Vino Valentine’s Escape: Santa Ynez Valley


YOU: Romantic, mellow. Old-world influenced, yet hip and stylish. Can indulge my kooky, kitschy side, but also show me panoramic vistas of rolling hills, gnarled oaks and lush green vineyards. Must hate wine snobs.

ME: Easygoing, fun-loving. Enjoy relaxing with a glass of wine. I live for blue skies, good food, rambling rural roads. And the occasional Danish pancake ball. 

Yes, chicas y chicos. Valentine’s Day is in the air. And at the mall. Escape the hype (and chalky candy hearts) and get your romance on in the Santa Ynez Valley. World-class wineries, cozy B&Bs and a pastry-laden, Danish-themed village are just a three-hour drive north of Los Angeles. Go for a weekend or day-trip it. Either way, here are four things to love about it.

The Foxen Canyon Wine Trail in the fall.

1. Foxen Canyon Wine Trail

Costa de Oro. Tres Hermanas. Sierra Madre. No, these are not plot points from a 1940s Mexican charro movie. They’re three of more than a dozen wineries along scenic Foxen Canyon Road. Easy to navigate and not overrun by traffic, you can make like the cast of Sideways and meander along gorgeous country roads. Just don’t let your friend get behind the wheel of your Saab. Visit the various tasting rooms and sip some of California’s best wines. My personal favorites are Koehler, Foxen and Zaca Mesa. Tasting rooms generally are open from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., so plan accordingly, especially if you’re coming up for the day. I recommend grabbing a picnic lunch in Solvang or Los Olivos and getting an early start at the wineries. Peak tasting time tends to be around 2 p.m., so if you want to avoid crowded tasting rooms and loud, happy tasters, plan to be finished by 2.

A little vino with your Valentine.
Pan-rosted whitefish with a dollop of caviar at Root 246.

2. Good Eats

If you and your Valentine are watching the waistlines, there’s more to nibble on in the Santa Ynez Valley than cheese Danishes and almond tortes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (see #4 below), but if you’re looking for a genuine foodie experience, the Santa Ynez Valley boasts some gourmet gems. Among them, the Los Olivos Cafe, whose menu is bursting with food words I adore: truffle butter, chanterelle, coulis, house-made, puff pastry, artisan cheese plate. Hungry yet? Other fit-for-romantic-foodie spots: Root 246 and Mirabelle Inn Restaurant, both in Solvang.

An artsy tasting room in Los Olivos.

3. Cozy Digs

There’s nothing like a roaring fireplace and a jacuzzi bubble bath after a long, hard day of wine tasting. If you and your sweetie decide to make a weekend out of it, I recommend the Mirabelle Inn, a European-style bed and breakfast. Complimentary afternoon wine and appetizers are served daily for guests. Some rooms have whirlpool tubs, and most have fireplaces. A less expensive option is the Hadsten House Inn & Spa. Don’t be fooled by the motor hotel layout – the Hadsten recently underwent a renovation and now rocks a hip, Hollywood Regency style. A generous buffet breakfast is included. Both hotels are located in Solvang, which brings us to…

Sing along with me: "It's a Danish World After All..."

4. Everything’s Coming up Danish

A trip to the Santa Ynez Valley without a stop in Solvang is like going to Anaheim and skipping the Granddaddy of all Theme Parks. El Full Disclosure: Señorita Vino happens to be married to a man of Danish descent, which, in addition to being a character-building experience, makes Solvang a required annual pilgrimage. Take that, Huell Howser. Unlike the aforementioned Theme Park, Solvang is an entire village. So you can run rampant through quaint city blocks, lacy Danish apron and matching cap optional. What is not optional is a plate of aebelskiver, or Danish pancake balls. Throw dietary caution to the wind and dig into this sugary, doughy, raspberry-jam-coated little love orb. Messy? Yes, but just remember, love is blind.

Q. How do you say 'love' in Danish? A. Aebelskiver.


Head North on the 101 toward Ventura. Merge onto CA-154/Cachuma Lake. Hang a left on State Street then right onto San Marcos Pass Road/CA-154. Wave to Solvang! Don’t worry – you’ll be back. Take a right on Foxen Canyon Road, et voila! You’re on the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail.


Get back on CA-154. Merge onto the 101 South. Exit on CA-246 toward Solvang/Lompoc. Take a left on CA-246 East, which turns into Mission Road, the main road that goes through Solvang.

13 thoughts on “Vino Valentine’s Escape: Santa Ynez Valley

  1. You know, I’m not much of a wine drinker but I have always wanted to go wine/cheese tasting. The site is gorgeous! What inspired you about this location? It really look wonderful and appears to be a nice place to have a quiet evening with a partner. TY for sharing!

    1. My parents used to take us there when we were little, and then as an adult I discovered the wine country. It’s a great little getaway, only 3 hours from LA, but it feels as if you’ve really gotten away. It is a truly beautiful place, whether you drink wine or not. If you go, some of the wineries in Solvang offer cheese tastings, too. Enjoy!

  2. Thank you for the post! My mouth is watering and I would a nice glass of wine now. I love Valentine’s day because it reminds us to say I love you and do something special for our loved ones. We should do that every day but I know life its in the way.

    1. You’re welcome! And I completely agree about making every day of the year an opportunity to tell our loved ones how much they mean to us. Cheers!

  3. This is your very best one ever from content to photos to style!

    1. Gracias, Señor Jim. And happy early Valentine’s Day! xoxo

  4. Sounds like a beautiful place!!! I LOVE wine tasting and just realized I haven’t been on one in a LONG time. I’m looking forward to a wine tasting party I’ll be hosting in my home next month, but its no comparison to being at an actual winery or B&B. Beautiful post!

    1. Thank you for reading! And let me know how your wine tasting party goes. Enjoy!

  5. I love wine tasting at local wineries. We are having dinner on a farm that raises organic beef next to the local winery for our anniversary, can’t wait.. great post!!

    1. What a COOL way to celebrate an anniversary. Congratulations!

  6. Me encanta este tipo de planes! Viñedos y viajes hacen un excelente pair for me!

    1. They really are. I try to have some every time I’m in Solvang. Thanks for reading!

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