Review: Hotel Ynez Is a Secluded Bungalow Retreat in the Middle of Wine Country
Luxe amenities meet rustic California charm at this highly Instagrammable boutique property
A visit to Santa Barbara wine country means traveling well past Santa Barbara itself and up into the realm of country roads and small-town niceties. Solvang, Los Alamos and Los Olivos, Santa Ynez and plenty of other local destinations dot the exits off the 101 North, sweet little towns suited for a weekend getaway, a wine-tasting excursion or just an excuse to spend a lot of time outside. With vineyards galore, tasting rooms, plenty of excellent restaurants and a bounty of idyllic pastures, lawns, and tree-lined streets, it’s hard to go wrong on a trip up here.
And when it comes to lodging in the region, the Nomada Hotel Group certainly has the blueprint down pat. Their first two properties, the Granada Hotel + Bistro in San Luis Obispo and nearby Skyview in Los Alamos, are careful reinventions of hotels past. Their M.O. is to take historic buildings, or old roadside motels, and lovingly restore them to a more accessible, hip (and infinitely Instagrammable) aesthetic, with service and amenities to match. Somewhere between your rich friend’s house and a decadent social club, these relatively tiny, boutique hotels are helping spotlight a region that has, in the past, occasionally been overlooked.
Hotel Ynez is the latest of their restorations, a new roadside inn on the outskirts of Solvang that’s quickly bringing attention to the tourist destination best known for its Danish-style architecture. Opening this past March, the hotel is spread across two acres that emphasize outdoor gathering, relaxation, and a refined camping feel (don’t worry, there’s not a tent in sight). This property will appeal to nature lovers, those interested in spending lots of time outdoors with no interest in sleeping on the ground, and anyone looking for a place to stay with easy access to Solvang. It’s a rustic chic outpost that provides a nice upgrade to the more traditional lodging in the area. Here’s a rundown of the brand new stay’s highlights.
The entire property is centered around being outdoors — but is still private and secluded
Like its sister property Skyview, the bulk of the hotel’s shared space is a well-manicured outdoor area designed for group activities. Between a brand-new bocce ball court — a welcome trend at recently renovated roadside inns — several fire pits, comfy lounge areas, and lots of outdoor seating, it’s the ideal spot to share a bottle of wine, talk for hours or even get a little active. A secluded lawn on the front side of the property would be perfect for morning yoga, and a small but effective pool is tucked into the opposite corner for sun-bathing and a cool dip after a hard day of wine tasting. Taking it one step further, each of the 18 rooms on the grounds comes with its own massive hammock for hanging across the front patio area. Since the hotel is located in between the city centers of Santa Ynez and Solvang, it’s quiet and secluded without feeling inaccessible. So it can feel like you’re head into the great wide open while staying well within reach of electricity and running water.
Custom BBQ kits provide a truly outdoorsy experience sans any actual “roughing it”
There isn’t a restaurant on-site at Hotel Ynez, at least not yet, so the property has come up with clever ways to help incorporate meals into their outdoor lifestyle concept. Aside from a small but excellently curated gift shop, stocked with wine and other bougie snacks, guests can order a custom BBQ kit with their reservation. The kit includes a small Weber grill used for reheating pre-cooked ribs, a pot of baked beans, and a side of herby, par-cooked grilled vegetables. If you were wise enough to stop at Bob’s Well Bread in Los Alamos on the drive in, throw some slices of that fantastic sourdough on the grill to round out the meal. Then, sit under the stars and dig into a very Wine Country feast: accompanying the ribs with a bottle of hearty red should do the trick. Actually, you might need an additional bottle for sitting around the fire after dinner.
The rustic-chic aesthetic is a breath of fresh air in a more traditional, sometimes-kitschy area
I’m not a fan of the phrase “tourist trap,” as it seeks to diminish the appeal of popular areas simply because they’re well trafficked. That said, there is sometimes a certain lack of refinement that often goes hand-in-hand with ultra popular destinations like Solvang, which tends toward the kitschy due to its Danish-influenced buildings and decor. For those who prefer a moment of elegance in the midst of an adorable little vacation town, Hotel Ynez offers just that. The beautifully laid-out gardens look stunning in morning, afternoon and evening light, and gravel pathways, a massive, mythical-feeling tree and finishing touches like fruit trees and fringed umbrellas round out the property’s appeal. Even if, for some reason, you don’t have a great trip … it will look like you did, based on your surroundings alone.
The rooms feel like little bungalows, even though they’re not detached
In the past, sound-proofing and privacy weren’t the primary concern of roadside motel developers. If you’ve recently stayed in an older motel, this will become readily apparent. So aside from the fact that the rooms are redone with wicker furniture, cream-colored rugs, and lots of polished wood, the quiet is also a phenomenal feature. The blocks of rooms are split into two groups, facing each other across the property, but they might as well be standalone bungalows for how little noise we heard from other guests during our stay. Whatever renovation budget went into keeping neighboring hotel guests on good terms was very well spent. Oh, and the velvety Mascioni sheets were the cherry on top.
Located in the heart of Santa Barbara wine country, the region’s name speaks for itself
A visit to Solvang or Santa Ynez without corresponding trips to nearby wineries and tasting rooms would be incomplete. Whether you’ve got the palate of a sommelier or are just starting out in distinguishing pinot noir from pinot gris, the winemakers in this area offer accessible, welcoming tasing experiences that are not to be missed. The obvious front-runner in the area is Sunstone Winery, with an enormous, beautiful lawn for tastings and a fleet of wines that put most of the competition to shame. For a quieter, more laidback experience, check out Buttonwood Farm Winery and Vineyard in Solvang. After checking in at the front gate, take your tasting and meander out into the farm’s secluded garden to drink and commune with living things. That’s exactly what wine country is all about — booze and beautiful landscapes.
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