los alamos wine trail
Lets be honest, anywhere that has to do with wine can typically be a bit pretentious and less down-to-earth than you'd expect from the artisan spirit. Thankfully, there is a connected community of artisans tucked away in the hills of the Las Alamos wine trail. After visiting, It seems they agree and have set out to change that. At least for now. Being a very sleepy area the audience that shows up to support this effort will have a lot to do with the personality of its future.
For now its just a great southwest getaway with direct flights right into Santa Maria. Or an add-on for someone visiting Southern California as far north as Santa Barbra. Regardless of how you get to the area you have to start in Los Alamos. You must, it really is the launch-pad for the wine trail. And it starts with a stay at Skyview Motel. Perched on the hillside overlooking the little story-book-town you have a motel renovation to perfection. Now more of a hotel/motel with comfy rooms facing a fire-pitted courtyard. With a beautiful observation deck to watch the sunset and a fantastic modern style diner, Normans, next to the pool. Think Ace Hotel style vibe without the crowd. And they even have their own little vineyard serving-up their own red. Anywho, jump-in the pool, cool off and get ready for dinner with your leather slip ons.
Just down the hill, a walk or drive, you have the small strip of Los Alamos. A beautiful back-in-time scene with rustic 1960's character. You just don't see it anymore and especially not with a modern touch of style thats accenting during your stay. So for din the word everywhere is Bell's and deservingly so Im sure. But I personally had my eye on Pico and was very pleased. The approachability, the storefront, the indoor ambiance, friendly service and the wonderful piece of meat washed down with an Old Fashioned. It all just made sense to me. But before or after dinner you can try some local refreshments at the zinfully manicured grounds of Bodege. A must stop if even just for a short browse. Then just back up the hill a night cap by the pool.
The mornings are beautiful with a cup of coffee on the observation deck. Then a couple steps over to Normans for a light breakfast. Which by the way, holds it own for great food. Then it was time to hit the road. A dreamy-like drive through the hills on the way to Los Olivos. You could plan for a tasting at one of the Vineyards but really the town of Los Olivos is a tasting village. And a great lunch spot after a stroll around town. If your lucky there will be someone strumming the guitar live during your lunch at Merchant Cafe. After a day well spent, in the slow and friendly atmosphere, its back on road just a little south for the next stay.
So, Santa Ynez is like another Los Alamos just a little busier. There's some Inn's to choose from but it's really a no-brianer to go with Skyviews sister spot just outside town. Hotel Ynez, another hotel/motel style, is really just another version of Skyview in a field without an eatery. It's extended courtyard is fantastic with tree cover shade, games, fire-pits and a pool to cool off. Really a very welcoming end to the day. But there's still dinner to discuss. And again I brake protocol a bit. The must really is SY Kitchen back in town. But because I was out of time I wanted to extend my experience just down the street in Solvang.
Now, Solvang is kinda the record scratching, but in a good way. Its in its own world, literally a Danish town in the hills of California. A bustling little village-of-a-town. But what caught my eye was The Landsby's Hotel eatery Mad & Vine. Going from rustic and into modern, but still with a woody ambiance with a new extended bar room. And the food was great. The area also has a great brunch spot. So you could approach the town as a breakfast stop also. I would have actually taken this approach in the morning. But one last "must" was outstanding to end the trail before my flight. And with that a nightcap back at the fire pit.
A slow morning with coffee, a provided breakfast snack and some last pool time. Then off to end the trail looping back to the Santa Maria airport. But first I had plans for an 11:00am opening for lunch. Looping back you go through the town of Buellton home to Industrial Eats. I had to make it quick to catch my plane so I'll just say this, a very cool spot and a solid--must. Plan to spend some time and enjoy if you can. As for the food, well for the first time I was "that guy" carrying a second half of a sandwich onto the plane. Yeah, that good.
Pro Tip: If your a fan of Limoncello ask for the owners home-brew for desert at Pico. And if you're on a budget and/or things get sold-out, consider basecamp from Buelton or Solvang. But do start with Los Alamos.
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