We recently made our first trip to the Santa Barbara Wine Country. If our first impression was accurate, I'm sure we'll be making many more visits.
Our itinerary only gave us half a day for wine tasting since we were just spending one night en route to Paso Robles. We decided to focus our attention on the Santa Ynez Valley, which includes the cities of Buellton, Solvang, and Los Olivos. This area is perhaps best known for being featured in the movie Sideways.
Speaking of Sideways, our first stop was Alma Rosa Winery and Vineyards in Buellton. Their wine room was the first one that the characters Miles and Jack visited in the movie. In real life, we picked it based on a random Twitter recommendation (thanks, @brandyea!) and because their wines sounded good. They primarily focused on Pinots - Gris, Blanc, and Noir and most were to our liking.
Next stop was Bridlewood Estate Winery in Los Olivos. A friend of Sally's recommended this one and it didn't disappoint. Their grounds are beautiful with sweeping vistas of the Santa Ynez Valley and their spacious wine room is quite nice without being over the top. They source their grapes from vineyards throughout Central California, so they produce a wide range of delicious varietals. Our favorite was the 2007 "Six Gun" Syrah which was very smokey and would be perfect with Texas BBQ.
Our last stop was the Andrew Murray Vineyards tasting room in downtown Los Olivos. We also discovered them via Twitter (thanks, @gotrhones!). Stephanie, our host, took great care of us and introduced us to some terrific wine. They specialize in Rhone varietals like Syrah but also have some nice limited production wines like their "First Kiss" Port style wine.
Where there's wine, there's often olive oil. We stopped by Olive Hill Farm next door to Andew Murrary for a tasting. Wow! Their infused olive oils and balsamics were terrific. It was also a nice change of pace after tasting wine.
Next, we headed over to our motel, the Hadsten House in Solvang. This is a great example of how Solvang is changing for the good. The Hadsten House is a motel, but has been renovated to be more luxurious like a nice wine country hotel. The room also included a free breakfast buffet and complimentary wine tasting at many area wineries.
Dinner was at a farm to table restaurant in Solvang called Root 246. We were seated in a lounge-style area that featured enormous overstuffed chairs and created a feeling of privacy and coziness. And, the food was absolutely fantastic! Sally had braised short ribs while Jeff had "shake and bake" chicken. Yum!
The next morning, we left our hotel and drove off to our next wine adventure in Paso Robles. Our time in the Santa Barbara Wine Country was short, but we are already thinking about our next visit.