“What I felt that was missing in the Santa Ynez Valley was the equivalent of an English pub,” says Anna Arrowsmith, a London-raised former adult film director and gender studies expert who took over the former home of Wandering Dog last summer and reopened the Solvang location as Arrowsmith’s Wine Bar in the fall. “That British pub vibe without the theme,” concurs her husband, Tim Arrowsmith, who was born outside of Manchester and runs his family’s labeling and packaging business. “We wanted to have a little bit of what we missed.”
That vibe, they explained, is welcoming to all sorts of people — especially single women who want a glass of wine on their way home from work — and so friendly in nature that folks of disparate backgrounds and viewpoints can find common ground over good drink. “I love when I see that,” said Anna of when she notices complete strangers striking up a conversation in her bar. “You’ve made them comfortable enough.”
She’s uniquely qualified at making human beings comfortable, and in much more stressful settings. As Britain’s first female porn director in the late 1990s — when the genre was still technically illegal there — Anna Span, as she was known then, made such films from a female perspective, winning multiple awards and critical acclaim for challenging that industry’s male-focused standards. She parlayed her work into academia, earning degrees in the study of feminism and masculinity, writing a book, and eventually teaching gender studies courses at UCSB.
That’s what brought the Arrowsmiths to the Santa Ynez Valley in 2017, when they bought a home and a small vineyard. Those grapes have become the soul of an eponymous wine project with winemaker Ariki Hill — for sale at the bar, of course. But they’d moved to Pasadena a few years earlier, having become enamored with the state during a visit to celebrate Anna’s 40th birthday in 2014.
When a “For Sale” sign popped up in front of Wandering Dog in 2020, Anna snapped into action. “We thought someone else was going to screw it up,” she explained. That popular wine bar on Highway 246 in the heart of the Danish-themed town had been run since 2007 by CT and Jody Williams, who are now focused on Broken Clock Vinegar Works.
As it is for many Europeans, the Arrowsmiths grew up with wine as an everyday part of life, so they know the Old World well. While there’s plenty of Central Coast wine to be had, they’ve expanded the bar’s international selections to reflect their own global interests, and the retro advertising posters on the walls amplify such globetrotting. “They’re little nods to places we’ve been, or places of significance for us,” said Tim.
No matter where the wine comes from, though, both Tim and Anna must approve of each bottle for it to make their menu. They serve 47 wines by the glass — from falanghina made in Campania and Greek rosé to Santa Maria Valley pinot noir and Paso Robles malvasia bianca — and offer $15 tastings of three to five wines. “We like variety,” said Tim, whose list changes weekly. “We like offering interesting, sometimes quirky wines.” Like Wandering Dog, Arrowsmith’s features a wine club, and its four levels are named after their five canine companions, ranging in price from $120 to $480 per shipment.
There are 23 beers as well, including three on tap, almost all of which are European, and Intelligentsia coffee for a hot drink. The small food menu is vegetarian and meant to share. “We want to be the place where people come for a fresh veggie bite in between the big brunch at their hotel and a steak dinner at night,” said Anna, a vegetarian herself.
Opening amid the pandemic is allowing the Arrowsmiths to dial in their offerings, and they look forward to offering live music and other public events, like speakers on philosophy or other subjects, which is common in pub culture. But they’re already pleased to see familiar faces of locals as well as return traffic from tourists who escape Los Angeles on the weekends. “We’ve been getting a lot of that,” said Anna, “and it’s lovely.”
1539 C Mission Dr., Solvang; (805) 686-9126; arrowsmithwine.com