No, really, Santa Ynez Wine Country with kids is a great idea… if your children can be chill. A group of us needed a quick overnighter out of town, and the Santa Ynez area is just far enough away to make it seem like we really got away from the grind.
Staying overnight in Solvang was a good stopping point in the midst of our vacation and planning ahead was key to making the most of our short trip. Two days and one night is not a lot of time, but for three families, including six kids, there was something fun for everyone.
We got on the 101 West finally around 10 a.m. and made it to the Los Olivos Cafe right around noon. Still early enough to beat the crowds heading into town for the weekend, we started out wine country trip with lots of water and hearty food.
After a stroll through the quaint town of Los Olivos, we settled in at the Carhartt Tasting Room, a delightful little spot with shady trees and a little water feature. The wines were delicious and we especially enjoyed the whites. The Mourvedre was fascinating as well.
Then it was off to Beckman Vineyards, located in the country outside of Los Olivos. On the spacious porch overlooking a small pond, our kids could ramble about a bit. They finally settled themselves on a table near the pond for reading and drawing.
Beckman’s wines were enjoyable but we didn’t feel invested in purchasing a bottle at the time. The property also has some clean and functional bathrooms, which were one of the popular attractions for the steady stream of visitors.
Then it was time for Dierberg Starlane. Our friends introduced us to the winery located far out in the countryside about a half an hour from Solvang. Gorgeous wines and a spacious, well-turned out barn made Dierberg Starlane one of the highlights of the entire trip. We enjoyed the wine so much we joined their wine club for periodic shipments throughout the year.
As nighttime settled over the valley, we headed to Solvang for some well-deserved rest and relaxation. Our hotel was clean and decent and the pool was a huge hit with our patient children. Dinner at Cecco for authentic Italian food, along with some more wine, was lovely, although our server seemed a bit overwhelmed. Grilled pizzas and fresh pastas were very tasty.
The next morning we wandered about Solvang, shopping and enjoying the autumn weather and kitschy environment. By 11 a.m., we were packed and headed back out on the road.
On Day Two, we visited the two Foxens and the Cambria winery. One of the best stops of the trip was Foxen, with its amazing wines and plenty of space for kids and adults. Kids got in some playtime with volleyballs and frisbees and the adults enjoyed fantastic tasting flights in a lovely country setting.
Perhaps my most favorite wine of the trip was Foxen’s Cuvee Jeanne Marie, which tasted deep and rich, like blackberry jam. Dierberg Starlane’s Sauvingnon Blanc and Pinot Noirs were right up there, though. Foxen’s Pajarito red and Sauvignon Blanc were also delectable.
Down the road from Foxen is Foxen 7200, a quick roadside stop that was packed with tasters alighting from limos and other luxury vehicles. The kids came up with some hilarious drawings of adults enjoying wine in the southern California sun, which entertained us all.
We ended the afternoon at Cambria Winery, a massive estate closer to the coast. The surrounding vineyards had been trimmed back after the harvest and the setting sun in late November was lovely, as the expansive vineyards glowed golden in all directions.
We headed back to Burbank, along the 101 Freeway South as the sun set over the ocean. Famished by the time we reached Santa Barbara, we stopped for a bite of delicious and creative authentic Mexican tacos at La Super-Rica.
And then it was time for home. With souvenir wine glasses and loads of delicious wines to savor in the coming months, parents and kids alike all felt the driving trip through Santa Ynez Wine Country a deeply memorable time of fun and friendship. Another perfect southern California weekend put on the books.