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Santa Barbara County – Part II – Wine Country

Well here I will explore some of the spots to go in the Santa Ynez Valley for tasting wines and eating, and tasting more wines.  Being it is so close to LA, most people don’t give this area very much thought for having great wines.  Well, I am here to correct that fallacy, because there are some superb wines available right up the road.  And going in person you can cut out a lot overhead costs of wine shops, AND sometimes catch a special.  I’ve already walked away with cases of wine for pennies on the dollar.  I mean you COULD go to Trader Joe’s or Vons or Ralph’s for their “wine specials”;  or you could head up and pick up a couple cases of wines you’ve actually tasted and liked!

So there are a few main areas of the Valley.  If you turn off the 101 onto the 1, that takes you into Lompoc.  Stay on the 101 and you end up at the 246 where going West takes you to Buellton, and East takes you into Solvang.  If you went up over the mountain on the 254, you can stop at either the town of Santa Ynez or head right into Los Olivos.  Each has their own food, lodging and wine options.  Most places up there have the official map of wine country, where you can plan your attack and see all the routes available.  There is some terrific scenery depending on your time of year.

Now as far as lodging is concerned, I have seen in person and stayed at a few different options.  There are many options available as far as amenities.  Nearly all have pools, for lounging, as it gets quite warm in the summer months.  Here are the options I’ve experienced first hand.

Lompoc:  I’ve only staying in town here twice, and the options from what I’ve seen are a bit more on the chain hotel scale.  You are a little more off the beaten track of wineries, and in more of a town.  From my experiences, it’s a so-so place to stay.  If you don’t care about your setting, you can get some good, cheap rooms here.

Buellton:  Right off the 101, are really only two places, and you are a bit in the middle of the valley.  Nothing fancy, just convenient.  There is a Marriott, that is, well a Marriott.  Very big, and usually full, with lots of families.  The other main lodging is at Pea Soup Andersen’s Inn.  If you’ve never been up the 101, the pea soup at Andersen’s is legendary.  At least to tourists.  I’ve never been, as mass produced pea soup isn’t always on the top of my list of items to seek out to eat.  But hey, don’t let that stop you.

Solvang:  Just a short jaunt East on the 246 is the Danish town of Solvang.  It’s like a little Copenhagen in Central CA.  Most hotel options are very, very, very, kitschy.  All with themes, none of which I am really into.  I have never been to Denmark, but I doubt it looks like this.  So on either end of town are the two best housing options, which I’ve both stayed at.  On the more Western end of town is the Hadsten House.   It’s a nice clean updated hotel with great amenities.  And it’s on the outskirts of town, so on crazy days in Solvang, when traffic is at a stop heading East, you can head West, and around the congestion.  This is usually only during holiday weekends.  It’s just a nice option.  It is still close enough to walk into town for food and supplies.  They also have many coupons for tastings, if you need some direction, and want a few free tastings.  And yes, since Sideways came out, most wineries charge for tastings.  But avoid this by either buying a bottle or two, most places will give you tastings if you are buying.  Or actually show some interest, ask questions, and generally don’t be a lush.   Now for another option in town is the newly remodeled Hotel Corque.   A very new, clean, hip option.  You aren’t going to see any socks and sandals here.  It’s for the more refined wine aficionado who wants something a little less kitschy.  There is also a very, very nice restaurant attached, where I’ve had a few meals, and give two thumbs up too.  Root 246  A very classy change reminiscent of the big wine regions a little North of here.  As a bonus there is a great cocktail list as well if you are done with the wine.

From here a short jaunt East on the 246 takes you past the Chumash Casino and into the small rustic town of Santa Ynez.  Things are a little more quiet and a little more rustic around here.  Also a little more off the wine country track.  Perfect if you want to get out and walk, and not run into any Ya-Hoos.  Well at least probably not many.  There is one very elegant, old fashioned hotel option in town here.  The Santa Ynez Inn is definitely not a hip, uber-cool establishment.  Not that it doesn’t have it’s charms, but it’s a little old-school, like Victorian old-school.   But I reckon for a very quiet romantic get away it’s perfect!

Finally, just a little North from here in the town of Los Olivos is the Fess Parker Wine Country Inn and Spa  And before you ask, yes THAT Fess Parker, of Davy Crockett Television fame.  The namesake has since passed away,  but you can still walk the same halls he built way before the Valley was a destination.  And it isn’t too shabby.  It’s very modern, yet still maintains some of the rustic-ness of the area and it’s builder.  There is a full spa, winery, and a terrific little Greek restaurant, Petros, which is a nice change for the area.

Well there is the second installment of my Santa Barbara County Wine Country journal.  Stay tuned for Parts III and IV to know where to eat and more importantly drink some terrific wines!!