It’s not very often that I get to have a vacation. Now that I’m in the hospitality industry, I should be working when most people are having fun. Miraculously, I had an off day and a holiday go back-to-back, so we went on a wine weekend getaway during the July 4th weekend. My friends and I decided that we wanted to go somewhere not too far nor mainstream… So Solvang it was!
On our way to Solvang, we passed by the Cachuma Lake Recreation Area. The weather was beautiful (although the temperature a little on the scorching side). And look! No clouds!
The original plan was to try to follow this wine country map from the movie Sideways, but the only stop we actually did make was Ostrichland. Everything else was kind of happy-go-lucky.
First stop: Lincourt Winery, the first winery off of Alamo Pintado Road.
Big ass wine barrels screams YOU’RE IN WINE COUNTRY!!!
Lincourt had a nice preppy country feel to it, but we weren’t too into the wine. We didn’t buy a bottle from them, but we did end up with some 15-year old balsamic vinegar that was b-o-m-b.
We went down Alamo Pintado Road for our next stop: Quicksilver Ranch.
Not a winery, I know. But the week before, I was telling Ava’s groomer that we were going to Solvang for the weekend and she told me that we HAD to stop by this mini horse ranch. We also saw a sign for a mini donkey ranch on the way. What’s up with Solvang people and itty bitty animals anyway?
SOOOOOOOOO TIIIIIIINY!!!! AND WILD!!!
There wasn’t much down Alamo Pintado Road, so we stopped by our hotel in Solvang to drop off our stuff, and headed over to the Firestone Walker Brewery.
Why a brewery? I was telling our pourer at Lincourt that I was working on my Beer Server certificate (it’s like a pre-sommelier certificate for craft beer), and he recommended that we stopped by Firestone instead of a local beer garden that we were thinking about going.
Firestone is a brewing facility plus a beer pub. We ate snacks and shared beer flights – $6.50 for a four-glass flight plus a souvenier glass! Since it was right in the smack-dab-middle of summer, their seasonal flight included light, citrusy libations a summery witbier (Solace) and a honey blonde ale. Surprisingly, I’ve never had Firestone Walker beer before, so this stop was very fun.
Next stop: OSTRICHLAND!!! We basically went up the highway until Firestone, made a U-ey, and then drove back down to Solvang.
The OstrichLand facility makes you forget that you’re in wine country. Instead, you feel like you’re in the Sahara desert. It is a ginormous corral with tumbleweeds and… ostriches. And emus. Entrance is four bucks, which includes food that look like goat pellets that you buy at the petting zoo, and is given to you in a dust pan that has been MacGyvered into a safety-feeding-contraption.
“Oh man, this triple digit heat wave… It’s redonkulous.”
The ostrich eat so fast! You have to pace yourself wisely. Otherwise the Emus, who are at the end of the feeding trail, end up starving. They follow you around like raptors from Jurassic Park, hoping that you didn’t give away the rations to the ostriches.
At the gift shop. Um….
Back to some wine-ing. Our next stop was Shoestring Winery.
The tasting room was in the barrel room. Soooo cool in there, which is a relief because we were sweating from OstrichLand! They seem to do a lot of OEM, because many of the barrels in there were from different vintners like O’Shaughnessy (which is in Napa….)
The wines here were pretty good – I’m not a wino so I can’t really tell you in detail about how good it was, but I’ll just say that we picked up two bottles at 35 bucks a pop. We bought the Merlot and the Sangiovese and swore that we were going to let it ‘age’ and drink it on a special occasion. Two months later, they’re both gone. I know, we’re very weak.
Back to Solvang for a little sight seeing!
Solvang is a Dutch settlement, and looks like a little European town. Everything is so cute.
Souveniers included beer mugs and cuckoo clocks.
We stopped by the Hans Christian Anderson museum, which is on the second floor of a itty bitty book shop. Nothing special, but it’s kinda awesome to see first print editions of the Little Mermaid and the Tin Soldier.
I guess it’s about time to write about some food… For dinner we ate at Bradley Ogden’s Root 246. It’s inside (next door?) the hotel we were staying at. Convenient = win! It also looked like the only place that served somewhat contemporary food. Most of the restaurants in town served Danish food or continental cuisine.
