If it were not for a wedding invitation, California and the Santa Ynez Valley might not have been on our radar this year. We have visited San Francisco, simply because it is a city that you have to see at some point in your life, San Diego, because it is a cruise port, and Napa and Sonoma for obvious reasons. When we received the invitation, which included a full day of wine tasting, Santa Ynez, got our attention as a destination. It was a welcome change from the heat and humidity of our Florida summer.
The scenic drive from LAX along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway took just under four hours and is quite beautiful. San Marcos Pass, between Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez was a favorite part of the drive, with golden hills and views of Lake Cachuma along the way. The roadway graciously meanders through the mountain pass, and can be challenging at times, due to steep declines and dramatic curves, but as mountain passes go, this one was fairly tame and pleasurable to drive.
The wedding venue, and our home for three nights was the beautiful Santa Ynez Inn. The elegant, twenty room inn is the perfect venue for a small wedding, or for a weekend get-a-way while touring the Valley. The garden, complete with several fire pits, created a nice atmosphere for sipping wine in the evenings or just kicking back in between events.
The carriage house, adjacent to the inn is perfect for a formal dinner or wedding reception. Norm, these doors are for you. They open onto an outdoor dance floor at the end of the reception hall, where we danced the evening away, under twinkling lights in the crisp night air.
For you movie buffs, the movie “Sideways” was filmed in the Santa Ynez Valley, so it was fun for us to reminisce about favorite scenes like the one filmed at the “Hitching Post,” while having dinner there. Even if you don’t know the movie, this restaurant is a good idea.
We also recommend the Maverick Salon in Santa Ynez, for after dinner drinks, music and dancing. The downtown area of Solvang is reminiscent of a Danish village and perfect for souvenir purchases and tasty treats, and you’ll want to head over to Los Olivos for lots of tasting rooms and good eateries.
If you love good California wines, touring and tasting, this is the destination for you. Two of our favorite stops for tasting included Babcock and Stolpman Vineyards. Babcock’s tasting room and shop was quirky and eclectic. With its vintage merchandise, which included photos of celebrities from the 1950’s and 60’s, old record albums, and even a few vintage typewriters. They have an interesting story, as do most of the vineyards in this region. Click the link above to learn more. Check out the handles on these beautiful entry doors. Without a doubt, there is a party going on inside!
Stolpman Vineyards could have easily been located in Tuscany. The estate, with its European charm, surrounded by lush vines and olive trees planted in stately rows on the slopes below was the perfect setting for a lazy afternoon tasting. The grounds of the estate are available for private functions only, but you can taste their wonderful wines at their tasting room in Los Olivos. Mr. Stolpman conducted our tour of the estate, where we learned about “dry farming,” which is an essential method for producing their Syrah grapes in this region.
Bold colors of Santa Ynez Valley.
There are many options for accommodations in this area, but we are obviously biased toward the Santa Ynez Inn since that is where we stayed. We recommend Trip Advisor for a good list of highly rated accommodations, including reviews of this small Inn. You may also want to review this guide before beginning your wine tour.
Santa Ynez Valley and neighboring city Santa Barbara were a surprising treat to discover while celebrating with our friends at their wedding. While we barely scratched the surface of this destination, we saw enough to be very impressed and highly recommend a visit here. Enjoy life, travel often.