About 20 minutes up above Santa Barbara, the Santa Maria Wine Valley is peppered with gorgeous driving, great food and sweet little places to shop.
And if you’re into wine? Boy, are you two in for a treat.
The most scenic route to the Santa Maria Wine Valley:
From downtown Santa Barbara, take State Street north to signs for the 154
Hop on the 154 heading up into the hills, past gorgeous Lake Cachuma
Go 17 miles
Follow signs for Los Olivos on your left
Los Olivos, the valley’s main town, has a downtown that’s two blocks long and a block wide on either side, with artist’s studio showrooms, gift boutiques and antique shops, and a Western-wear store that’s been here for ages.
For a home base up here, try the Fess Parker Wine Country Inn & Spa. With a new outpost of our Manhattan Beach favorite, Petros, as the onsite restaurant, and a few romantic spa packages to choose from, you both (as well as the recently deceased proprietor) could rest in peace.
Across the street, Los Olivos Cafe & Wine Merchant uses locally-farmed produce and boasts a great wine shop. Here you’ll find offerings from excellent independent wineries that can be hard to find outside restaurants menus. I’d recommend Qupé, Fiddlehead and Tantara.
If you’d like to pair a picnic with your wine, stock up at the Los Olivos Grocery.
Once you’ve had your fill of town, head over to the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail.
1/4 mile past Los Olivos, turn right off the 154 onto Foxen Canyon. Spread out along a couple miles’ worth of loping drive dotted with cows and gnarled trees amongst golden grass are our favorite area wineries:
Friendly tasting room with beautiful syrahs and an adjacent picnic area overlooking a small hill and creek.
Come here for a daytime party atmosphere on weekends. They specialize in unusual, tasty whites and have an absolutely huge outdoor chess board to play with…when said whites kick in.
The tasting room is a small tin shed, but the real action’s out at the valley-view patio’s two tasting stations. We’ve never been here without a small crowd, but have also never gone without seats if we wanted them. Long respected for their chardonnay and pinot noir, in recent years they’ve begun creating gorgeous, French-varietal red blends for around $30 a bottle; each one is a work of art.
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