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Santa Ynez and Paso Robles

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Hello friends. Going up to Santa Ynez for a few days and then from there to Paso Robles to drive through the rambling green hills and peek at some wineries. Looking to hear about any and eateries/wineries that you think should not be missed. Thoughts on Guadalupe, Santa Maria, Los Alamos etc. Also, any recommendations for sleeping in or around Paso that is not a antiseptic hotel. Thanks. Petra

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  1. It is VERY green right now, in both places- and the poppies are everywhere!!

    Wednesday is the Farmers Market in Solvang- yum.

    Santa Ynez- Red Barn for lunch or dinner. Volare is a new deli, and also in the Rio Market- there is a guy doing "organic mexican"...I hear it is pretty good. Quite a few wineries ply their wares at Santa Ynez Inn now.

    Solvang- there are 15 wineries/tastings in town now. Epicurian Picnic is doing pretty good business. I love the Solvang Bakery- great sandwiches there. El Rancho has a huge deli/to go bar- IMO expensive. Panino has a great beer selection- great sandwiches.

    Los Olivos- Matteis is a must. The bar has a great menu, as does the restaurant- we prefer the bar- great atmosphere and vibe. JC is the bartender - AWESOME martinis. Los Olivos Grocery- anything you need and then some- I prefer the paninis to their sandwiches.

    Wineries in SYV- Beckman/great picnic area. Kalyra has great views and a fun vibe. Cold Heaven in Los Alamos/Viognier and Pinots- in cahoots with ABC Winery(good sign)...Avoid Sanford and try ALMA ROSA, the Sanfords new winery. The old place has been purchased and stripped of its soul and winemaker. Alma Rosa is in Buellton, on Industrial Way.

    For a nice drive- check your map for DRUM CANYON...it goes from HWY 246 W of Buellton over the hill in to Los Alamos- it'll take about 15 extra minutes- but will make you feel miles ahead!!

    5 Replies
    1. re: JalamaMama

      Thanks for the back road tip - we will take this when we go visit Bedford Thompson. Any words on Lompoc?

      1. re: Petra

        They have a great Farmers Market on Fridays- at 3pm or so. Lots of vendors and food too. The Mission is awesome there! As far as good food goes..well Taco Loco on W Ocean is my all time favorite mexican food. Sushi Teri on E Ocean is very good, I had a calamari marinated salad there, which was outstanding. Toms Burgers on E College, they have A thru Z Burgers. The agriculture on the W end of Ocean is awesome- probably full of stock and delphiniums- the beach is "closed" for the most part, both surf and Ocean Beach- due to the plovers.

        1. re: JalamaMam

          I'd be remiss if I let this response go by without mentioning Sissy's Uptown Cafe - on south I street - without a doubt the best wine list in Lompoc and probably one of the best within 50 miles. All the hard to get local stuff is available, both in their wine shop and in the dining room. And it's well priced, too. Great lunches and dinners in a neat atmosphere - true wine country dining.
          I highly recommend it.

          1. re: JalamaMam

            Thanks for the Lompoc tips. Sissy's sounds great as does Taco Loco. We will definitely stop on our way to the dunes at Guadalupe. I would love to do the Farmer's Mkt. but I don't think we will make it....

            1. re: petra

              Hope you are going to Oso Flaco- that is my favorite this time of year! In Guadalupe, my favorite is La Simpitia, second the Falafel place- King Falafel? You can reach Guadalupe via Los Alamos using 135 to 1, another great drive.

      2. There's a terrific place in Los Alamos called "American Flatbread." It's only open on the weekends, so get there really early. Just flatbreak pizzas, salads and desserts....also wine & beer.
        In Los Olivos, Patrick's Side Street Cafe is always good. And for Italian, in Santa Ynez, Grappolo is excellent.
        Lots of great wineries--are you looking for smaller, lesser known places or bigger ones?
        In Paso, check out Justin winery--they've got a very small inn (three suites?) and a lovely little restaurant. Nice people, very good wines.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Elaine

          Thanks Elaine for the good tips - we have heard about American Flatbread and perhaps this visit we will stop in. Interested in smaller, lesser known places....any other tips for Paso? Have you stayed at Justin?
          What did you have at Grappolo? The last time we were there our waiter recommended the 'ek', we couldn't understand what he was saying. He then started describing a hunting expedition he had taken with his buddies and we realized the 'ek' was elk...a really good 'ek' bolognese.

