Santa Ynez valley a haven for pleasure seekers
Serenely tucked above Santa Barbara and a few miles inland is lush, pastoral Santa Ynez Valley, settled by the Spaniards in 1804 with a garden-set mission and in 1911 by Danish Americans who pushed out from the boundaries of Mission Santa Inez to establish the “Little Denmark” community of Solvang.
Six communities and (within them) six distinct personalities dot the oak-studded valley. Famous residences from the late Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch to Ronald Reagan's Rancho del Cielo have brought some notoriety to the area. But, it was the 2004 movie “Sideways” that put the local prestige wine industry on the map, capturing the area's rural allure imbued with ample sophisticated pleasures.
Home Base In Solvang
The best known and largest destination in the valley is Solvang, which makes an ideal central touring location for all points. The quaint, walk-friendly village — known for mouth-watering Danish baked goods, Old World architecture — is a short pastoral drive away from the smaller, frontier-style communities of Los Olivos, Ballard, Santa Ynez, Buellton and Los Alamos.
The recently-renovated Hadsten House inn, spa and restaurant makes an ideal overnight spot for exploring the town or side tripping. French furnishings and a day spa make the European-style hostelry a top choice.
Park your car and wander the pedestrian-friendly village, offering quaint shops, bakeries like the famed Olsen's Danish Village Bakery, petite parks, a Wednesday night Farmer's Market and a summer outdoor theater. This summer marks the 46th season of the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts (PCPA) Theaterfest, a 700-seat theater under the stars that runs from June through September.
New to Solvang are some notable eateries that rival the well-known Danish smorgasbords. Root 246 in downtown Solvang, adjacent to Hotel Corque, is Chef Bradley Ogden's latest innovation in organic, local cuisine.
Cupcakes And Wine
Gourmet decadence sums up a day of touring and tasting the best of Santa Ynez Valley's wine country tasting rooms — especially when you pair your last sips with gourmet cupcakes laced with mango Chardonnay or blackberry Syrah. Wine-tasting tours abound in the valley that holds more than 70 boutique wineries cradled within 23,000 acres draped in lush vines and oaks. However, this tour offered by Santa Barbara Adventure Company has added its own brand of wine-tasting excitement.
Santa Barbara Adventure's air-conditioned van with knowledgeable guide picks up guests at Santa Barbara and valley hotels. The tour makes stops at several wine tasting and vineyard spots, pausing along the way for a deli picnic lunch. A final stop at Enjoy Cupcakes and Saarloos & Sons wine tasting room in Los Olivos is the ultimate in decadence — six miniature cupcakes paired with prestige wines. Tour is offered Thursday through Sunday.