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One of my favorite West Coast Hideaways

July 15th, 2011 3 Comments

I’ve been a fan of the Santa Ynez valley for almost a decade now. This wine country just two and half hours north of Los Angeles is a casual destination for a city escape.  The movie Sideways made it popular, but I don’t believe they portrayed it properly.  I know it as being casual, but not coutrified or hick-like as the movie depicted.  I find both the region and the people to be rich with a passion for the intricacies of wine and the simple joys in life.

For many of you, it’s not as easy as hopping in the car, but should you find yourself in the LA area or driving the western coast, you should absolutely stop in to taste what they have to offer.

Below is the little blurb I wrote for The Houston Chronicle about a month ago.  Of course here I can include pictures!


Houstonian Lou Cushman and his brother John discovered the Santa Ynez Valley in California almost three decades ago.  They were seduced by the plush wine country to the point they bought a vineyard, Zaca Mesa, which you love for its Viognier and Syrah.  Celebs like Noah Wiley and Joan Rivers also have ranches in the appellation.


The Santa Maria Valley, which is only 2 hours north of Los Angeles, is a hidden gem for a vineyard vacation.

Solvang is famous for its Danish heritage and landmark windmill, but I prefer the other two towns – Los Olivos and Santa Ynez – for the genuine local vibe.


Hands down my favorite place to stay is the Santa Ynez Inn that boasts 4-star accommodations including fireplaces in the rooms, Frette sheets, Jacuzzi tubs, and the most unbelievable banana pancakes in the warmth of a B&B atmosphere.

**IF YOU MENTION MTM, Rick Segovia the manager will give you 20% off your room rate!!**

Notable wineries include the breathtaking Firestone property, Rancho Sisquoc, Curtis, Fess Parker, Rusack, and Brander.  You can sample my favorites from Byron and Au Bon Climat at Tastes of The Valley, a tasting room in Solvang. In Los Olivos visit the Ciquelicot tasting room for inventive red blends.

What I didn’t have space to mention in the article, is that the beautiful countryside is perfect for cycling and paragliding. Check out the life experiment video I did with the ocean view as a backdrop!

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  • Looks so charming, would love to try it out!


  • Sophie C

    Love love love the Santa Inez and Santa Maria Valleys. We go several times a year for the Vintners’ Festival in April and to pick up wine at our favorite winery Kenneth Volk. We also like Curtis, Rancho Sisqoq and Foxen. Favorite restaurant: Hitching Post II (although featured in Sideways it is NOT touristy; it’s a favorite spot for locals) — arrive early, grab a spot at the bar, order a glass of their Highliner red, the grilled artichokes and one of their Santa Maria-style BBQ steaks to share. Heavenly! And don’t go home without buying a jar of “magic dust” for grilling. For breakfast: Paula’s Pancake House in Solvang. For a fancier dinner: Root 246. Can’t say enough about this wine region. So beautiful…

    • Thanks for sharing Your faves Sophia!

      For dinner I love the Ballard Inn, 246, or even the firestone brewery. Andrew got the family into the beer biz!