          1. re: Petra

            Haven't had the "ek", but will try it when I go up there later this week! They do lovely thin crusted pizzas, very good pastas. Actually, I've been happy with everything I've had at Grappolo.
            Don't know as much about Paso, though I love zins and need to explore that area more. I haven't stayed at Justin, but I've tasted there and belonged to their wine club. It's a lovely setting and the owners and staff are very nice. It's more of an "out of the way" place to stay, certainly not within walking distance to anything but vines!

        2. My personal faves in SYV:


          2nd the reco for Brothers at Mattei's in Los Olivos

          Ballard Store in Ballard: Haven't been in years but they used to have amazing brunches on weekends.


          Au Bon Climat: Winery is not open to the public but you can taste at Santa Ynez Inn Wine Cellar in SY

          Foxen: On Foxen Canyon. My favorite Pinots in the world!

          Rancho Sisquoc: Off Foxen Canyon

          Andrew Murray: I think the Tasting Room is in Los Olivos, but the last time I was there, the winery was open (on Foxen Canyon), and the the grounds are spectacular.

          1 Reply
          1. re: LCY

            Ballard Store, has been out of business for several years- and had been NU UVA, a off shoot of Restaurant NU in SB. Shuttered.

            Thanks for bringing up Ballard- it's the new Ballard Inn, that you need to visit- a VERY excellant choice, had my annivesary dinner there- intimate and wonderful- thoughfull menu and awesome desserts- at the price you'd pay for lesser fare elsewhere. I recommend this HIGHLY.

            Andrew Murray is indeed in Los Olivos with a tasting room- the winery itself has been sold- to a greek winemaker and his family. The Murray family have been in the hospitality business for a long time, do not let this fool you into thinking the are over- it is a new direction.

            Foxen and further N on Foxen Canyon- Rancho Sisquoc- both worth the visit, if you like rustic buildings, rural roads and great wines in fantastic settings. Chenin Blanc is a personal Foxen favorite!

          2. t
            The Original Diana

            I like Rombauer Winery in Santa Ynez.

            I found Foxen to be really awful wine last time I was there.

            I second kalyra, especially the prot and any muscat they have available.

            1. Villa Creek in Paso Robles has terrific food. They call it Spanish/Mission-Californian. Well done and nice wine list.
              Tablas Creek has good wine... out west of Paso Robles.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Meena

                Villa Creek is almost 2 hours north of SYV

              2. I was just in the Santa Ynez area and visited 9 wineries. Adding these to the several that I visited last August, I'm getting a good sense of the wines in the area. Also, traveling with a few people, I've come to realize that 3 people can have diametrically opposed tastes, so without really knowing your tastes for wine, it's really difficult to make any solid recommendations. I had another great learning experience, especially having more people to talk to during tastings, and getting a lot of good information from the winemakers themselves.

                Some observations from the latest experience from the wineries that were visited:

                Gainey: Everyone seemed to like the dry Riesling, but nothing else stood out, many wines tasting like the fruit was too young. Nice place to sit for a picnic near 154/246.

                Kalyra: Not a lot stood out, except for the dessert wines (the orange muscat, and the tawny port from Australia). This place seems to draw a fairly young crowd, and I'm not sure if it was the timing, but it definitely had the most "party" atmosphere of the wineries we visited.

                Rusack: Everyone loved the sauvignon blanc, and most of the other wines here. The pinot noirs and the sangiovese also got the thumbs up with some disagreements as to which pinot was better. A really high-quality small winery and one of the loveliest locations in the Ballard valley.

                Andew Murray (downtown Los Olivos): They had two different tastings here, one for $7 and one for $10 (the $10 tasting included a rimless spieglow glass). Everyone thought the wines here were all high-quality. Even the proclaimed syrah-hater liked some of the syrahs here. One, I believe, was a Syrah/Viognier blend that stood out. The sole tender was far too busy to answer questions for us, but although we liked the wines, we thought the prices were over our limit.

                Melville: Might have been the favorite winery of the trip. Learned quite a lot about terroir here as we tasted two viogniers, one made with estate grapes (Santa Rita hills) and another from the larger growing area around Los Alamos. Both were thought to be quite good, but the estate (Santa Rita) produced a better rounded wine. Our pourer explained that both wines were made in exactly the same manner, except the grapes were from two different growing areas. The pinot noirs were also pretty top-quality. This was the one place we were tempted to buy something out of our price range.

