The historic town of Los Alamos is nestled in the heart of Santa Ynez Valley’s idyllic wine country, north of Santa Barbara. In this appellation, cool ocean breezes from the Pacific flow up through the vineyards into the Santa Rita Hills. This optimal climate for growing grapes helps local winemakers craft some of the most award wining wines in the state.
Driving the winding, gentle roads in this region reveals vineyards, meadows and picturesque hillsides. In the spring, especially after major rains, the wild flowers create massive, dramatic splashes of color that have been affectionately dubbed “Super Bloom”–dotting the terrain, ranches, farms and wineries surrounding Los Alamos. Inside the town, along Bell Street (the main road passing through) small hotels, cafes, tasting rooms, and surprising adventures fill the historic town.
The recent full renovation of the Skyview Los Alamos transformed the 1959 motel into a luxury boutique hotel. The five-acre property perched on a hill overlooking the Santa Rita Hills, has 33 guest rooms. Designed by Ten Over Studio, this midcentury gem property has a pool next to their open-air cocktail bar and Norman restaurant. In the evening, guests gather at the fire-pit. With modern and rustic touches throughout, their cozy rooms have white linens, striped blankets, and hanging bar doors leading to new marble bathrooms. A deck by reception looks out at the surrounding landscape of vineyards and farms.
The inviting, light-filled dining room at Bell’s provides the perfect setting for their French-inspired bistro menu—helmed by a husband and wife team, and Per Se alums. Copper pots and vessels hang from hooks in the kitchen. Wild Burgundy snails with parsley and garlic are served with artisan bread baked down the street at Bob’s Well Bread. They make delicate French gnocchi with fonduta and herbs. Moules Frites feature local Santa Barbara Hope Ranch mussels with mustard saffron and wine. The wine list features the owners’ favorites from AA Badenhorst Ramnasgras Cinsualt from South Africa and Domaine Chapel’s Juliénas as well as local Foxen Cuvee Jeanne Marie, Longoria Pinot Noir and Storm Sauvignon Blanc.
Winemaker Sonja Magdevski took a circuitous path to become one. She studied political science and journalism—and earned a Fulbright in Macedonia to study potential paths to peace. She eventually launched her winemaking career, which she considers to be the ultimate expression of creativity and peacemaking. Her wine tasting room in Los Alamos is an eclectic and inviting space to sample the bounty of the area. Visitors can taste her Casa Dumetz Pinot Noir as well as her Clementine Carter label offerings of Grenache Rose, and several Grenache Blancs. She also makes wines for her label Feminist Party with a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. Casa Dumetz shares a connected space with Babi’s Beer Emporium and Valle Fresh Tacos help make this a destination for locals and visitors. Across the street, don’t miss tasting Municipal Wines in their tasting room at Shelter Social Club’s Alamo Motel.
A recently opened winery, Brick Barn has made a name for itself by winning several awards, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine competition for the White Sweepstakes (for their Vermentino in 2018). Originally a working horse barn, the property has been transformed into a state-of-the-art winemaking facility with a large tasting room and fully equipped event spaces, with an indoor display area for luxury sports cars. The custom lighting fixtures throughout were designed by Jez Blacker of Illūm Lighting Design to complement the dramatic interior design by Oliva Villaluz.
This stunning winery features an estate, wine cave and expansive vineyards. In 2007, the Murphy family bought the 200-acre property. They executed studies of the land to learn how to maximize diversity of what they could plant there. Finally, they acquired 11 more acres of pinot noir grapes that had been planted in 2001. Taylor Lombardo Architects designed the estate, which was completed in 2014. It’s a 13,000-square-foot contemporary structure built to respond to the climate and needs of running a winery. Presqu’ile offers tours of the winery and wine cave with barrel tastings. In the summer, concerts take place in their amphitheater and they host supper club events quarterly.
In addition to wine tasting and wild flower gazing, activities in this region range from hot air balloons and helicopter tours to biking and horseback riding. One of the most unique experience would have to be a visit to Ostrichland in nearby Buellton, where visitors can observe and feed ostriches and emus. Ostrichland provides the opportunity to see these massive creatures up close. They run along the rugged fields around the viewing areas, showing off their tall legs and long necks. Their facial expressions are undeniably entertaining, as is the act of trying to hold the feed bowls to feed one snacks safely.