No. 118 (essentialsaltes) wrote,
No. 118

Santa Ynez Valley

So Dr. Pookie and I went up to the Santa Barbara area for some winerying, etc.

Home base was Solvang. Despite (or perhaps because of) its tackiness, it's one of the cheaper places to stay, since there are many competing options. But our first step was to rent bikes and get out of town as fast as our legs would carry us. Which is not that fast. I'm afraid I was the slowpoke. I don't remember being outclassed by Dr. Pookie on our Napa bike ride, so I think Dr. Pookie's time at the gym over the summer and my sedentary job combined to make me look like a weakling. Which may be just as well, since the not-to-scale map we were given would've required us to go another 20 miles to do the longer itinerary we considered. But, with frequent stops, including to gawk at the miniature horses, I did make it to Los Olivos, stopping to taste wines at Rideau (good, but overpriced for the region, I think) along the way. At Los Olivos, we dropped in at Alexander & Wayne (where we are wine club members) and Arthur Earl (who are associated with A&W) so that both wine tastings were free. So in a fairly short span of time we went through 20 wines.
After that (and the ride), food was definitely called for. The Los Olivos Cafe still seems to be riding the wave of popularity from being in Sideways, so we went to the Sidestreet Cafe, which I like just as well. I had a magnificent panini, piled high with multiple versions of pig.
Thence, we tried our hand at riding up Foxen Canyon Road, but the lengthy uphill stretches defeated us me, and we turned back, and (following the suggestion from the gentleman at Rideau) travelled back to Solvang along Ballard Canyon. Although it started with a ferocious hill that we eventually gave up on (pushing the bikes up), the rest of the ride was pretty doable, with smaller uphills and longer coasting downhills. And the scenery was great. Very little traffic, just lots of vineyards and untouched landscape; lots of little ground squirrels dashing about beneath the gimlet eyes of the hawks. Although there were several large vineyards, the only actual tasting room was at Rusack, which didn't impress us much.
Eventually, the road got us back to Solvang; the whole trip was maybe 15 miles or so. After stopping for some ice cream to cool our blood, we checked into the hotel, cleaned up and cooled off, and ventured out to see about a little snack. On a weekday, in Solvang, they roll up the sidewalk pretty early, so pickings were slim. We ultimately wound up at the Viking Garden. There are two great things about the place: Ttey have a pretty good draft beer selection, and they have a lovely mural of a Viking 'Last Supper' (sadly, we didn't have our camera with us - but here's a pic). My sausage appetizer was pretty good, but Dr. Pookie sprang for the Viking special, bits and pieces of other appetizers mixed together, just as the VIkings would have enjoyed: Buffalo wings, nachos, onion rings, jalapeno poppers, and fried mozzarella sticks.
Next day, we happily used the car to get us around, hitting wineries that have been favorites from previous trips: Rancho Sisquoc (far off the beaten path, but well worth it), Zaca Mesa, and Foxen. On a whim as we headed back south, we took Alisal Road out of Solvang, and it quickly turned into a 1.5 lane road twisting through a tree-lined little canyon. Very remote and pretty. Ultimately it brought us back to the 101, and the race to beat rush hour traffic (we lost).
Tags: bio, travel, wine

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