By Stacy Davies
Why You Must Go: The entire Santa Ynez Valley is fairly breathtaking—driving up the 101 you can stop off before the 246 exit and pick your own blueberries. Further on, past rusted roofs, lavender fields and sprawling vineyards, you’ll find miniature horse ranches and Solvang, the capital of Danish America. However, you must make time to soak up the classy little Los Olivos. Nestled in the northern part of the valley among peach and apple orchards, the town’s main drag is lined with dozens of wine tasting shops, galleries and sundry boutiques. You can always get a room at Fess Parker’s Wine Country Inn to truly steep yourself in the charming Zen-ness of the region.
Where To Eat: You must stop off for dinner at Sam Marmorstein’s legendary Los Olivos Café, where you’ll enjoy California-Mediterranean cuisine and over 500 wines in a sophisticated yet relaxed atmosphere. Chef Nat Ely offers up a mix of exotic and down-home cooking: the Squash Blossom appetizer is hands-down the best starter I’ve ever had in my life, and the Baked Brie is a favorite with a twist—port wine reduction sauce! All the while you should be drinking the Café’s own Bernat Chardonnay or Syrah—or both.
What Else To Check Out: Be sure to stop off and feed the ostriches and emus at Ostrichland and then head straight to my favorite wine room, Coquelicot, for some of the finest Bordeaux (Mon Amor), Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc in town. Then walk around the corner to Global Gardens for a $3 olive oil tasting. Titillate your taste buds and dip your bread in the grassy, peppery oils and fruity vinegars.
Fess Parker Wine Country Inn & Spa, 2860 Grand Ave., Los Olivos, (800) 446-2455, www.fessparker.com; room from $295-$395 weekdays, $395-$525 weekends.