Sally and I recently enjoyed wine tasting in the town of Los Olivos with some friends. If you've tasted wine from Santa Barbara County, you know it well.
If you haven't yet visited Los Olivos, you should. Here's an overview to help you plan your visit.
Los Olivos is a tiny town of just over a thousand people located in Santa Barbara County. The town is near famous AVAs such as the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Rita Hills. You can get a good overview of the region on the Santa Barbara Vintners website.
The main section of Los Olivos is the intersection of Grand and Alamo Pintado avenues that form a central hub of tasting rooms, casual eateries, and small shops.
A look down Grand Avenue shows a few of our favorites clustered together: E11EVEN (a sub-label of Andrew Murray), Evan's Ranch (a sub-label of Gainey Ranch), and Olive Hill Farm, which is a purveyor of awesome olive and balsamic oils.
A fun quirk about this town is the public restrooms are located in the St. Marks In-the-Valley Episcopal Church. I think that officially makes Los Olivos a small town.
Los Olivos was also featured in the movie, Sideways. One of the most iconic scenes was filmed at the Los Olivos Cafe where Myles epically refused to drink Merlot..
Two Great Tasting Rooms
You can taste your way through several great tasting rooms without walking more than a block. There are a few other tasting rooms in the immediate vicinity that we'll have to try on a future visit.
Here are our picks:
They specialize in Pinot Noir.
We tasted six different Pinot Noirs. Our favorites were the 2012 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir, the 2013 Garey Vineyard Pinot Noir, and the 2013 Bien Nacido Block G Pinot Noir. Doing a side-by-side tasting of wines made by the same winemaker from the same grape really gives you an idea of how the location where the grapes are grown can influence flavor.
They specialize in Grenache. Our favorite here was the 2013 Tierra Alta Vineyard Grenache. We ended up buying two bottles, which waived the tasting fees.
This is a very dog friendly tasting room. The dogs almost outnumbered the humans when we visited with four or five dogs crowded into a small space.
There are a few cool cafes in Los Olivos, but we opted to pick up tri-tip sandwiches as the R Country Market. One block away, there are picnic tables in the park adjacent to the town square, which was a relaxing place to enjoy our meal.
On this trip, we decided to return to Rusack. It was a good decision.
Rusack is a short drive from the main section of Los Olivos. They have a spacious tasting room with a patio overlooking rolling, vineyard-covered hills.
The wines are very good. They were out of their Anacapa Cabernet Franc (a favorite of ours), but we enjoyed some very nice wines including their 2015 Rose and 2014 Sauvignon Blanc. Don't tell Rusack this, but their 2013 Ballard Canyon Estate Syrah is a steal at $29 per bottle.
We've stayed at The Hadsten House in Solvang on previous trips and it's been a very nice place for the money. There are more dining options near here, and it's just a short drive to the Los Olivos tasting rooms.
On this trip, we stayed at The Montecito Inn. It's in Montecito, an unincorporated community adjacent to Santa Barbara that's about an hour's drive from Los Olivos. I had been staying there all week because I had been on a business trip, so we decided to extend our stay.
It offers small, but nice guest rooms and is a short walk to the beach and a lot of restaurants. It's also in a very wealthy part of town. On one half-mile walk to dinner we saw seven Porsches, an Aston Martin, and a Bentley!