Santa Ynez Valley, California

Photo by Harold Litwiler

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The Central Coast beckons as one drives north along Highway 101. The road turns inland from the ocean, ascending into Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara Wine Country. The landscape changes to pastures filled with oak trees, letting us know we have arrived in the land of the Chumash. Oak trees define the Santa Ynez Valley, symbolizing the ecological balance of the land around you. Like the oak tree, grapes are the fruit of the area.

Santa Ynez Valley consists of several towns, including Ballard, Buellton, Los Alamos, Los Olivos, Solvang and Santa Ynez. Each town exudes a distinct local charm, yet they are united through the region’s 100 wineries, wine production and a quest to provide visitors with farm-to-table dining.

The first town welcoming you to the valley is Buellton with its Ostrich Farm and famed Hitching Post Restaurant. From its timber-styled buildings, the Danish-themed town of Solvang fills you with wonderful baked goods such as Aebleskiver.

Enjoy the Victorian atmosphere of Los Olivos, discovering its wine tasting rooms and art galleries. Los Alamos means Cottonwoods in Spanish, a tree denoting the area, and celebrates the heritage of the Old West. Ballard, the smallest town in the Santa Ynez Valley, features the Ballard Canyon AVA, perhaps the smallest Santa Barbara County wine appellation and the first American AVA focused entirely on syrah.