The Santa Ynez Valley, or “All the Winez”

Last week was one of those weeks where, by Friday evening, I’m rocking back and forth in the fetal position telling myself that everything’s going to be great.

Except in this case, it was true.

After literally running away from my office building on Friday evening, Mike and I drove up to the Santa Ynez Valley—an area of the Central Coast of California that’s a mere 2 ½ hours away and is like a mini Napa Valley.

It’s like a grown-up playground of wine, delicious food, and beautiful scenery. Also wine. Did I mention that?

We got there by 9pm on Friday, and I managed to find myself at The Wandering Dog Wine Bar approximately 10 minutes later.

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Mike decided that skipping dinner was a bad idea after all (yours truly would never do such a thing), so around 10pm, we got the hungry bear a burger next door at  Solvang Brewing Company.

We also had a stalker (and because my phone was nearly dead, there was no flash, but it’s pretty clear who the perpetrator was).

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The next morning, we tried a breakfast place in Los Olivos called Sides Hardware and Shoes. There’s a place in LA like this, where they took over an old hardware store but thought it would be neat to keep the old name (speaking of, do not go to Laurel Hardware thinking you’ll get your apartment key duplicated, not that I’ve done that or anything…).

I had brioche French toast with blueberry compote and maple butter (and real maple syrup, which is always nice), and Mike had something called the kitchen sink omelette.

You can see him dousing everything in hot sauce in the photo.

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We went to about a million wineries  four wineries and did tastings at each. The first stop was at Firestone, where I picked up a bottle of Reisling and am 90% sure the guy who helped us was a distant relative of the dude from The Bachelor. A younger cousin. Accident way-younger brother. Something like that.

After that, we headed over to the Fess Parker Winery, which is my hands-down favorite winery in the Santa Ynez Valley. It’s named after the actor, who played Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone and is the reason why all their glasses have the coonskin cap etched in them. We left with a bottle of port, but I’m still sad that we didn’t also pick up a bottle of their “Big Easy” red. Which means I’ll have to, you know, join their wine club so I can get ALL THE WINES.

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We went to two more wineries after that—Blackjack Ranch and Buttonwood. Buttonwood had some great wines, though we didn’t end up buying any this time around. Blackjack may have been great, but to tell you the truth, I was pretty drunk by that point.

Oops.

After a quick nap to get myself together (and a few bottles of water to rehydrate), we had reservations at a fantastic restaurant called Root 246.

Root 246 has an ever-changing menu (you won’t even find one on their site) that focuses on dishes made from sustainably-grown/raised plants and animals.

It’s also damn delicious.

We shared an appetizer of “macaroni and cheese risotto” (I mean honestly), I had turkey bangers and mash (a healthier nod to my favorite British pub food), and Mike ordered a ribeye served with the world’s largest onion rings. I also had some of the best pinot noir I drank the entire trip—and you’re welcome for the fantastic face I’m making that says, “This is my best attempt at not looking hungover at 8pm.”

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After probably the best sleep I’ve had in a while (a day-drink, an early-evening hangover, and a big dinner will do that to you), we grabbed breakfast. We thought 9:30 was early enough to get a table at Paula’s Pancake House, but the line was already out the door.

I have a thing about waiting for tables at restaurants—in that I don’t do it—but we maybe strolled another block down before we did an about-face and followed the smells of freshly-cooked breakfast to Succulent Café.

I had their short rib hash, which was out of this world. There were huge chunks of short rib beneath poached eggs, cheese, and crispy potatoes. Mike’s breakfast, however, was a little disappointing. He got the special, which was actually just a poorly-described breakfast sandwich. Not bad-tasting, but not enough for the hungry bear.

But fear not—I had ribs to spare. Get it? Ribs? Spare? Spare ribs? Ahem… Moving on.

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We were deciding between more wine tasting and trying something different on Sunday, and our decision was made when we passed by a sign that said “U-Pick Apples.”

I pick apples? YES PLEASE.

It was a small, family-owned apple orchard that had plenty of Gala apples for us to pick, and they even had a few giant pumpkin plants that were about to be in season.

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I’ve already made a batch of spiced apples, and I’ll be sharing a recipe for it soon.

And then we decided that, well, we should go wine tasting again anyway. Because it’s a free country but also because it’s wine country.

We went to a smaller boutique winery (meaning they only sell their wines directly and not in stores) called Shoestring Vineyard & Winery. Their tasting room was in a barrel room, which was a unique experience. Most places have a separate tasting room, but it was neat to see where the wine actually sits to age in barrels.

And here’s an awkward photo that was taken by a nice couple who took a full 30 seconds to take the photo, hence the stale smiles.

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We ended up purchasing a bottle of sangiovese that was a little pricier than the bottles we usually purchase, but it was one of the best wines I’ve ever tasted. It smelled and looked like a port—a little sweet, a little fruity, and reddish brown—but the taste was light but packed with flavor. Definitely worth the purchase.

Once we’d left Shoestring, we decided to head home. We surprisingly didn’t get too much traffic until we hit a weird and abrupt stop. I looked up Sigalert and found no accident reports.

And then we saw the smoke.

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A car had caught fire near Calabasas, and it caused a 170-acre brush fire. ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY ACRES. FROM A CAR.

The fire was still very much burning, and there were firefighters up on the hill actively trying to keep it under control. There were also helicopters bringing in water.

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It was pretty scary-looking (I didn’t even take photos of the worst parts of the fire), but because of the quick and efficient work of the firefighters, there were no serious injuries and no homes were damaged.

That aside, this was a great—albeit brief—break from the city. I love the city I live in, and I love the people in it, but sometimes it’s great to just get away to a place where you get terrible cell service and are forced to enjoy the now.

I highly recommend it.

1 Comment

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One response to “The Santa Ynez Valley, or “All the Winez”

  1. Pingback: Soccer-Learning, Pork Tenderloins, and a Galette |

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