With fewer than 5,000 residents, the small town of Santa Ynez is tucked into a valley between the San Rafael Mountains to the north and the Santa Ynez Mountains to the south. It's sometimes a little hard to tell if it's 2021 or 1881 with its period-style building facade saloons, dry good stores and horses wandering around town. However, Santa Ynez is also home to delicious restaurants, modern boutiques, and art galleries. Situated in the heart of Santa Barbara's wine country, it also boasts a countless number of award-winning vineyards, wineries, and tasting rooms.
Santa Ynez's diverse climate allows it to be a source of many types of wines. The region is widely recognized for award-winning Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. Many of the homes in the area (such as the location of our photo shoot) also include fully functional vineyards with grapes that are annually harvested for wine production.
The Not-So-Wild West
While Santa Ynez's architecture is notable for its old Western-style false-front facades, it's also home to many modern stores, casual restaurants, luxurious hotels, and fresh-from-the-farm grocery stores. However, many of the places we loved most were the ones that felt like they had been there since the 1880's.
The Great Outdoors
With hot, dry weather most of the year, Santa Ynez is the perfect place to spend time outside - and there are endless activities to do just that. Horseback riding, wine tours, hiking, cycling trails, golf, fishing, and boating are all favorite activities of locals and visitors alike. The Alisal, a 10,000-acre ranch that combines the feel of the old West and the comfort of a world-class resort is a standout place to rediscover the outdoors. www.alisal.com
On Your High Horse
A truly unique way to explore the valley, Vino Vaqueros offers private guided horseback riding tours through some of Santa Ynez's most scenic vineyards. www.vinovaqueros.com
Want to go tasting but wine isn't your thing? No problem! We loved tasting award-winning olive oil and balsamic fruit vinegars at Global Gardens. In the late 1990's, this valley staple became the world's very first mail-order olive oil club. To this day, Global Garden's owner, Theo, continues to share healthy cooking techniques, with a focus on seasonally flavorful recipes that are delivered in an easy-to-understand way. www.globalgardensonline.co