                Foley: We visited Foley in August, but we wanted to see their new tasting room which opened in December. Nice big space, right off 246. The 2005 wines didn't seem to have the quality of the 2004 wines that were tasted earlier. The standout then was the rose, which was still quite good, but wasn't the big winner as it was last year. Another thought it was one of the best roses ever tasted (without having sampled too many roses, however).

                As we roamed around Solvang a bit, we tried a few tasting rooms there and were very suprised by the quality of wines we found there.

                Mandolina: Specializes in Italian wines, and a good change of pace from the usual suspects of the region. The hit was the rosato which is made from nebbiolo and barbera grapes. The sangiovese was a hit with one, but not with the others. It was interesting to get a sense of how these Italian grapes might change profiles in the local climate. They seemed to show different characteristics from the Piemont wines of Italy.

                Presidio: Good sampling of wines for the $5 tasting fee. Most were pretty well-liked. One unusual wine was the late harvest zinfandel dessert wine. Dryer, less sweet from those syrupy dessert wines, it was a nice departure.

                Lucas and Lewellen: There were three different tastings here. The cabernets were generally well-liked. Cabernet franc also got high marks. Under the same ownership as Mandolina, we got a discount on the tasting (after tasting at Mandolina), and we were recommended the petit syrah from Lucas Lewellin. Also very well liked. Sauvignon blanc was also well liked. They seem to do pretty well on the bordeau wines here.

                I'll post about food in a different post.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Eric Eto

                  Wow - thanks for that Eric. We were up there last fall as well
                  and we are also getting a better sense of the area - what a treat to have something so beautiful and tasty so close to LA. We are big red drinkers - cabs, syrahs and cab francs. Melville is one of my favorite wineries - did you get to try the 'donna syrah'?
                  There are quite a few places that you mentioned that we have yet to try -
                  Lucas and Lewellen, Mandolina, Rusack and Kalyra...I will write a post went we return. Again thanks for your input and I can't wait to read about the food you tasted.
                  Best, Petra

                  1. re: Eric Eto

                    Wow - thanks for that Eric. We were up there last fall as well
                    and we are also getting a better sense of the area - what a treat to have something so beautiful and tasty so close to LA. We are big red drinkers - cabs, syrahs and cab francs. Melville is one of my favorite wineries - did you get to try the 'donna syrah'?
                    There are quite a few places that you mentioned that we have yet to try -
                    Lucas and Lewellen, Mandolina, Rusack and Kalyra...I will write a post went we return. Again thanks for your input and I can't wait to read about the food you tasted.
                    Best, Petra

                  2. No one has said much about Paso. There are numerous good wineries in the area. Along 46 east of town, my favorites are Garretson, Eberle, and Tobin James. But most of the best wineries are west of Paso. If you have time, it can be fun to just explore and taste what you find. Places that I like include Dover Canyon, Peachy Canyon, Adelaida, Justin, Tablas Creek, Linne Calodo (sp?), and I'm sure I've forgotten many.

                    I usually stay at an inexpensive old motel, the Melody Ranch, because it is inexpensive and within easy walking distance of the numerous fine restaurants in Paso. Bistro Laurent can be quite excellent and is my favorite. I have not been to Paris, but others like it alot. Buono Tavolo is a good Italian place. There are a couple of others in the area that I have not tried.

                    Have a good trip,


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: e.d.

                      Linne Calodo, Adelaida and L'Aventure make some of my favorite wines in the area. Matt Garretson is worth a trip all by himself - because he IS a trip. Good wines, too.

                    2. We just had lunch at La Simpitia in Guadalupe. Originally we planned on going to the Far Western Tavern, but we had our fill of red meat for the week. We choose a "lite" lunch of authentic Mexican at La Simpitia. It couldn't be a better choice. Tasty (maybe some of the best authentic Mexican we’ve had and we’re from Los Angeles), non-greasy (as non-greasy as Mexican can be) and good pricing. The pricing was a little erractic--$1.25 for a bean burrito, but $2.25 for fresh (although it was really fresh as lemons were carried back to the bar to make our second lemonade) lemonade. In addition, the service was extremely friendly (in a small town way), especially towards us non-locals.

                      1. If you are wine tasting on the weekends, be sure to check out Brian Benson Cellars. They only makes reds, but they are fabulous...and chances are good that you will meet Mr Benson himself!