The Santa Ynez Valley

Much like the locations it features, Rachel Thurston’s soon-to-be-released travel guide is brimming with beauty, culture, and history. Featuring rich, bold images from Brooks Institute’s Chuck Place, The Beautiful Santa Ynez Valley falls somewhere between coffee-table book and well-organized brochure. But topping out at a mere 65 pages, Thurston’s ode to the valley is the perfect accompaniment for any weekend traveler not in the know. Starting Thursday, November 29, The Beautiful Santa Ynez Valley will be available at Borders Books, Chaucer’s, and online at Here are some reasons why you should check it out:

1) Brush up on your history. Thurston’s nostalgic writing style and anecdotal accounts of the valley’s many historical happenings perfectly define Santa Ynez’s quaint charm. And a chronologically organized chapter on the valley’s many communities provides some new facts about old favorites (only 8 percent of Solvang dwellers claim Danish ancestry!), and introductions to the places so many overlook (see Thurston’s tale of the founding of Ballard).

2) Eat, drink, and be satiated. Along with a fairly lengthy glimpse into what makes Santa Ynez Valley winemakers tick, Thurston’s book highlights how valley wineries mix small-town charm with big tourist draw to create a cultural presence all their own. Add to that a “by-the-numbers” page of wine facts for beginners, and a guide to valley eateries that is guaranteed to make mouths water, and we have little doubt your next trip up the coast won’t include a few extra stops.

3) Pictures worth a thousand words. With the help of friend, teacher, and accomplished photog Chuck Place, Thurston’s stories come alive. The warm, color-filled images that fill the pages of The Beautiful Santa Ynez Valley capture harvest season in all its glory, featuring shots ranging from ranch pastorals to the social mecca that is Maverick’s Bar and Saloon on a Friday night. Friendly, picturesque, and a close drive to boot? We’re sold.


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