We just returned from a quick trip to Santa Ynez, and it was simply the best. We discovered the region 28 years ago when the parents of a close friend retired there, and we've been stealing away ever since.
Santa Ynez Valley is located in the Los Padres National Park, above Santa Barbara, and is an easy 2-hour drive from Los Angeles. It was made famous by the movie Sideways in 2004, and the area really exploded after that. There are currently over 120 wineries in the valley and more are opening all the time. The valley encompasses the towns of Santa Ynez, Los Olivos, Ballard, Solvang & Buellton, with Lompoc, Los Alamos and Santa Maria to the north.
Santa Ynez is one of those places that as soon as you drive into the valley, you can feel the stress of urban life melt away. And because it's only 2 hours away, it's an easy day trip for us when the feeling strikes, which is often! In fact, this was the first time in a few years that we actually stayed for two nights.
This was a last minute trip that we planned when we realized that friends of ours from Florida would be there for a couple of nights before a wedding in Southern California, so we decided to crash their party. They're sweet, so they didn't mind!
We always strategically plan our time there and have our favorites that we always return to. Our typical MO is to drive almost to the end of Foxen Canyon Road and work our way back to town. I'm sharing our favorite stops below that we visited over the two day period, not all at once! We typically visit 3 wineries in a day, with snacks and lots of water between! I'm usually the designated driver since I'm not a big drinker, but I still really enjoy the scenery and vineyards.
Cambria Winery is way down almost at the end of the trail, off Foxen Canyon Road. It sits high up and has a gorgeous view of the vineyard. Of course, I didn't get a photo of that, but they have a window into the barrel room from the tasting area and the whole production always amazes me!
Los Olivos is a sweet little town just outside Santa Ynez and has many tasting rooms lining the main street. This is actually a really nice way to experience the region without having to drive. Waylan Wine Co. is the new kid on the block in Los Olivos, and they have a gorgeous tasting room. They've only been open for a couple of months but we had a great time learning about their wines and their backstory, plus the host was so enthusiastic, we couldn't help but purchase a couple of bottles in support. They're still young, but they have a lot of potential.
Refugio Ranch Vineyard tasting room is another old favorite of ours, and even though it's not politically correct right now, I love their logo. They recently acquired another winery down the street, Roblar, that we visited the next day and had a beautiful picnic on their veranda (see below).
For dinner the first night, we tried Leonardo's, located in Solvang, and owned by the former co-owner and chef of Trattoria Grappolo in Santa Ynez. If you saw my Instagram, there was a little story about Chef Leonardo & I from a cooking class 10 years ago - we tried to recreate the photo as best we could, but we've both aged! After dinner, Scott and I had a quick nightcap at the Hitching Post, another throwback from Sideways, and ran into David Crosby as we were leaving!
The next day we started at Riverbench Winery, one of our favorites. It's right on Foxen Canyon Road, and is so beautiful. We are members of this wine club and love coming out for the pick up parties, which include small bites, wine and live music. They also have a tasting room in Santa Barbara, in the Funk Zone, which is where we frequently pick up from when we can't make it all the way into the valley.
Foxen Winery is an old favorite and now has two tasting rooms on their property. The shack (first photo) is an old favorite, and it quite literally is a shack. It has a ton of character and in the old days, the two winemakers were pouring while three old dogs wandered around. This is another place made famous by Sideways, and they have since opened a newer, larger tasting facility that is quite nice but lacks some of the character of the shack.
Roblar Winery is just outside the town of Los Olivos, and has a beautiful patio that is perfect for a picnic. If you forget to bring provisions, they have a kitchen and serve up a small menu that perfectly pairs with their wines.
Dinner that night was at SY Kitchen, which is hands' down our favorite dinner spot in Santa Ynez. I neglected to take photos of the meal, but it's a tiny place that seems to always be happening. Plus, we had our second David Crosby sighting there!
When we returned home I realized that this is our last getaway of the summer (and summer just started!). That means fun weekend frolics near home before our trip to Scotland in September!