Day 4: A Day in Santa Ynez Valley

For a delightful day excursion, experience the Santa Ynez Valley. A short and scenic thirty-minute drive from Santa Barbara, “the Valley” is home to dozens of wineries. The region's wines have received world-renowned recognition. The vineyards showcase both specialty wine makers and larger vineyards. The scenic beauty of the area with its dramatic mountains, valleys, and oak trees is a striking contrast to Santa Barbara's coastline. Tasting rooms range from rustic to romantic to grand. Before you head up to the valley, we suggest you stop in at Cest Cheese on 825 Santa Barbara Street, where you will find an impressive selection of cheeses and crackers to compliment the wines you are soon about to sample. They have all the makings for a lovely picnic. There are two main wine trails, The Foxen Canyon Wine Trail and The Santa Ynez Valley Wine Trail, which allow you to visit numerous wineries without too much driving. You could also go to the town of Los Olivos, which has many tasting rooms and art galleries. The Foxen Canyon Wine Trail is a two-lane road that winds through the hills of golden grass and majestic oaks, and is an “old California landscape” experience. For a map and listings of the wine trails, look in the Santa Ynez/Los Olivos section. If you are in Los Olivos for dinner or lunch, we highly recommend The Los Olivos Café, which offers Mediterranean cuisine, picnic baskets, gourmet retail items, wine, and wine tasting. Just a short drive from Los Olivos is Santa Ynez, a one-time frontier and ranch town founded in the 1800’s. This quaint town is home to several excellent restaurants, such as the Vineyard House, as well as wonderful boutiques and specialty shops. Also nearby is the very “Hans Christian Anderson-like” village of Solvang. On your way to the Valley or on your way back to Santa Barbara stop at Cold Spring Tavern. About halfway between the city and the Valley, this one-time stagecoach stop is very rustic in appearance, yet serves gourmet cuisine, including wild game and fresh seafood. Just adjacent to the restaurant is a great old western-style bar. On the weekends, check out some of the best local music around, along with dozens of “Harley” riders who make this their weekly pilgrimage. Should you feel like splurging and leaving the driving to a professional, consider being chauffeured from Santa Barbara throughout the Wine Country for a carefree day. We recommend Santa Barbara Limousine at 964-5466.