Sun, fun, food – and wine. Santa Ynez Valley, surrounded by rolling vineyards and fruitful farms, has something delicious in store, year ‘round. Between New Year’s and the next season, in the Valley’s six towns of Ballard, Buellton, Los Alamos, Los Olivos, Solvang and Santa Ynez, new wines are released (it’s Rosé time!), and restaurant menus change to reflect the best of what late-winter and early-spring bring to the table. Moderate temps and plentiful sunshine round out the “in between”. So skip the slopes; Santa Barbara Wine Country beckons.
Romance has nothing on us. Valentine’s Day celebrations may have passed, but the romance continues in the Santa Ynez Valley. With the approaching wedding and anniversary season, it’s hard to find a more romantic venue than wine country. Santa Ynez Valley accommodations are numerous and varied, so slip away mid-week for a romantic vacation to suit your wildest desires – whether they’re budget-friendly or luxe. And while you’re here, indulge in one of the many events happening at wineries, wine shops, breweries and restaurants all over the Valley.
Wine Country, meet Dine Country. Escape the Spring Break madness at other destinations. Here, March brings a passport wine tasting experience (now through March 31) good at more than a dozen participating winery tasting rooms, including estate and library wine samplings, wine-paired treats, and winemaker meet-and-greets. Santa Ynez Valley boasts a booming foodie culture with “craft” everything – from wine, beer, spirits and cocktails, to bread, picnic and pantry provisions, to sweets ranging from cakes and pastries to marshmallows and gelato. Restaurants spread throughout the Valley’s six distinct towns offer endless combinations for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and late-night, keeping you satisfied for days. This is farm-fresh, wine country cuisine done to the nines, by chefs with international culinary resumes and time spent in far-flung locales such as Italy, Israel, Spain and England, and stateside, in Las Vegas, Napa and New York City. Celebrity chefs, and celebrity chef alum, coming from the kitchens of Gordon Ramsay, Rick Moonen, Alain Ducasse, José Andrés, and April Bloomfield, now call the Valley “home”. A Santa Ynez Valley trip in late-winter / early-spring, also affords visitors extra opportunities to taste what we have to offer. On International Women’s Day (March 8), 20+ Santa Barbara County women winemakers join forces with some of the region’s female chefs, bakers and gourmet foods purveyors for the charitable “2nd Annual Women Winemakers Dinner”, held right in downtown Solvang.Just days later, the “26th Annual Taste of Solvang” (March 14-18) kicks off, ushering in five days of food events all over town, including a Solvang Tasting Trail, Wine & Beer Walk, Farmers Market Dinner and Danish Sunday Brunch. On March 18, the industrial-chic town of Buellton welcomes guests to the 4th Annual Buellton Wine and Chili Festival. Held at the something-for-everyone Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground, where you can “glamp” it up or camp barebones, festival-goers will sample wares from more than 25 winemakers, craft brewers and distillers, cast their votes in the festival’s chili and salsa cook-off, and enjoy live music and entertainment for all ages. Late-March (March 21), The Bear and Star restaurant at the formidably luxurious Fess Parker Wine Country Inn, hosts an intimate, collaborative Chef’s Table Dinner featuring the combined talents of chef/owner John Cox, with that of chef Josiah Citrin of Los Angeles’ Mélisse. A grand finale: The 36th Annual Vintners Festival (weekend of April 21) brings together more than 100 Santa Barbara wineries, with local fare from farmers, foragers and chefs, in a grand tasting event – which, this year, also features a sparkling wine-centric Bubble Lounge. A Vintners Visa grants access to tasting rooms and vineyards Valley-wide, while weekend happenings are offered throughout Santa Barbara Wine Country.
Geese fly south for a reason.
This time of year, Santa Ynez Valley sees outdoor-friendly daytime temps, while nights provide just enough chill in the air to make the most of those al fresco fireplaces and pits featured at so many of the area hotels. Take a break from the feasting and imbibing (if you must) and go for a hike, a bike ride (mountain, or road), hop on a horse, play a round of golf, visit a spa, or partake in some of the other things to do in wine country, like yoga or painting in the vineyards.Cyclists will flock to the Valley in March, for the SCOR Solvang Century, Metric & Half-Century races (March 10), while film and outdoors enthusiasts will descend upon Los Olivos for the NatureTrack Film Festival (March 23-25).
Egg hunts are better with wine.
Break out those baskets: Buellton’s River View Park holds the Valley’s largest Easter fête, the 29th Annual Easter Eggstravaganza and Easter Egg Hunt (March 31), also featuring an adult-only version of “the hunt”. For kids of all ages, there are activities and games galore, plus Easter crafts, photos with the Easter Bunny, food trucks and more. Valley restaurants, event venues, wineries and vineyards will also host egg-and-wine-themed occasions, for both “big” and “little” kids.
Walk. Shop. Wine & Dine…
In the Santa Ynez Valley, midweek means extra discounts and deals. During the monthly Solvang 3rd Wednesday (February 21, March 21, April 18), more than 15 participating Solvang wine tasting rooms, wine and beer bars offer a special discounted tasting opportunity on the Solvang 3rd Wednesday Wine & Beer Walk. Select Solvang merchants offer 3rd Wednesday savings on merchandise, a handful of area hotels provide discounted 3rd Wednesday rates, the Solvang Farmers Market offers freshly-harvested local produce and gourmet goods, and certain Solvang restaurants feature a special three-course Solvang 3rd Wednesday menu for just $25++ per person, à la Restaurant Week.
The Valley’s famously walkable towns provide ample opportunity for retail therapy: Wine-taste as you meander in and out of the upscale boutiques of Los Olivos and Santa Ynez; antique shopping abounds in Los Alamos; and collect iconic baked goods – and memories – in Solvang. Undertake other walkable endeavors in the Valley’s many museums, with exhibits of regionally-unique nature, art, history, culture, lore – and even, automotive interests.
…then post all of your Wine Country experiences to Instagram.
With ample photographic backdrops for capturing your Santa Ynez Valley visit – be that Danish, Old West, Victorian, urban-industrial or agricultural – your winter break will be one you won’t soon forget.
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About VisitSYV.com: Visit Santa Ynez Valley provides listings of the best Santa Ynez wineries, best places to eat in Solvang, Santa Ynez hotels and inns, and things to do in Santa Ynez Valley. Visit the website at www.VisitSYV.com for complete travel and visitor services. “Like” our Facebook page for ideas on planning Santa Ynez vacations. Email info@VisitSYV.com for help planning your next vacation in the Santa Ynez Valley.