We are winding up our Flash Tour of the Central Coast and Beyond in Santa Barbara County. This was our final day of fun, before we made the drive home to Vegas. This final day allowed us a little less driving.
Day 5 Solvang, Santa Barbara County and Los Olivos
Day 5 started with a stroll of the charming city of Solvang in the morning. The sun was out, the temperature was just right and it was the perfect way to start the day. Nestled in the middle of Santa Barbara County, Solvang feels like you have stepped into another world. This historic Danish Village in the middle of California was founded by Danish-Americans in 1911. Solvang translates to “sunny field” in Danish. The town has embraced the Danish Architecture and the town is dotted with windmills. The streets are enchanting and you can find aebleskivers (a Danish dessert that is like a donut hole) at many restaurants. If you enjoy shopping or window shopping, you will be in heaven. There is a store for everything here. Walking the town you will find courtyards and corners to explore. Or you can rent a bicycle or a 4-wheeled surrey! They have an outdoor theatre, the Solvang Festival Theatre that runs productions throughout the summer. Every Wednesday there is a Farmers Market in Solvang Park in the afternoons. There are great restaurants, wine tasting rooms and really, something for everyone.
Foxen Canyon to the Santa Maria Bench
We finished our walk and got in the car again to head up into Foxen Canyon. With over 200 wineries, 6 AVAs, and over 21,000 acres of vineyards Santa Barbara County has quite a bit of area to explore. We had limited time so we headed north from Solvang. We took Ballard Canyon Road though the Ballard Canyon AVA which is known for it’s Syrah, and noticed that Larner Vineyard had netted for birds. As the fruit starts to sweeten the birds like to feast so the green netting helps to keep them out and save the fruit. At the top of the Canyon we stopped for another gorgeous view from above Saarloos & Sons beautiful Windmill Ranch Vineyard.
Foxen Canyon Road is a beautiful drive with the San Rafael Mountains on the right and views of Firestone, Curtis (where Andrew Murray has his winery) and Koehler Vineyards as you round the curve to meet with Zaca Station Road. This is a perfect drive to get a sense of the sweeping area that Santa Barbara County covers.
We had some vines to visit at Riverbench to see how they were growing. Back in 2014 we watched as they planted a new front block. Still in Santa Barbara County, this does take you into the Santa Maria AVA. You can see below how much these vines have grown since we saw them as babies in 2014.
We continued into the Santa Maria AVA to see how Bien Nacido Vineyard was doing after the Alamo fire. The Whittier fire pulled much of the fire department away and vineyard staff worked very hard to keep the vines at Bien Nacido safe. This is a revered vineyard and you will find it’s name on some of the best labels. We met Chris Hammell their vineyard manager at a Syrah Seminar. While they are known for their Pinot Noir, they are also growing some amazing Syrah. You can hear Chris talk about it here.
From here we headed back to Los Olivos where you can find the largest selection of Santa Barbara County Tasting rooms within walking distance of each other. After a walk about town we headed to Crawford Family Wines for a tasting. We had met Mark Horvath, owner and winemaker a while ago at a Syrah Seminar at the Spring Vintners Festival and had wanted to get by to taste his wines. His wife Wendy was manning the tasting room and we had a great conversation and tasting with her.
We stopped at Larner for a tasting and to have lunch out front on the patio in front of the Los Olivos General Store. This sits on the corner of Grand Avenue and Alamo Pintado Avenue by the flagpole in the center of town. You get the view of Andrew Murray’s Tasting Room across the street among others.
We then finished out the day at the best place to finish your day in Los Olivos, Carhartt’s. It’s just down the block on Grand Ave. They stay open a little later than the other tasting rooms and get pretty busy at the end of the day. They have the tiniest tasting room (you can squish 5 people in if you try really hard, but the back patio here has a bit more space and is heaven. Joe, as always, took great care of us.
As you can see, we had to gloss over most areas. You could easily spend 2 to 3 days or more in each area. We put almost 2000 miles on the Prius, but we tasted a variety of wines and saw an amazing portion of the beautiful state of California. Day 6 was the drive back to Vegas. We soaked in as much of the coast as we could on the drive. But this was just the quick version of the trip. Check back here as we delve into the details on each of the places we visited.