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Looking for a New Wine Getaway? Try Los Olivos!

Los Olivos is an epicurean's dream come true.

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One of the charming homes turned restaurants that you will find all around Los Olivos.

One of the charming homes turned restaurants that you will find all around Los Olivos.

 

I’ve flirted with Los Olivos for years, but other than a quick drive through town, I had never stayed to sample the wares. That all changed in March when Andy and I decided that a spur-of-the-moment trip to Los Olivos needed to happen to celebrate my birthday. We jumped in the car without doing any reconnaissance (whoops) and headed north in search of wine, food and plenty of countryside.

My first tip for you is that if you are planning on going to Los Olivos (or Solvang, or Santa Barbara) from Los Angeles, do not wait until almost 10:00 am on a Saturday to do it. The traffic on the 101 is relentless until you get to Ventura. Go early in the morning if you can. As this was a spontaneous excursion, we smiled through the stop-and-go-ness of it all.

My second tip for you is to make a list of your “must sample” spots before leaving Los Angeles (or wherever your starting point is). Why? Many of you will have zero cell reception when you get there leaving your smartphone useless for looking up reviews. We did not form a game plan before departing (the downside of spontaneity), but we loved everything we tried. We either got lucky, or this place truly is an epicurean’s delight.

 

architectureOlivos

 

What is Los Olivos?

Los Olivos is a small town surrounded by vineyards and horse farms in the midst of the Santa Ynez Valley. Less known than its more famous neighbors (Solvang and Santa Barbara), Los Olivos still has the charm of a small stagecoach town out of the 1880s (but with modern amenities). Today, you can still see a sprinkling of Victorian architecture and a historical walking tour of the area is highly recommended. Of course, rather than following the stagecoach, most people come here now for the fantastic wine, unique antiques, thriving art scene and restaurants that will make foodies want to come back for more.

 

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Our Food and Wine Finds

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Sides Hardware and Shoes

As I mentioned earlier, we got very lucky with our food and wine finds. We parked the car on a side street and began our explorations by walking down Grand Avenue (as most of the wine tasting rooms and restaurants are there or on side-streets, it’s the easiest way to start). Food was uppermost on our minds, and we landed at a picturesque spot called Sides Hardware and Shoes on Alamo Pintado Avenue. I’ll admit, it’s not the name I would expect for a restaurant, but as it was a hardware store in its original incarnation, it fits.

The place was packed (as most places were), but we managed to sneak into two seats at the bar. We both ordered Burgers, but Andy’s specialty burger had the thickest slabs of bacon and cheese on it that I have ever seen. While both meals were excellent, his was so surprising that I had to take a photo of it.

 

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Overall, the food was quite good with prices running around $16 for the burgers. Given that we were in the very middle of wine country, we treated ourselves to the first glasses of local wine of the day. Uncharacteristically, I went with the Carr Sangiovese (Santa Ynez Valley). It had a dark ruby color and (I swear) a black currant flavor. I don’t know that you would normally pair this with a burger, but the somewhat robust nature of it really worked for me.

Before moving on, we took a look around the building. The photos inside seem to depict the early days of Los Olivos. The spot was originally built upon in 1901 but was later rebuilt by Milburn Sides in 1914 (he had arrived on the new train system in 1888 with his family). The tin ceiling and beams still give the two-story structure their original feel. We didn’t try to venture upstairs, but I understand it was once an event space above the old hardware store, and even was known to host a poker game now and then. Scandal!

 

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Ca’Del Grevino

For those of you who know me, I’m a pretty light-weight drinker. As I had already sampled a bit of wine, I knew that I was only going to be up for one more wine tasting before we had to head back home (luckily, Andy was driving). Once again, we rolled the dice and landed upon the new tasting room for Ca’Del Grevino on Grand Avenue. The estate is actually located on East Clark Avenue in Santa Maria, but it is largely used now for private events. A new tasting room and winery is under construction, but this Grand Avenue spot is the perfect place to start sampling.

You can choose from two different tastings, the Ca’ Del Grevino wines and the Element wines (which are said to be more value wines that fit more comfortably in our budget right now). For $15 you can sample six wines, or try all of the ones from both lists for $30.

 

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Andy and I split a combination tasting which included a Chardonnay, two pinot noirs, a grenache, a syrah and a blend (if I’m not mistaken). I’m not a chardonnay fan, but I actually liked it more than I thought I would. Still, the one that really stood out for me was the Element grenache. In fact, we bought a couple of bottles (which made the tasting complimentary) as we were leaving.

Why did it capture my fancy? The grenache seemed like a very mellow/soft wine. It was less floral than some, and, to me, it tasted of black plums and vanilla (your palate could tell you something completely different). One of the tasting room assistants even brought over chocolate for us to try with it, and it was a dream. It also completely inspired us to open a wine and chocolate tasting room in the very near future – lottery win pending, of course.

