Leaving Los Angeles: A Brief Guide to Santa Barbara Wine Country
The setting of “Sideways” is every bit as idyllic now as it was then
Far from the madding crowd, the hordes of tourists on Hollywood Boulevard and the interminable traffic that every Los Angeleno loves to hate, is a little slice of paradise called Santa Barbara.
And 45 minutes north of Santa Barbara (via the 101 freeway, or scenic San Marcos Pass) is a region that makes S.B. seem more like L.A., and L.A. more like a dystopian nightmare:
The Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara’s Wine Country.
Yep, it’s the setting of Miles and Jack’s debauched tour in 2004’s cult-classic Sideways. But there’s more to it than pinot noir hangovers and pre-marriage infidelities.
Below, you’ll find our favorite highlights, a best of the best in a region replete with rolling hills covered in ripening vineyards, hamlets so charming you’ll find yourself refreshing your favorite real-estate app all weekend, and a burgeoning gourmet culture that competes with the finest L.A. has to offer.
Stay: The Skyview Los Alamos
If you’ve driven Route 101 from Los Angeles to San Francisco, then you’ve seen the sign to The Skyview Los Alamos. Five slab serif letters, like text on a wanted poster in a Sergio Leone film, with yellow light boxes surrounding them: M-O-T-E-L. You have arrived.
The Skyview is a classic 1950s roadside motor lodge revamped and revitalized for the Instagram generation: think endless vistas, a pool designed for sipping Negronis, and 33 bespoke guest rooms with private patios and more stunning views of wine country. The on-site restaurant, Norman (a nod to everyone’s favorite hotelier, Norman Bates), serves organic local fare paired with the region’s best wines, and the charm of this once-abandoned mid-century icon abounds.
Just try to put your phone away. We dare you.
9150 US-101, Los Alamos, CA 93440
Also check out: The Alamo Motel
Eat: Industrial Eats
Twenty miles south of The Skyview, in Buellton — a town long-known only for the tourist trap that is Pea Soup Anderson’s (worth checking out, but not dining in) — is Industrial Eats, named so because this Zagat-rated wonderland is tucked down a back road called Industrial Avenue.
Understated is an understatement at Eats. This haven of culinary creativity is housed in what is essentially a glorified storage shed next to the owners’ catering headquarters, and fuss is the only thing off-menu.
We’re talking wood-fired pizzas and heads of cauliflower with parmesan, gruyere and breadcrumbs; porchetta tender as a lover’s inner thigh; miso cod with daikon and dashi; and sandwiches that put the “delicacy” back into “delicatessen.”
All of this at a restaurant so down-to-earth you’ll find yourself happily chatting with the strangers seated across from you at the communal tables. Or chatting with the staff, all of whom will gladly walk you through every item on the menu, so long as you leave your ego at the door.
181 Industrial Way, Buellton, CA 93427
Also check out: Root 246
Drink: Sanford Winery
Here’s the problem with “best of” lists: choosing our favorite winery in the Santa Ynez Valley is like being forced to choose a favorite child. They all have their own talents, moods, quirks and pitfalls. And we love them all for (and not despite) these idiosyncrasies.
That said, the Sanford Winery in Lompoc is undoubtedly the golden child. A quick 20-minute drive from the 101 freeway, through endless rows of vineyards (and past plenty of other tasting room), Sanford is the first of its kind in the area, with grounds that reflect its storied history and varietals that’ll have you heading back to the city with a trunk full of clinking bottles.
Start at Sanford and see if you can stop at every back-road vineyard on your way to the Skyview. Just make sure to bring that designated driver.
5010 Santa Rosa Rd, Lompoc, CA 93436
Also check out: Longoria Winery & Tasting Room
Now that you’ve drunk and eaten the finest the region has to offer, it’s time to head home. But no trip to SB’s wine country is complete without stopping for coffee and strudel in the kitsch Danish village of Solvang. Cruise past the windmill on Main Street, stop in at The Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery, buy up, and then drive the scenic shortcut past Lake Cachuma on your way back to the big smoke.
1529 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463
Also check out: The Solvang Wind Harp
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