Going to The Santa Ynez Valley is definitely my new favorite local trip. At only 105 miles from LA it takes around 2 1/2 hrs to get there and you automatically feel like you’re in a different state, maybe even different country. Since my first time going last June I have been back on 2 separate occasions and each time I had a better experience than the last.
Solvang is a kitschy little Danish town in the Santa Ynez Valley. Driving in you feel like you entered a weird theme park. Its packed with tourists and year round Christmas shops but also with DANISH…Like the kind you eat. If you ever find yourself there make sure you stop at Mortensen’s Danish Bakery, get the raspberry and cream cheese danish and thank me later…But I digress…
WHERE TO STAY:
The Landsby Hotel https://thelandsby.com – Super cute boutique hotel right in the center of Solvang. The lobby and rooms are extremely photogenic, your Instagram will thank you, think chic Scandinavian West Elm. Staying here is a great base camp for exploring the surrounding towns. Everything is very close together and there is Uber, which is always a plus.
Skyview Los Alamos https://www.skyviewlosalamos.com – I think I can confidently say that this is my current favorite hotel. Randomly enough I found it while perusing Instagram late one night was was immediately sucked into looking at every tagged pic and geo tag. Perviously a scary, Bates like motel on a hill, this place was recently completely remodeled and reopened and new life was breathed into its baby boutique hotel lungs. It’s my experience that normally when someone redoes a cheap motel a fresh coat of paint is thrown on the walls and a busy duvet on the bed in the hopes that you’ll be so distracted by the bright colors that you’ll overlook the fact that you can hear your neighbor flushing their toilet and maybe you won’t think “that smell” is so bad (news flash it is). This is not the case at Skyview. The aesthetic is everything, think chic barn meets mid century modern. The bigger rooms have their own private patios that overlook a gorgeous vineyard complete with fire pits and some even have outdoor showers. The pool is pristine and chic and they have Linus bikes on the property that you can borrow to go into town. Like i said, cute AF. Trust me, stay here. Oh, and their house rosé is really nice.
WHERE TO EAT:
Everyone is going to tell you to eat at Paula’s Pancake House, hell i even put a picture up of it but in my humble but expert opinion the food is mediocre at best. What you really want to do is hit the bakery that I spoke about before, Mortensen’s http://www.mortensensbakery.com. The women that work there are so kind and the smell is so intoxicating in there that you will black out and order 5 pastries and NO ONE WILL JUDGE YOU. Do I speak from personal experience? Yes. Yes I do.
Heres the deal…you’re going to wine country, you’re going to eat cheese and bread a lot. To be honest you’re probably going to drink a lot and its only responsible to have a solid base in your stomach. It’s a safety precaution. With that being said I have 3 recommendations for you for lunch. The first is Sides Hardware & Shoes in Los Olivos https://www.brothersrestaurant.com. Get the Bacon Steak and the Pastrami on Rye, they smoke their meats in house and it is to DIE FOR. Wash it down with rosé because you deserve it.
My second recommendation is just down the street and is the Los Olivos Wine Merchant Cafe https://www.winemerchantcafe.com/cafe/. You might remember it from that scene in Sideways where that one actor gets too drunk and calls his ex wife on a payphone. If you don’t know what I’m talking about that’s probably for the best, that movie was WAY over hyped and boring. I always get the BBQ Chicken Pizza (which is technically a special but they always seem to have it) and fries, please refrain from judging me, I’m living my life and i warned you about the bread and cheese.
My last recommendation and maybe my favorite is to go to the market in Solvang, which is basically a scaled down Whole Foods and get stuff to make your own cheese board to bring to a vineyard to have with your tastings. I haven’t been to a tasting room or vineyard yet that has food and I don’t think I’m alone in wanting a little nosh while drinking…To be honest the next time I go I plan on bringing a whole bunch of goods from Trader Joes with me just to save time while I’m there. The hotel also has a mini fridge in the room so you can totally keep you perishables in there for the next day!
Hands down my favorite dinner restaurant in the Santa Ynez Valley is S.Y. Kitchen http://www.sykitchen.com. It is just excellent and not fussy (not a fan of fussy food), plus the ambiance and vibe is super cute and casual. They have a great wine selection and a really fun cocktail menu if that’s more your vibe. You must get the artichokes and the bread to start. We have had the sliders which are fantastic, as well as the Caesar salad and we had a great pasta too! Pro tip: Don’t skip dessert.
Literally across the street from S.Y. Kitchen is another very solid option that is owned by the same people as Sides, its called Brothers http://www.brothersredbarn.com/menus.html. The vibe here definitely feels fancier to me, more republican if you will. But everything I have tried is great and the staff is SO nice and accommodating. I don’t have particular recommendations because every time I have been here I am too full from lunch to order a main course, but I can tell you all the appetizers are solid.
If you find yourself making your way to Los Alamos Pico http://www.losalamosgeneralstore.com is fantastic! The space is historic and airy and I loved it. The wine and cocktail selection was great and the server was so incredibly nice. The stand out on the menu for me was the mushroom salad. It. Was. Devine. On Sunday night they do a burger night that I am dying to go for and they have hot chocolate chip cookies on the dessert menu (it is my opinion that this should be standard on every dessert menu but not everyone is there yet and I am trying my best to be patient but that’s starting to run thin). Super SOLID dinner.
Vineyards & Tasting Rooms:
Carhartt Tasting Room: https://carharttvineyard.com
Located in Los Olivos this is one of my favorite tasting rooms, in fact it IS my favorite one. They recently opened a new location with a beautiful outdoor patio complete with adirondack chairs and umbrellas. It reminds me of being in Idaho during the summer and the wine is great too. Have a tasting and take your time enjoying the company of whoever you’re with, its a great vibe.
Saarloss + Sons: https://saarloosandsons.com
2 words: CUPCAKE FLIGHT. Yes, you read that correctly. They pair special cupcakes with their wine flights. Each unique flavor is to be enjoyed with each taste of wine. Whoever is pouring your wine for the tasting will guide you through what pairs with what and this is super fun to do at least once.
Demetria Vineyard: https://www.demetriaestate.com
Demetria is a an absolutely stunning vineyard that is about 30 minutes from Los Olivos. You need to call and make a reservation for this one but they have always been able to accommodate us. They are located on top of a hill about a 10 minute drive up the road from the highway, you’re up there. They have cats roaming around the property and it feels like maybe, just maybe you are Diane Lane in Under The Tuscan Sun. And the wine, don’t even get me started on this delicious wine. Do a tasting, bring your cheese board we chatted about earlier and when you’re done with it all go lay in the sun on the field and relish in how amazing your life is.
Foxen Vineyard: https://www.foxenvineyard.com
Foxen is OUT THERE. Its a trek but it was well worth it and the drive is stunning. The grounds at Foxen are massive and beautifully kept, they have an expansive lawn with tables and umbrellas where you can do your tasting, just be aware that they will not come out to you, you will need to go in for each new pour but its well worth it to be able to sit outside. This would be another great place to bring the cheese board, guys. I ate an entire baguette while we were here and most of a wheel of brie and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I don’t want to say I peaked at that moment but I also didn’t NOT peak.
Ok, friends, there you have it. I have exhausted my recommendations and myself. I truly hope that if given the chance you make the trip to The Santa Ynez Valley, I cannot recommend it enough! I hope that this post is helpful and informative, I want everyone to love their experience there as much as I did.