 

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There was so much in Los Olivos that we would love to try and, obviously, missed this time. There was live music playing everywhere, some lovely green spaces and many galleries that we didn’t browse. And, of course, a ton of restaurants and wine tasting rooms left to try. This was a nice sampling – it was like a sneak peek of adventures yet to come. We’ll definitely be back – and next time, we might even get a chance to try the spa and B&B we heard whispers about in the tasting room.

Have you ever been to Los Olivos? Tell me all about it in the comments!

22 Comments on Looking for a New Wine Getaway? Try Los Olivos!

  1. It’s amazing how many wine regions there are in the US! I’ve been to a few of the wineries around Sebastapol, but I’d never thought about wineries outside of LA. I’ll have to check them out the next time I’m in the area, it looks like a lot of fun!
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    • PatriciaSteffy // April 19, 2017 at 8:46 pm // Reply

      We really enjoyed it, and it is making us take a look at other areas near LA that we hadn’t really thought of trying before. Cheers to new discoveries!

  2. I find this post more interesting while reading the first paragraph. I like how you inserted the traveling tips and a little background of the place. The food and the wine really match perfectly. I’ll surely bear this in mind if i get to visit this place. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • PatriciaSteffy // April 19, 2017 at 8:47 pm // Reply

      It was a lot of fun, even without the advanced planning. Though next time, we might want to hit a couple of places that we’ve read about since!

  3. I used to live in Los Angeles and never heard of this place. If I had known, I would have totally visited. I love visiting wine towns and this sounds like a really unique spot. Great tips about the traffic and cell reception 🙂

    • PatriciaSteffy // April 19, 2017 at 8:48 pm // Reply

      It really gets overshadowed by neighboring towns like Solvang and even Santa Barbara. But it’s definitely worth checking out!

  4. You just never know what you’ll find when you decide to stop in these smaller lesser known spots. It’s great to find great eats, drinks and more though. I love a good glass of wine, so I’d definitely dig this place.
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    • PatriciaSteffy // April 19, 2017 at 8:49 pm // Reply

      You really don’t. I’m so glad that we decided to take a chance on it, and now we’re looking around for more spots we hadn’t considered before. Plus, there’s always tasty wine at the end of one of these adventures — no downside!

  5. Honestly I am always looking for a good wine getaway ha ha. I have been to Napa Valley in California and this seems like a good alternative. I love the West Coast for all its wineries and breweries! I could drink my way through CA, OR, and WA ha ha.

    • PatriciaSteffy // April 19, 2017 at 8:50 pm // Reply

      Can you believe that I still haven’t been up to Napa Valley? It’s definitely on the bucket list for when we get some extra cash because I know we’ll want to splurge once we get there. 🙂

  6. This looks incredible. Love the architecture of that house. Looks so charming. The food looks amazing as well. I would love to check out this place as it is not the most touristic place you will find in California. 😀

    • PatriciaSteffy // April 19, 2017 at 8:51 pm // Reply

      We really do enjoy finding places that are often overlooked, or less touristed than others. The crowds are more manageable, the towns often have an interesting history, and we are usually pleasantly surprised.

  7. Los olivos seems to be a really interesting place mainly but the unexplored place I would like to say plus the food and wine go amazingly well together I think it seems to be a small place which not many people know about but they should know because it is truly really beautiful I think… Also the fact that the place provides chardonnay makes me more interested in it.

    • PatriciaSteffy // April 19, 2017 at 8:52 pm // Reply

      It’s a very fun spot with some beautiful Victorian style buildings and relaxing green spaces. I’m really looking forward to exploring it more!

  8. I love how culinary adventuring is becoming more of a thing! Good on you for giving tips on how to beat LA traffic, I feel like many people forget to add buffer time for traffic. I’m a lightweight when it comes to drinking do, half a glass does me in so I’m not sure if I’d survive the day trip!

    • PatriciaSteffy // April 20, 2017 at 3:57 am // Reply

      You definitely have to pace yourself with that many wine options. Luckily, there is also a ton of food to sample, and if you spread the tastings out over the entire day, it works much better!

  9. Wow such a charming town! I love the cute houses and I always love visiting wineries. I’ll need to add this to my bucketlist!

    • PatriciaSteffy // April 20, 2017 at 1:29 pm // Reply

      It was really adorable, and I loved seeing what has stood the test of time (even though most of those buildings are being used for other purposes now). And the wine tasting was a lot of fun — no big sales pressure.

  10. We have been to Los Angeles several times and had no idea that this place even existed. What a cool little town to check out. Any place that has good food and some wine as well is always a friendly place for us!

    • PatriciaSteffy // April 20, 2017 at 3:10 pm // Reply

      It’s a really sweet town with a lot of good food and wine to sample. And I hear there are B&Bs that might be good options if you want to spend the weekend.

  11. I have visited LA once and also tasted this wine. Both are amazing and the food was so yummy. I love the wine very much.

    • PatriciaSteffy // July 11, 2017 at 1:44 pm // Reply

      It was such a fun surprise for us. I’m hoping we go back soon to try more — love discovering new tastes!

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