We just returned from a four day stay near the town of Los Olivos, which is located about 45 minutes north of Santa Barbara, CA. This area is known as the Santa Ynez Valley and makes a lot of California wine but isn’t as well known as Napa and Sonoma. This area, despite being further south than Napa and Sonoma, is actually much cooler due to the east-west configuration of the valley so it gets lots of cool marine air at night. Due to the cooler climate, this wine region is well known for pinot noir and chardonnay and some rhone varietals such as syrah, grenache and mourvedre in the slightly warmer spots.
Our good friend Karen who lives in Seattle flew down and met us in Santa Barbara and we drove out together to Los Olivos where we stayed in the most amazing rental house. The house was located about a 3 minute drive from town (you could ride bikes or walk into town as it’s that close) but was set back on a quiet country road. The house was located on a hill so it had sweeping views of the valley. We also had an outdoor jacuzzi, 4 fireplaces and it was beautifully decorated. I would rent this place again in a heartbeat! I’d include a link but it’s actually not online while they repermit it for rentals. I’ll come back and update later when it’s back up.
Also, just an interesting factoid but about 2 miles down the road is Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. You can’t go in but you can drive down and see the old entrance gate, which is locked and guarded. If you’re interested, Neverland Ranch is currently for sale for a mere $30 million.
While there are plenty of things to do in the area, our main focus was wine tasting and winery visits. We stopped by several of our favorite wineries, many of which have lovely picnic areas and views. The first two days of our trip, we picked up sandwiches to go and had picnic lunches. We have found several places in Napa and Willamette will not allow you to do picnics on the site of the winery due to local laws or trying to get you to buy a more expensive meal at the winery so we love how laid back this area is. The wineries we visited and I recommend are: Blackjack Winery; Dierberg Star Lane Winery; Foxen Winery; Sanford Winery; LaFond Winery; Zotovich Winery; Brewer Clifton Winery and Samsara Wines.
I also highly recommend two scenic drives – the Santa Rosa Road and Foxen Canyon Road, which have lovely views and very little traffic and has wineries located on each that make great stops for picnics.
The town of Los Olivos is very quaint and charming and it also boasts over 30 tasting rooms in just a small two block area. It’s so nice to end the day with one last tasting here and to pop into some of the cute stores for some souvenir shopping.
This trip was all about relaxing and catching up with our friend who we only get to see once a year since she moved to the Pacific Northwest. We slept in each morning and lingered over coffee and pastries we picked up in town and then headed out around lunch time to do some scenic drives, lunch and taste some delicious wines. We limited ourselves to 3 tastings a day and then headed back to our rental house to enjoy the sunset with a bottle (or two or three), make a nice fire, heat up some dinner (we had leftovers twice and ordered pizzas another night) and even slipped into the jacuzzi hot tub a few times as well. We never got tired of the views. We did go into town a few days to shop and have some lunch. Our favorite restaurants in this area are: Hitchin’ Post II in Buellton; Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe; Sides Restaurant in Los Olivos. We also highly recommend getting sandwiches for picnics at either the Succulent Pig Cafe in Solvang or at the R-Country Store in Los Olivos.
We were so sad to pack up and leave yesterday. We were fortunate that we were able to get our flights perfectly timed. We flew back to Dallas and Karen flew to Seattle and our flights arrived and departed within minutes of each other so no one had to wait around for the other. We are already talking about doing this same trip again next year and I think 4 nights is the perfect amount of time for this area if you really want a good sampling of the wine and the food and don’t want to be rushed. It’s so much more low-key and less hoity-toity than Napa or Sonoma so I highly recommend this region. You can also combine this with a stay in Santa Barbara for an extra night or two if you want some beach time as well.