01 May Beautiful Buellton
After graduating from UCLA, JIll traveled the world looking for unique destinations. She’s been writing about her travels for almost 30 years in various publications.
She writes a weekly restaurant review for the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News. It’s inserted into the Los Angeles Times every Thursday and delivered to subscribers from Hancock Park to Beverly Hills, Hollywood Hills to the Wilshire Corridor.
BY JILL WEINLEIN
Planning a weekend getaway, we wanted to go somewhere within two hours from Los Angeles offering beauty, wine and culinary delights. After the recent March and April showers, we learned a Super Bloom of Spring wildflowers were blanketing the hills along the drive to the charming town of Buellton in Santa Barbara County. Buellton in Central California is an idyllic getaway for tasting some of the state’s best wines and culinary fare. It also offers some unique experiences that you won’t find anywhere else.
Our first stop was at the Flying Flags RV Ranch. Even though we had reservations to stay at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott across the highway, this sprawling RV resort was hosting Buellton’s Wine & Chili Festival. Among vintage trailer and airstream rentals, charming cottages, luxury tents and rows of impressive land yachts, local hotels and restaurants were ladling up mild to spicy chili for guests to sample. Central California breweries and wineries were pouring some of their most popular beers and wines.
Reserving one night at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott, we learned what makes this a modern, unique and popular destination ~ if offers 9 complimentary Tesla Supercharger stations in the parking lot. It was one of the first locations that Tesla put their Supercharger machines, and has become one of the most popular charging spots for road travelers driving from Southern to Northern California.
The comfortable 167 guest rooms are decorated in wine country chic, and the hotel offers the largest swimming pool in the region. After a swim, we drove over to Industrial Way to enjoy a craft beer dinner and brewery tour in The Kitchen at Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company.
With over 80 wineries and tasting rooms in the area, we decided to map out our next day by starting with a hearty breakfast of omelets, French toast and eggs Benedict at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott’s Gate restaurant. Starting at LaFond Winery located in the picturesque Sta. Rita Hills, we passed corrals of miniature goats, donkeys, sheep and turkeys to the one-story tasting room. Picnic tables were scattered on grassy bluffs overlooking 150 acres of vineyards. This winery offers a charging station for electric cars too.
LaFond staff member Diane greeted and presented us with five different tastings and a 16-ounce souvenir glass for a $15 tasting fee. Diane has been pouring,award winning Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah wines at LaFond, for 12 years. She informed us “It takes three sips of wine to know if you like it or not.” The 2016 Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay was a crowd pleaser with a nose of lemon, hazelnut and honeysuckle aromas.
After the equivalent of one glass of wine, we thought lunch was in our best interest and chose the iconic restaurant The Hitching Post II. It gained popularity after the hit movie Sideways premiered in 2004 and is famous for its traditional Santa Maria barbecue. Pulling into the parking lot, we noticed the owner, chef and winemaker Frank Ostini opened a tasting room and dining annex across from Hitching Post II. It’s an ideal spot to sit outside under ancient oak trees for Tri-tip sandwiches, burgers and the famously grilled artichokes before, during, or after tasting their wines. The menu items are prepared in the main restaurant and delivered by a three-wheel bicycle to outdoor tables underneath ancient oak trees.
Winemaker Gray Hartley came out to our table with bottles of three of their famous Hitching Post Pinot Noirs – Fiddlestix, Perfect Set and Hartley-Ostini Hitching Post Highliner. Hartley was an Alaskan fisherman for 28 years, before meeting Ostini and helping him make world renown wines. “Highliner is one of the best fishermen in the fleet, and this name honors the great men of the Alaskan Salmon Fishery,” said Hartley. It was also one of the featured wines in the film Sideways.
While sipping wine, Hartley pointed out a flock of ostrich roaming in a pasture below the property. For $6.00, guests can enter OstrichLand U.S.A., to stand close and feed some of the tallest and largest birds in the world. Besides herds of ostrich, there are flocks of emus to admire.
Our last stop was at Margerum Wine Company along Industrial Way to taste one of the former First Lady Michelle Obama’s favorite California wines, Margerum Wine Sybarite Sauvignon Blanc. It was served at a White House State Dinner in Washington, D.C., when President Barack Obama hosted Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. We learned the grapes were grown nearby on the hills of Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA at McGinley Vineyard, Grassini Vineyard, Star Lane Vineyard and Happy Canyon Vineyard. All the wines from Margerum are made at their winery in Buellton.
Before driving back to the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott for a nap, we stopped at Dorwood Distillery for an informative spirits tasting. Dorwood uses locally grown Chardonnay wine grapes to create creamy and smooth Vodka, G7 gin, Habapeno, White Hawk Malt Whiskey and Limoncello. Tastings are available daily except on Wednesday.
For dinner we drove back to Industrial Way to enjoy a lively, farm to table dinner at Industrial Eats. Two wood fired ovens bake seasonal vegetables, proteins and pizzas.
The next morning we enjoyed thin pancakes dusted with powdered sugar and topped with fruit at Ellen’s Danish Pancake House. Across the street is one of the most unique Buellton experiences, the Mendenhall’s Museum. Located at a historic gas station and wrecking yard, this is the home of famous race car driver Jack Mendenhall. Visitors and car enthusiasts can reserve a private tour of Jack Mendenhall’s personal collection of over 50 years of historic memorabilia including gasoline pumps, automobiles, globes, license plates and road signs. Now his son and daughter carry on the tradition and offer tours by appointment.
After our hour long tour, we made one last stop at Pea Soup Andersen’s for a cup of their famous green pea soup and half a sandwich before driving home.
To plan a trip to Buellton, go to https://www.discoverbuellton.com or call (805)688-7829.
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