Santa Ynez Valley Marriott- A Quaint Wine Escape Close to LA!
555 McMurray Road · Buellton, California 93427
The Marriott in Santa Ynez Valley sits in a great location between Buellton wineries, and the quaint Danish town of Solvang. The town is fascinating, as all of the buildings on the main strip have to be of Danish architecture. For those of you who have never been to Denmark, it looks almost like you’re in Epcot Center! Solvang was founded by a group of Danes who traveled west to establish a Danish colony far from the mid-western winters. The town is home to a number of bakeries, restaurants, and merchants offering a taste of Denmark in California. There is even a copy of the famous Little Mermaid statue from Copenhagen, and a museum for the famous Danish fable writer, Hans Christian Anderson. A replica of Copenhagen's Round Tower can also be seen in the town center.
Solvang was put on the map more recently from the movie, Sideways, which was all shot in this cute town, but they even used the REAL names and locations of the real businesses in town (as usually names of businesses are changed and made up for the film). That has really brought a lot of tourism into Solvang, and helped put the wineries around the area on the map!
The Marriott Santa Ynez is a beautiful hotel located only 2 miles from Solvang, and in the middle of an array of wineries. The hotel has a nice size outdoor pool and a great outdoor patio/lounge area with a fire pit, located right outside one of their restaurants, The Starting Gate. We went to the Starting Gate for their breakfast buffet, which has the normal wide selection of choices, but I mostly was excited about the chef that was cooking omelettes made to order, how you wanted. Of course I wanted to test out the greatness of the chef myself, so I made up a crazy concoction of a fruit omelette with a few veggies, cinnamon, brown sugar and raisins. Yep, the chef managed to botch it up – now how can you do that? He put the DRY brown sugar and hard raisins on TOP of the freshly made WARM omelette- now I get that not everyone has common sense, but SERIOUSLY? Cuz I really want to bite into hard, chunky brown sugar directly? WHAAAT?! As a chef, you should know they should be mixed into the eggs and ingredients, spreading the tastes throughout the omelette, while softening the raisins and melting the brown sugars. So that was disappointing. And the coffee was horrid, which was surprising because there was a built in Starbucks up on the main lobby level!
The main lobby had a great layout. It was all open, airy, and you could see the gorgeous views of the green hills from two directions. Located on the main lobby level besides the front desk area, was a spacious sitting area, a gift shop, and a mini Starbucks! The gift store was a decent size carrying all sorts of local jewelry, blankets, and clothing mainly from the local Native American Tribe, the Chumash. The Chumash also run the local Chumash Casino, yes, that’s right- there is a local casino just down the road for those of you who like to gamble! The Starbucks was a very cute mini Starbucks, but it did carry all the drinks the normal stores did- what a great idea to put this into a hotel!
Downstairs on the G level, was The Starting Gate Restaurant, a hair salon, several meeting rooms, and another lounge called The Winner’s Circle, which we also tried out. It was more of a darker, bar but with comfortable leather seating. They had an old-fashioned popcorn machine in which you could help yourself to, and bar food. We had the nachos, which were quite deliciouso! There were also a few decent sized TVs, so a perfect spot if you are staying at the hotel and needed a sports break!
So we got lucky and they gave us the presidential suite! It had a wet bar, living and dining room with a hall closet, separate very spacious bedroom with a king sized bed, a vanity area with a sink- perfect for chics like me to prep themselves at so they don't get into their partners way in the bathroom, though the bathroom was spacious as well! Our view was fantastic, with 2 balcony doors in which we opened to let the fresh, country air in.
We cabbed it straight to our first location, The Rideau Vineyards. It was a beautiful vineyard with acres of land streamed with grapevines. The main house itself was built back in the 1880s. It was bought in 1997 by New Orleans native, Iris Rideau. She restored the property to its original state, while developing a vineyard and won several awards for both. The house is a historical landmark, being one of the oldest homes in the area. Inside the home there was a large tasting room, a store with a mini pizza kitchen, an enclosed outdoor back patio, 2 reserve wine tastings rooms where most of the tours were held, and a Louisiana style front porch equipped with the old southern whicker furniture and rocking chairs! We took the tour around the property, and had a VERY knowledgeable tour guide named Reza. We learned a lot about the different wines, how they were made (they took us into the barn with the tanks and showed us how), and about the property. Was a fun little tour! We went home with a jug of their red house blend. Of course, what tour would be complete without me spilling some red wine everywhere? Well THANK GOODNESS they too had my favorite, Wine Away, which I mentioned in my Paso Robles article! This stuff is sooo great- of course I was wearing white pants but a few little spritzes and the red wine disappeared in minutes! You HAVE to try this stuff!
