downtown, the proximity to the Pacific Ocean is appealing. With a unique range of tasting rooms in the city of Santa Barbara, your entire visit can be focused on wine or can be interspersed between eating, shopping and hanging at the beach.
If I could, I would travel around the world eating at the best restaurants, the ones with Michelin and the World's 50 Best rankings. I dream about a trip to Copenhagen to eat at Noma or about saving up enough money to splurge at The French Laundry. While I am not packing my bags quite yet, a visit to the San Francisco restaurant In Situ at the newly designed San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art gave me a taste of what these chefs have created. In Situ Menu In Situ, which is an adverb or adjective that means 1) situated in place or position or 2) synergizing and interacting collaboratively within a context, is located on the ground floor of SFMOMA. Led by Michelin-starred chef Corey Lee (Benu, Monsieur Benjamin) and overseen by executive chef Brandon Rodgers, the rotating menu features fifteen different dishes at a time. What is unique about these dishes is that Lee collaborated with approximately eighty high profile chefs from around the world to create a menu of their "greatest hits."
A few months ago, I was driving from Sonoma to Monterey when a friend called to see if I wanted to join him and some friends for dinner in San Francisco. He mentioned that it was a hard-to-get reservation and they had someone drop out last minute. I took a detour on my drive and went into the city to have dinner at Al's Place. Sadly, I came down with a 24-hour bug that same night and could not eat a single bite. I sat there at dinner, wishing but unable to eat and missing out on what Bon Appetit Magzine called "the country's best new restaurant" and a 2016 recipient of One Michelin Star. Al's Place Months later, on another trip to San Francisco, my friend was able to get a reservation so that I could actually try the food. Al's Place is located in the Mission and is a simple, but bright, space with approximately 50 seats and an open kitchen in the back. The staff is young, friendly and very knowledgeable, both about the food and the wine. Al's Place