Editor’s Note: While there’s always a lot going on in Burbank, myBurbank’s “Get Out Of Town!” highlights some of our favorite activities and events outside the town borders.
Autumn is a lovely time of year to visit Santa Ynez Wine Country. Harvest weekend in October is always a big draw, but the peaceful country vibe and relaxed pace of life in the region, northeast of Santa Barbara, is a welcome respite from city life any time of year.
Los Olivos and Solvang are about two and one-half hours drive from Burbank. Nestled in the Santa Ynez mountains, the towns are good jumping-off points for a country ramble. We usually stay overnight and get a good night’s sleep so we don’t have to drive home after a long day of wine and food.
Wineries and tasting rooms are typically open 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Driving from one area of the Valley to another takes quite a bit of time; we have found it easier to visit one area of Santa Ynez Wine Country at a time.
We often like to stop at the Calabasas Cantina for breakfast on the way up to Santa Ynez. When we forego the heavy breakfast, we start the day with a lunch at the spectacular Los Olivos Cafe. There are several new restaurants in Los Olivos and throughout the Valley, like Red Barn, Santa Ynez Kitchen and Petros to try.
After wandering about the rustic town of Los Olivos, looking at jewelry and art made by local artisans, we visit a tasting room or two. Our favorite is Carhartt’s little shack on Grand Avenue, but there are many from which to choose.
Children are not allowed in tasting rooms and must stay outside. Some with patios are able to welcome the under-21 set. Stolpman’s little red barn with a shady patio in Los Olivos is a comfortable option for those with kids.
Plenty of maps to the wineries and tasting rooms in the area are available online and throughout Santa Ynez Wine Country.
One thing we’ve learned over nearly two decades of trips to the area – wines change in quality and drinkability from year to year. One year, a favorite winery will pour amazing flights for tastings. The next, we wonder why we liked that same spot so much. However, many times the wines made for wine club members far outstrip the wines available at tastings – depending on the vintner, of course.
Recurring favorites from year to year include: Foley, Lincourt, Foxen, Babcock, Melville, Carhartt and Alma Rosa. Some wineries such as Foxen and Dierberg Starlane have upped their tastings to $20 each, while most are pouring 6 tastes for $12 or $15.
For those aiming to try 10 wines for $10, there’s always Blackjack, just outside of Los Olivos. Made popular in the movie Sideways, of which there continue to be numerous references throughout the area, Blackjack has some great specials on cases.
We loved Lincourt and Foley’s whites and reds – both tasting rooms in the Valley were pouring excellent varieties, backed up by knowledgeable servers. Very drinkable, very complex, the Foley and Lincourt wines were the hit of the trip.
Babcock’s eclectic, expansive tasting barn provides a fun way to while away an afternoon. Pool table, lounging chairs, gift items to browse, a solid collection of vinyl to put on the turntable and excellent, complex flights combine for a fantastic experience.
Melville’s rich and personable wines underscore the winery’s long and respected history in the area. Foxen’s Shack at 7200 Foxen Canyon Road currently serves a very fun chocolate and wine pairing course through the end of the year.
Whether you decide you love the taste enough to buy a bottle or six, the prime attraction of Santa Ynez Wine Country is the leisurely pace, the natural environment and delicious food available.
We also stopped for steaks at The Hitching Post II this trip. The restaurant embraces an old school approach to food, from the artichoke appetizer to top-notch steaks to rich desserts. Reservations are a must on busy weekends.
Another highlight: Danish pancakes and eggy french toast at Paula’s Pancake House in Solvang. No reservations and the wait can be up to an hour on a weekend, but it is definitely worth the wait.
There’s a lot of hotels and luxury resorts to stay in throughout the Valley – something for every budget and wish. Solvang boasts the highest concentration of hotels and restaurants in the area, and is a good base of operations, if you will.
We always like the Hotel Corque for cleanliness, comfort, style and central location, along with the more economical Hadsten House.
After all that wine and rustic food in the Santa Ynez Valley, we often stop for a palate cleanser in Santa Barbara on the way back to Burbank. Sometimes it’s tacos at La Super-Rica, but usually it’s Brophy Bros. seafood at the Santa Barbara harbor.
The best clam chowder on the west coast, fresh fish and seafood and excellent service make this casual seafood joint a popular spot any time of day, night, season or year. After re-fueling with some good grub, the drive back to Burbank takes just about two hours.
For those needing a break from the din and clang of city life, the Santa Ynez Valley is a perfect way to Get Out of Town!