We walked in without a reservation, but they let us sit in their beautiful patio seat. So relaxing.
Southern Side Car (9): Makers Mark, peach liquor, fresh lemon juice.
Fresh Strawberry Margarita (9): Hora Zero Tequila, Patron Citronage, fresh strawberries, lime juice, agave nectar.
Pink Pirate (9): Pirate spiced rum, cotton candy liquor, fresh strawberries, lemon juice, splash of orange, pineapple juice.
Special of the day: Salmon rillette with apricot gelee and olives. SO. GOOD. Couldn’t get enough of it.
Pressed summer watermelon and tomato salad, basil, mozzarella (14). This pretty much set off my tomato x watermelon obsession of the summer… And also my incurable lust for a GastroVac machine.
Ame had the fried chicken with fuji apple slaw special. So good and simple! The skin was perfectly salty and crispy. I wonder how they did it in such a short amount of time (granted, we did order apps, but still. Rendering skin takes time!)? Everyone around us was ordering this!
I had the honey glazed Duroc pork chop, fava bean tortellini, mixed mushrooms, smoked almonds (32). Omg. The fava bean tortellini. I need that by the bowl full. The pork chop too, a little hard to eat with a knife and a fork, but very nice.
The boys had the grilled skirt steak, pulled pork tamale, onion rings, bacon vinaigrette (35). They loved it, but I thought that it was a little meh.
After dinner we strolled about town and visited a tasting room, but didn’t hang out for long. On the way back to the hotel, we picked up some dessert wine from a nearby wine shop and played drunken Girls Just Wanna Have MadLibs (which we picked up at the bookstore underneath the Hans Christian Anderson museum) in our hotel room. We’re party animals like that.
The next day, we walked over to Paula’s Pancake House for breakfast. Be sure to get there early because the wait is looooong. It was Independence Day, and the town was getting ready for a big parade – the main street was packed to the gills!
Apparently Danish pancakes are super flat and buttery. Very good. And the sausage? Ooooooh man. So juicy.
We tried to do a tasting at Kalyra Winery, which I guess is one of the famous wineries from this ‘wine ghetto’ region. Unfortunately they just finished the last tasting at 1:45, right before we came in, because it was Independence Day. Sad face.
Since that was our last planned stop, we decided to head home. HOWEVER, when we made a pit stop in Santa Inez to pick up some water we found the Imagine Wine tasting room. The sign and the window display looked inviting (complete with a warning for nudie art), so we walked in. Turned out to be our best decision ever!
The tasting room was also an art gallery. Ennnnnnteresting…
Turns out, our pourer, Ross, was the owner of the winery. He’s a very friendly, down-to-earth guy, with so much love and passion for his wines. He explained to us in great detail about his grapes and his production process without boring us to death. We chatted about other stuff too; he used to live in Newport Beach as a business owner, got tired of it, moved to the countryside and started his own winery… It took him five years of production before selling his first bottle of wine!
Any who, it was a lot of fun, the wines were great and we ended up purchasing a bottle of the Viognier and one of the last bottles of his Merlot. He said that he ages his Merlot for 18 months in oak barrels, and it was just getting too expensive to make. I gave that bottle to my dad, who’s an avid merlot drinker, and he was in LOVE with it.
We had so much fun in the short two days we had. I’ve always thought that wine tasting was a frou-frou preppy shindig, but the whole area is, I dunno, hippy? rogue? off beat? Fun, regardless. I want to try other regions too, to see how the culture/vibe compares. So long, Solvang, we will miss you!
1711 Alamo Pintado Rd
Solvang, CA 93463
1555 Alamo Pintado Rd
Solvang, CA 93463
Firestone Walker Brewing Company
620 McMurray Rd
Buellton, CA 93427
610 E Hwy 246
Solvang, CA 93463
800 E Hwy 246
Solvang, CA 93463
420 Alisal Road
Solvang, CA 93463
Paula’s Pancake House
1531 Mission Dr
Solvang, CA 93463
3563 Numancia St
Santa Ynez, CA 93460