By Stacy Davies
Why You Must Go: On the eastern rim of the Santa Ynez Valley lies the region’s namesake—an antiquated western town situated on a historic stagecoach route just north of the pristine Cachuma Lake. If staying overnight, the spot to hold up in would certainly be the Santa Ynez Inn, a posh, Victorian-themed hotel that serves a gourmet breakfast (brie and apple omelet!), wine and fancy hors d’oeuveres around dinner time, and evening desserts—all included in your stay. The rooms themselves are an elegant dream, with a fireplace and Jacuzzi hot tub with heated tiles across from your heavenly cushy bed. You’ll also enjoy the six-headed shower that can instantly turn sauna, and the giant HD flat screen—with complimentary DVDs. Excellent wireless reception and an iPod-compatible alarm clock mean you’ll probably never want to leave your room—but you really should.
Where To Eat: Take a quick stroll through the hotel gardens (and beneath the enormous creaking weather vane) over to The Vineyard House for a swanky but casual lunch or dinner. For evening fare, you can’t beat their famous Gabe’s Salmon, a filet lying atop warm spinach and crispy red potatoes, drizzled with a lemon buerre blanc sauce. Have a glass of the Alma Rosa Chardonnay to compliment its myriad flavors, and top off the meal with some smooth Oreo Cookie Cheese Cake in Tahitian sweet cream.
Where Else To Eat: It’s all about seducing your taste buds, really, so make sure you also step into Dos Carlitos just up the street from the hotel. Only a few months old and run by Carlos Lopez of the famed Montecito eatery Cava, this upscale Mexican hotspot with snappy orange umbrellas specializes in tequila tastings—and serves up some killer Rock Shrimp Tacos with papaya salsa. After the tasting and the bowls of chips dipped in over-the-top Quemada Salsa (verde with smoked jalapeño, cilantro and onions) you may not have room for their already legendary Banana Taquitos (in white chocolate!), but you better try.
Santa Ynez Inn, 3627 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez, (805) 688-5588; www.santaynezinn.com. Rooms range from $285-$495.