A Day in California Wine Country: Los Olivos

Los Olivos is a cute, historic town in the Santa Ynez Valley in California. Part of Santa Barbara County, Los Olivos is about 2 hours north of Los Angeles. It has a growing number of world-class vineyards and wineries and makes a great weekend getaway for Hollywood winos. We love knowing that wine country is so close to home.

We have even been known to make a day trip to Los Olivos, however, staying the night is usually preferred after a day of wine tasting. Plus it’s so darn relaxing and beautiful that it’s hard to only go for one day. And it has wonderful areas to bicycle so we usually bring the tandem and cycle all around the region. In fact, there is a really popular bike event, sponsored by Planet Ultra, that we like to ride each year that begins in Solvang (near Los Olivos) and winds its way through the Santa Ynez Valley.

A couple of the vineyards and wineries in Los Olivos have tasting rooms on their property, such as Beckmen and Brander. But most, along with others from the Santa Ynez Valley, have tasting rooms in the town center, including Carhartt, Saarloos & Sons, Longoria, and Stolpman. (The Los Olivos Web site provides a nice overview of the tasting rooms here.)

We started our day in Los Olivos with lunch at the best sandwich shop in the area: Panino. We had their Chicken Pesto sandwich. Divine.

Lunch at Panino in Los Olivos

Lunch at Panino in Los Olivos

Next stop, wine tasting. We decided to start at the Carhartt Vineyard tasting room on the same street as Panino.

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Carhartt Tasting Room

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Jane at Carhartt Tasting Room

The Carhartt wines were tasty and interesting. And their staff was super nice and knowledgeable. A great experience all around. Of the wines, they have a spicy 100% Cab Franc that stood out.

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Carhartt Wines

We heard about the Saarloos wines and cupcakes and had to check them out as well. Saarloos is across the street from Carhartt so that was easy. We headed on over and were immediately drawn to the cupcakes.

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Cupcakes at Sarloos & Sons

We could have done a cupcake & wine tasting, but since the tasting room was crowded and we had a long day of wine tasting ahead of us, we opted to eat a cupcake only. We went for the Chocolate, Salted Peanut Buttery, Caramel Crunch. Boy was it yummy! Here’s a list of all of their flavors: Saarloos Cupcake Flavors. The Saarloos cupcake was probably one of the best cupcakes we have ever had. And that’s saying a lot since LA has some amazing cupcake shops.

On a nice sugar high, we left for more wine tasting. We stopped at Brander, Beckmen, Blackjack, and Lincourt. We also stopped at the Clairmont Farms lavender farm and bought some lavender lotion.

Brander, one of the oldest vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley, is known for their Sauvignon Blancs. Fred Brander is the winemaker and his son Nicolas gave us the tasting. We enjoyed the Sav Blancs but really liked the 2010 Syrah.

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Brander Entrance

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Brandon Tasting Room

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Brander Vineyard

After Brander, we stopped at Beckmen, which is a little more off the beaten path. Their tasting room overlooks their vines. And they have a super cute winery kitty.

Beckmen cat

Beckman Vineyard Cat

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Beckmen Tasting Room


Steve was given a bottle of Beckmen Syrah for Christmas that we really enjoyed so we decided to stop by. They specialize in Rhone varietals and had some lovely wines to taste, including Steve’s Christmas Syrah.

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Beckmen Syrah









From there, we stopped by Blackjack Ranch. This winery is known for being showcased in the film Sideways. For their wine, they are best known for their Harmonie blends, which are bordeaux-style blends.We loved their 2005 Harmonie, though it will put a dent in your pocketbook at $90/bottle. Their Billy Goat Hill Merlot was pretty good as well.

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Blackjack Wines

Just down the road from Blackjack is Lincourt. Part of the Foley family of vineyards, Lincourt is named after Bill Foley’s daughters Lindsay and Courtney. They’re most famous for their Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. We bought the 2009 Lindsay’s Pinot Noir. For a Pinot, it had a nice, subtle smoky earthiness to it that made it stand out from other one-note, fruit-forward Pinots.

Lindsay Pinot

Lindsay’s Pinot Noir

Driving in between vineyards, we decided to turn in at Clairmont Farms Lavender Farm. Wine country is also known for lavender and since Jane loves lavender and beautiful gardens, it’s a must-see for us. Clairmont Farms has a huge plot of lavender plants and a small storefront where you can buy all kinds of lavender products. We chose a bottle of lavender moisturizer and continued on our way.

Lavender signLavender Driveway

After all of the wine tasting and a stop at the lavender farm, we made our way to our hotel: Meadowlark Inn. A charming place that looks like a motel, the Meadowlark Inn has eighteen rooms and nice happy hour with wine and cheese and a free breakfast for their guests. Our room had a nice kitchenette with a coffeemaker, stove, microwave, and refrigerator. We’ve stayed a lot of different places in Santa Ynez Valley and this ranks at the top. We highly recommend it as a nice place with reasonable rates.

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Meadowlark Inn

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Meadowlark Inn


That evening, we attended the happy hour in the inn’s cozy meeting room and then headed to Fess Parker Inn for dinner at Petros. Fess Parker was the actor who portrayed Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. He and his family started the Fess Parker Winery and Wine Country Inn and Spa. The restaurant Petros is greek, which is one of our favorite cuisines. Petros’s approach to greek food is lovely and refined. We highly recommend it if you are a fan of greek food. We ordered lemon soup, a dip sampler and dolmades (stuffed cabbage).


Fess Parker Inn and Petros Restaurant

 And that was our day in Los Olivos and Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country! We went to bed very happy and looked forward to the next day’s adventures in Santa Ynez Valley. I’m sure we’ll blog about it!

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