Most of the tasting rooms at the wineries close at 4 or 5pm, so our next destination was to walk around the Solvang’s main streets and catch their tasting rooms as they’re open til 6pm, some later! We walked into Carivintas Tasting Room next. With Blending wine with Philanthropy as their motto, this was such a cute concept, as they give back to local animal charities! All of their labels contain art of rescued animals or endangered species. They are affiliated with several non-profit groups, and always looking to partner up/make labels for your own animal charity so don't be afraid to ask! I love all of the art on the walls, and their labels!
We hit up a few other tasting rooms along the way to dinner. I loved how there are NO store chains allowed in the town of Solvang, yet about 143 shops! So you really are helping local businesses out by shopping there, and each store is so individual! We browsed on our way to dinner til we finally got to Root 246. This was incredible restaurant, with TONS of local wines, and a great menu that I could even enjoy (being gluten free and pescatarian!). We ordered oysters (which were HUGE), mussels – which had a great peppery sauce, and the Crab Legs- wow- so yummy! The place has a very cool vibe, low-key lighting, a bar/lounge area where we sat and ate on very comfortable couches, and a restaurant area with tables. Great for a romantic dinner evening!
Afterwards, we wondered over to the only late night spot, and newly opened, Santé Wine Bar. They had live music, and it was quite packed! The décor was all white, very crisp and clean, kinda like an LA bar! I did have a hard time finding a wine I liked. I found a lot of the wines from Solvang area were very acidic, making my tongue curl up like I just sucked on a lemon, which I don’t know about you, but I do NOT like that feeling! I felt the waitress wanted to kill me, til one of the owners came over and suggested I try a wine by Standing Sun. I did, and loved it! Funny enough, the owners of the winery were standing right by me, so I had to tell them what I just went through, but was worth it as their wine was greatness! We met a bunch of lovely locals and had a blast!
Now the next am, we were quite hung-over so we decided to do the real way to taste wine, that’s right, just taste it, not swallow, well all of it! Note to self, and to all of you out there, if you want to last the entire weekend tasting and searching for a perfect wine, pace yourself! I never thought I would be one to actually use the barrels real refined wine tasters use, meaning one sip to taste it, then dumping the glass into the barrel- but I sure learned the hard way! We wanted to recoup on Sunday, but we had heard so much about Foxen Wineries (also in the movie Sideways) that we had to go. It was a great property too! 30minutes outside of town, but well worth it! The design of the building was unique, felt like I was in a Huckleberry Finn story, but was awesome! They had 2 locations and a great selection of wines. This was the first place that we walked away purchasing a few bottles of wine, and a t-shirt! Even there clothing section was unique! The staff was great as well, and I loved “The Shack” tasting room! Definitely a must to check out! You can tell the owners put a lot of thought into the structure of the rustic buildings, and their wines! Very cool vibes!
We ended the trip with a fantastic dinner in the famous, The Hitching Post restaurant. This was also in the film, Sideways- that you must go rent before visiting this town! This restaurant looked like a house on the inside with about 50 tables spread throughout. The staff was great, we had some good wines, and they served a veggie plate instead of bread which I was pleasantly surprised! We started with an artichoke appetizer and it was phenomenal! Then my better half ordered a steak and duck- he was in heaven! I had the shrimp dish. The meal was great- another must go to place!
Now we had to wake up super early the next day in order to avoid the LA traffic and make it back in time for my radio show (which by the way, listen in to www.LaTalkRadio.com !), that’s where the onsite Starbucks came in handy!
Only a quick 2 hours from LA, a quaint little escape into vineyards and Danishland!