Weekend Escapes: Santa Barbara Wine Country


Sometimes all you need is a weekend getaway to escape the weekly grind. My recent getaway to Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort in Solvang, California, the heart of wine country, was the perfect destination. After a long week, we left Los Angeles after dark, and after traffic, to drive up to Santa Barbara. Two hours later we drove down a dark country road and found the driveway into Alisal Guest Ranch.

We settled into our private guest cottage, one of 73 in total. With no telephones or televisions, it was a well-needed escape from reality. Only a few minutes from the touristy streets of Solvang, Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort is a secluded hideaway that has been a full-service guest ranch since 1946.  From horseback riding and a petting zoo to two 18-hole championship golf courses, a huge spa and fitness center and tennis courts to a 100-acre spring-fed lake for kayaking, canoeing and fly fishing to, of course, wine tasting, there are activities for everyone!

After a good night sleep, we woke up early the next morning for a breakfast ride.  Accommodating all levels of riders (and a haywagon for those that don’t want to get on a horse), we hopped up on our horses and began a ride through the 50-some-odd miles of horse trails. About an hour later, we arrived at the Old Adobe for an outdoor breakfast of coffee, flapjacks, biscuits and live music.  It was a bit chilly that morning so we warmed ourselves by the campfire and then got back on our horses to ride back to the Ranch.

In the afternoon, we headed out to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. This industrial park of 19 tasting rooms was in full swing that weekend as harvest was underway. We visited two wineries on this visit (but you can spend an entire weekend tasting through the beautiful Pinot Noirs and other grapes from these top producers).

First stop: Samsara, a Sanskrit word meaning the eternal cycle of life, is owned by Chad and Mary Melville. They produce 1200 cases, all by hand, of Pinot Noir, Syrah and Grenache. They are focused on working with specific Vineyard sites and even specific rows within the vineyards, with a  goal to really represent what is special about the selected rows. As a winemaker, Chad’s philosophy is to get out of the way and let grapes do their job and the result is elegant, sophisticated but approachable wines.

Second Stop: Longoria is owned by Rick and Diane Longoria and was established in 1982.  They opened their first tasting room in Los Olivos in May 1998, but in December 1998, Rick became the first winery to be established in the yet-to-be-named Lompoc Wine Ghetto when he moved his winery operation into a 5,400 sq. foot industrial building there. In fact, Rick is considered the “Godfather” of the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.  Today they produce 3000 cases of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah and Spanish varietals (Albarino and Tempranillo), among others. These are wines that pair well with food as they are balanced, rich and high in acid.

After an afternoon of wine tasting, we returned to sit on our cottage porch and read and relax before heading to dinner in the Sycamore Room followed by drinks and live music n the Oak Room Lounge. Rick Longoria and Chad Melville joined us for dinner that night so we were about to enjoy more of their wines.

Sunday morning we woke up to have a full breakfast in the  Ranch Room before hitting the road to head back to LA.  While the trip was only 2 days, it felt like we had been away for a week.  We were rested and refreshed and ready to start another week. Got to love a weekend getaway!

Allison Levine

Allison Levine is the owner of Please the Palate, a marketing, branding, events, promotion and education source in the wine and spirits industry. Allison explores the world, eating and drinking, while traveling for her clients and for pleasure, and shares her experiences about the people she’s met and the places she’s been through her blog. www.pleasethepalate.com/blog

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