The long holiday weekend is over, the turkey’s been picked
clean, and the visitors are gone. Now it’s time to get out of the
house for some fresh air.
How about a drive through the gorgeous Santa Ynez
Valley? Only about 45 minutes or so from Santa
Barbara. If you get up early enough you can join the cowboys,
ranchers, cowbabes, and resident celebrities who gather for
breakfast at the bustling Longhorn Café in the
town of Santa Ynez.
I suggest an early lunch at Sam Marmorstein’s
Café, where scenes from the hit movie Sideways were
filmed and where Jack, Miles, Maya, and Stephanie had a wine-soaked
meal. Try Sam’s own chardonnay or pinot. Or put on the feedbag at
the nearby Patrick’s Side Street Café. Hit an art gallery or
When you mention the Santa Ynez Valley, most people think
wine tasting. And indeed you can wander around Los
Olivos sipping the nectar of the gods. Or grab one of the wine country maps and
drive from winery to winery (there are 70 of them), tasting and no
doubt buying. But tasting means just that. You take a sip, roll it
around in your mouth, savor it, then spit it into a container. You
do not want to drive the curving lanes of the valley with a brain
full of alcohol, do you? You can find a list of the wineries at the
Santa Ynez Valley
Visitors Association Web site and lots of other info on what to
do. Even many Santa Barbarans don’t realize that the valley is
apple country. This time of the year you’re liable
to find Granny Smith’s on roadside tables along Alamo
Pintado. Take the road south from Los Olivos.
To really get the country feel, take a drive along Happy
Canyon Road, off Highway 154, as horses frolic in the
meadows and red-tailed hawks circle above. Get out your cameras.
Don’t miss the Ballard School, still in use and
dating to 1882, in the little hamlet of Ballard. If you’re lucky
you might be able to get a dinner reservation at the Ballard Inn and
Restaurant, a high-end B&B. Owner-chef Budi
Kazali specializes in French-Asian dishes.
And it would really be a last-minute coup this weekend to get a
room at Alisal
Ranch. There you can ride over hill and dale
across the 10,000-acre ranch, swim, golf, go boating in the lake,
or just laze around and listen for the dinner bell. No hunting is
allowed at Alisal, so deer will gaze at you, unafraid as you ride
by. Opt for the breakfast ride. (Alisal is not a cheap stay. But
what a stay it is.) Easier on the budget is Rancho Oso, where
you can ride your horse or theirs, and rent a bunk or a covered
wagon. The ranch is on Paradise Road, off San Marcos Pass.
If you’re really on a Sideways kick, try, and I mean
try, to get a table at the Hitching Post, on Highway 246, owned by
winemaker Frank Ostini. That’s where Jack and Miles spent some time
sipping his Highliner pinot. Sirloin and ostrich are on the menu.
Or there’s the Brothers’ Restaurant at the old Mattei’s Tavern, owned
by vintner and county supervisor Brooks Firestone. It’s been a Los
Olivos fixture since Felix Mattei and his wife Lucy arrived in town
in 1886 and built a small hotel/restaurant.
I promise, you won’t drive back home hungry after your day (or
days) in the Santa Ynez Valley.