February 25, 2022 by Arden Montgomery
A Weekend in the Santa Ynez Valley
Craving a California wine trip, but don’t know where to start? Recently named 2021 Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast, Santa Barbara County is your ultimate getaway; Trust us!
Located on the central coast of California just two hours north of Los Angeles and about four hours south of the San Francisco area, Santa Barbara County is home to many ‘hidden gem’ wineries. Sitting right in the heart of Santa Barbara county is our personal favorite destination, the Santa Ynez Valley.
It’s hard to properly put into words how special this valley truly is. This under-the-radar region gives off just the right vibe and will provide you with the perfect combination of fun, adventure and relaxation. It’s no wonder they’re already seeing a massive boom from tourists alike!
The Santa Ynez Valley is home to the popular local towns of Los Alamos, Los Olivos, Buellton, Solvang, and Santa Ynez. Each town has their own distinct personality and boasts a multitude of tasting rooms, wineries, breweries, shops, and restaurants that are ready to excite your palate. Many of these businesses are still family-owned and smaller in production, adding to the reasons why we love them so much!
The Bigger Picture:
North of the city of Santa Barbara and just inland from Gaviota lies the Santa Ynez Valley AVA, which contains a subset of four additional AVAs, each with their own unique climates and profiles for grape-growing and winemaking.
Beginning in Lompoc, the Sta. Rita Hills AVA stretches east to the town of Buellton, producing some of Santa Barbara County’s most prized and renown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir bottlings. Ballard Canyon AVA lies just beyond the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. It borders the Los Olivos District AVA, the newest of these areas. Lastly, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA is on the most eastern border of these AVAs, and is generally the warmest site for grape-growing production.
Quick note: It’s important to have a a ‘gaux-to lunch spot on your way to the valley when driving north. Look no further than Bettina. Save room for olive oil cake and then continue your way north to SYV!
First Things First:
Breakfast (and coffee) are the most important meals of the day, am I right? Here are some of our go-to-selections whether you have 10 minutes or 2 hours:
- God’s Country Provisions (right in the Los Olivos town) – Delicious, crafty donuts.
- Bob’s Well Bread (Ballard or Los Alamos) – The most insane artisanal pastries and delights.
- Queen Cup Coffee (Santa Ynez) – Alyssa would live here if she could. Try the standard coffees or seasonal lattes. You can’t go wrong.
- Neighbor’s Coffee Cart (Los Olivos) – Stop in for a quick pick-me-up while sipping in Los Olivos.
- Brekkies Restaurant (Solvang)
- Succulent Cafe (Solvang)
- Mad & Vin (Solvang) – Brunch!
Ready for Round Two:
Don’t skip on lunch! We promise you won’t regret taking a few extra minutes from your tasting schedule to pop into one these local favorites:
- Corner House Cafe (Los Olivos)
- Panino (Los Olivos)
- Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café (Los Olivos)
- The Lucky Hen and Larder (Santa Ynez) – Cheese board, anyone? This spot has artisan sandwiches and cut-to-order cheese.
- Peasants Feast Restaurant (Solvang) / Peasants Deli & Market (Solvang)
The Evening Doesn’t Have to End:
Whether you’re dining for 1 or with a large group of friends, these are a few of our treasured spots for dinner. The chefs, the food, the atmosphere; We can’t rave about each of these enough:
- S.Y Kitchen (Santa Ynez)
- Bell’s restaurant (Los Alamos) – Recently awarded a Michelin Star!
- Nella Kitchen & Bar (Los Olivos) – Sister to S.Y Kitchen
- Bar Le Cote (Los Olivos) – Seafood sister to Bell’s; Same female owner and chef.
- Coast Range & Vaquero Bar (Solvang)
- Industrial Eats (Buellton)
- Pico (Los Alamos)
- Gathering Table (Ballard)
- Full of Life Flatbread (Los Alamos)
For the home chefs: check out El Rancho Marketplace (Solvang) for all your recipe needs. Also, Finley Farms (Santa Ynez) for the best fresh local produce.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, you really can’t go wrong with any of the tasting rooms or wineries within the valley. Here’s what we suggest for your first few visits:
Vineyard and Winery visits:
- Piazza Family Wines, Au Bon Climat, Peake Ranch, Spear, Brave and Maiden, The Hilt Estate / Jonata, Presqu’ile, Folded Hills, Tyler, Foxen, Melville, Sanford, LaBarge, and Roblar.
Tasting Rooms (Just to name a few):
- Santa Maria / Los Alamos:
- Los Olivos:
- The Hitching Post Restaurant and Winery (Buellton) – For all of our wine geeks, if you’ve seen Sideways, this is a must visit!
- Community Craft (Los Olivos) – Wine bar and craft brews.
- Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. (Buellton and Los Olivos)
- Firestone Walker Brewing Company (Buellton)
A Little Rest and Relaxation:
The Valley is home to many wonderful (and comfortable) places to rest your head and your feet. These are a few we frequent:
- The Landsby (Solvang)
- Skyview (Los Alamos)
- Hotel Ynez (Solvang)
- Fess Parker Wine Country Inn (Los Olivos)
- 11 Oaks Retreat (Ballard) – Family-owned and operated by our friends at Carhartt, Find it on AirBnB!
- Ballard Inn (Ballard)
- Santa Ynez Inn (Santa Ynez)
We hope you enjoy your stay in our beloved oasis that is Santa Ynez Valley. Cheers!