If you are planning a trip to Los Olivos, we have only one suggestion, come thirsty. There are over 30 wine tasting rooms within 2 1/2 square miles and most are within walking distance. It might be difficult to spend an entire weekend in Los Olivos alone so do some homework and visit the neighboring towns in the Santa Ynez Valley. If you are truly dedicated and insist on holding ground for a few days, don’t worry, we can fill up your planner with many fun things to do.
DO: Call me ‘Captain Obvious’ but wine tasting should be #1 on your list. You can certainly have a dedicated plan on where to visit and what to drink but sometimes the best plan is not having a plan at all. I would certainly suggest starting from wherever you decide to park and choose your own path by having small tastes at several spots. This way, you can find your favorites and go back the next day to have a more extensive tasting.
If you want some suggestions on our favorite wine tasting rooms in town, keep reading. If you don’t, too bad, we were going to name them anyway. For some seriously good wine, travel a bit off the beaten path – which means one block away from city center – and head over to Tercero Wines. Owner Larry Schaffer focuses on Rhone style red and white wines which is common through the Santa Barbara region but Larry just does it a little better. Grab a seat inside his quaint tasting room and order some wine. If you are lucky, Larry will be there and you will leave with some great wine knowledge.
For some more seriously good wine, hit up the Stolpman tasting room one block over. If you are looking for more of an experience, we have you covered. If you are the hipster type, head over to Saarloos & Sons where you can snap a selfie at their photo booth, dine on some cupcakes and drink alongside every 21 year old in the area. Across the street, head into Epiphany which recently went through a renovation and came out with a grown up kind of feel. What does that mean, you ask? Don’t ask me, go see for yourself.
EAT: Options are certainly limited but the choices are exquisite. True to the area, almost anywhere you dine, the menu will consist of dishes with ingredients sourced from local farms. Freshness is guaranteed.
If you feel obliged to scream “I’m not drinking any FUCKING Merlot!!” than Los Olivos Wine Merchant is your place. Don’t worry, you can order Merlot and most certainly drink it. For those reading this and think I’m crazy, just click the link above. Besides Merlot, Los Olivos Wine Merchant stays true to its name and boasts a very impressive wine list along with an Italian country inspired menu.
Around the corner is Sides Hardware & Shoes. No we are not leading you into a degenerate Ace Hardware store, rather a no frills, farm-to-table experience with solid dishes that will certainly soak up all that wine you drank all day. Pork belly, pastrami, bacon steak and seasonal vegetables are typical items you will find on the menu.
Mattei’s Tavern is slightly tucked away but one step inside and you will feel right at home. If you have to wait for a table, grab a seat in front of the fireplace in their adjacent library room and have a cocktail. Although the setting may seem rustic and refined, the food is anything but. The team at Mattei’s are pushing the culinary boundaries with items such as roasted bone marrow, masa waffles, beef tartare and a charcuterie board you have to see to believe.
STAY: As I mentioned, there isn’t much to see in the town of Los Olivos outside of wine tasting rooms and restaurants but you always need a place to lie your head. The options are pretty limited in this category as well; one in fact. If you want to stretch the boundaries by a hair, you can include The Ballard Inn which is basically in Los Olivos if you just tell yourself that the border-line drawing guy was a bit tipsy that day – most likely from all the wine tasting – and happen to miscalculate.
So the one real option in Los Olivos is the stunning Fess Parker Wine Country Inn & Spa. This is an amazing boutique hotel with incredible amenities, dining on premise, a gorgeous pool and a luxury spa. What more could you need after a painful day of wine drinking?