No need to head up to Napa for the weekend when one of California’s most inviting wine regions is right on your doorstep — figuratively, anyway, with the tiny, storybook town Los Olivos a 125-mile, two-hour drive from Los Angeles. Located off Highway 101 and surrounded by vineyards, lavender farms, ranches and horse trails in the heart of Santa Ynez wine country, the setting is postcard-perfect. Once a 19th-century stagecoach stop, The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern has been a fixture here since 1886 but recently debuted a complete remodel and expansion, making it the toniest stay in town. The historic property is now a member of the Auberge Resorts Collection, which meticulously modernized its four original cottages, adding 67 freestanding guest rooms, a spa and event venue. The result is a California luxury resort done oh so right.
What’s the Story?
A social hub for Santa Ynez locals — and a watering hole for stagecoach travelers between San Francisco and Los Angeles — for more than a century, Mattei’s was established by Swiss immigrant Felix Mattei during California’s boomtown days. Owners came and went throughout the years, although its original Craftsman-style structures and signature water tower were thankfully maintained, both of which Auberge has preserved beautifully. Dotted with old-growth palms, the original era of the property is ever-present: think California ranch but make it luxury, with a seamless connection to the landscape and an indoor-outdoor vibe that is decidedly low-key.
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Fans of the modern farmhouse style will love Mattei’s. Light-filled with exposed wood-beam ceilings, vintage furniture, fireplaces and four-poster beds, the resort’s 67 guest houses and four original cottages (added in 1910) were designed by New York studio AvroKO and Auberge director of design Nicole Campion. Zellige tiles and unlacquered brass fixtures adorn the bathrooms, while in-room perks include Nespresso machines and private outdoor patios and porches with lounge chairs — ideal for that morning coffee or evening glass of wine.
With five separate places to eat and drink on the property, Mattei’s is a bona-fide destination dining experience. Executive chef Rhoda Magbitang (who worked with José Andrés and the James Beard Award-winning Suzanne Goin at the Chateau Marmont and Petit Ermitage, respectively) oversees the culinary program, which is inspired by regional ranch cooking and skews “local California.” Expect plenty of fresh-from-the-garden salads and hearty but refined wood-fired dishes. Each concept has an interior to match the mood. With its leather club chairs and Wild West details (look for the antique horseshoes), The Bar is a fine place for a historically-inspired cocktail (try the signature Old Fashioned, “Old Gus Berg,” named after Felix Mattei’s right-hand man), while the airy, all-day restaurant The Tavern has a vine-covered trellis to dine underneath. Felix Feed & Coffee is a European-style coffee bar and bakery for pastries and all-day breakfast. Hidden within the grounds are Gin’s Tap Bar, named after the Tavern’s longtime Chinese chef, with a menu that features Shanghai-style bites like duck wontons and shrimp toast. The Shed serves fresh, Mediterranean-inspired fare poolside.
Auberge Resorts are known for creating one-of-a-kind experiences that tap into the essence of a location, and The Inn at Mattei’s does not disappoint. As to be expected in wine country, there are tastings and a paella night, plus an olive oil infusion workshop where you’ll make a bottle to take home using ingredients from the garden. Off the property, there are self-guided e-bike tours, a llama farm tour and the Los Vaqueros trail ride through the Santa Ynez Valley. If creating your own tintype portrait with artist-in-residence Lindsey Ross appeals, you’ll need to book a spot in one of her sessions between October and December.
For rest and relaxation, there’s a weekly roster of fitness classes (barre, yoga, Pilates) and a small but intentional menu of bodywork services and facials at The Cottage where you can chill on the spa deck or soak in the hot tub post-treatment. Opening early next year, The Lavender Barn will offer a more comprehensive seasonal spa menu using the Oak Essentials skincare line by California designer Jenni Kayne, as well as six more treatment rooms, including a couple’s-only room that opens onto a secluded outdoor space anchored by two horse-trough tubs for bathing.
There’s a Surf Air Private Jet Package, Too
If you absolutely, positively have to arrive by private jet, want to hit Napa as well and have a spare $25,000 floating around, there’s an option for that: Mattei’s Tavern (and its sister property, Stanly Ranch) launched a partnership with Surf Air that can whisk you between both locations. You’ll spend two nights at Mattei’s Tavern enjoying tours, tastings and chef-driven dinners before hopping on a private Surf Air flight from an airfield in Santa Ynez to Napa, where you’ll spend the next two days and nights enjoying NorCal wine country à la Stanly Ranch.
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