Looking to get away for the weekend? Look no further than the Santa Ynez Valley.
Last week, I was lucky enough to sneak up to Los Olivos for a 48-hour (kid free) vacation with my husband. This small town and surrounding area is becoming one of the hottest spots to visit in California and now I know why. We had a fantastic time and I think you should go, too! I’ll make it easy for you – just follow our itinerary for where to go, what to do, and – most importantly – what to eat and drink!
Sunday – 11:00 AM
After dropping off the kids with my parents (thanks Yiayia and Papou), we headed 130 miles up the coast to Los Alamos, hoping to make it in time to try Priedite BBQ, a weekend pop-up I had heard about. We made it up and snagged the last two burgers before they sold out. We enjoyed our ice cold complimentary beers in their patio area, and I had one of the best cheeseburgers of my life.
Next, we headed back down the valley for a wine tasting at Brewer-Clifton. After tasting our first Pinor Noir, the winemaker, Greg Brewer, joined us and we all became quick friends. His array of neutral barrel Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs definitely demonstrated why he was chosen as Winemaker of the Year (2020). He suggested we stop by his wife’s tasting room, Casa Dumetz, which of course I added to the agenda.
Finally, it was time to check into our hotel. When I was a child, I can remember my parents driving me through the sleepy town of Los Olivos and pointing out Mattei’s Tavern, a stagecoach stop from the 1800s that was rich in history. Recently it has been fully renovated and reopened as the Inn at Mattei’s Tavern, an Auberge property. I couldn’t wait to see how it had been re-imagined.
The farmhouse style bungalow buildings were spread out over the property, and our room featured not only an indoor fireplace, but an outdoor one, too. I used both during the stay! Our room was very comfortable, with wood and leather furniture that gave it a perfect residential feel. We explored the property and got a little sun time by the pool. I relaxed into one of the cozy chaise lounges and chatted it up with the couple next to us – vacation friends! They were visiting the property for their second time with all four of their kids. They noted that while the resort seems more adult oriented, it is still very welcoming for families.
We freshened up after our pool time and headed into Santa Ynez for pre-dinner drinks at the Maverick Saloon. We saddled up to the bar and quickly realized that the saloon was more of an “AFTER dinner drinks” spot, but nonetheless we had a fun time people watching and enjoying the eclectic decor. A few blocks away, we enjoyed dinner at SY Kitchen, a neighborhood style restaurant that features house-made pastas. I would highly recommend dining here. The food and atmosphere seemed effortless yet fabulous.
After a wonderful night of sleep at Mattei’s, we drove up to Los Alamos to wait for a walk-in reservation for brunch at Bell’s, a Michelin star restaurant. Owners Chef Daisy and Greg Ryan opened the restaurant in quiet Los Alamos and the town grew to popularity alongside the restaurant. You can read more about their story in Saveur. We were some of the lucky few that made it in and were seated at the counter facing into the kitchen. These are my absolute favorite seats to get in a restaurant, as you can watch the action of the kitchen and see the dishes in person while you look over the menu. The Bell’s Salad was a standout dish as were the steak frites. Both exceeded expectations and my expectations were high with everyone buzzing about how fantastic it is. While dining, locals stopped in with pastries for the whole restaurant staff. It was such a sweet small town moment that I was excited to witness.
Naturally, after brunch, I had to walk next door to Casa Dumetz to try Greg’s wife’s, Sonja Magdevski’s, wines. She produces three labels: Casa Dumetz (St. Rita Hills Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), Clementine Carter (rhone varietals) and The Feminist Party (multi-varietal blends). We really enjoyed the experience, and it was exciting to taste her Hapgood Pinot Noir after trying Greg’s version the day before. Which Pinot was better? You’ll have to taste for yourself!
We traveled down valley next to Storm Wines, a casual tasting room within the main square in Los Olivos. We tasted wines alongside fellow Angelenos, had great conversations, and enjoyed the air conditioned space (it was quite hot that day).
We ended our trip with dinner al fresco at Mattei’s Tavern. It was a beautiful setting under a pergola on the patio. My favorite dish was Chef Rhoda Magbitang’s Tavern Spread, with a pork rillette, Bob’s Wellbread sourdough (some of the best bread I’ve ever had), grainy apple mustard, soft herbs salad, and pickles. It’s a superb representation of the food scene in the Santa Ynez Valley.
We traveled back to LA the next morning feeling happy and fed and with lots of wine to enjoy at home. I can’t wait to visit again and hopefully bump into a fellow Larchmont residents to have another small town moment. See you there!