I looked into Joshua Tree, Bear Lake, and a lot of other places before I settled on going towards the California Central Coast wine valley. My aunt and uncle (emo and emobu) and I love being out in nature, and my Mom likes the outdoors as well. But since it was July I thought Joshua Tree would be too hot and I thought Santa Barbara and Solvang would provide more amusement and entertainment for my younger cousin than Bear Lake. I was also curious to see for myself the beauty of the other wine region in California that played such an interesting backdrop to the movie “Sideways.” Since neither my Mom nor my emo had watched it, I tried to provide a brief synopsis while we drove up and over the mountain towards Solvang.
I had originally planned to spend a day touring the wineries in the Santa Ynez area and even made a dinner reservation at the Hitching Post where one of the Sideways characters Maya (played by Virgina Madsen) was a waitress. But once I found out my little cousin was coming with us instead of my uncle I thought it’d be better to make some changes to our itinerary. So our first top was a winery that also had a working farm, and we stopped by to get some peaches.
Buttonwood Winery and Farm was easy to find and as it was a weekday afternoon we happened to be the only customers. We were able to walk around a bit and try their varieties of peaches before we bought a box. I have a mild allergy to peaches, apricots, plums, apples, etc unless they are organic, and luckily for me the peaches at Buttonwood were great. You could tell how delicious they were going to be just by smelling them. They were gorgeous.
The drive through the hills and valleys rows of green vines was peaceful and quiet. Along the way we saw cattle (my little cousin exclaimed “Black Angus!” which made all of us laugh), horses, and signs for a lot of wineries but we headed off to Fess Parker in Los Olivos. Actor Fess Parker, who lived in Santa Barbara for many years and passed away just last year, was best known for his portrayal of frontiersman Davy Crockett and appropriately there were raccoon tails decorating the tasting room at his namesake winery. Even the glass we had for our wine tasting had a little raccoon tail etched on it. For $12 we were able to try three whites and three reds. My underage cousin kept a scorecard for us as Mom, emo, and I gave our review of what we liked and disliked after each wine. We weren’t overly thrilled with any one wine in particular but we did all agree that we liked the 2007 Bien Nacido Vineyard pinot noir the best. It was the last one we tasted; it was rich, smooth, and full bodied. We ended up purchasing a bottle and enjoyed it a few days later back in Los Angeles with everyone.
The main reason I chose this particular winery to visit was for the picnic area. I thought it would be nice for us to take a break and nibble on a few things while we were there. We took full advantage of the beautiful afternoon sun and the greenery all around us. It reminded me of my last visit to Napa Valley where we packed a picnic and rented bikes to tour various wineries. The facilities and the surrounding vineyards in Santa Ynez were much smaller but I found it very charming and special. We spent our afternoon gazing out to the cloudless blue sky and the rolling hills covered in shades of deep green, enjoying our picnic lunch and talking about nothing and everything.
Because my family is scattered around the globe and we rarely all get together, I forget that my Mom is also someone’s younger sister. It was interesting to observe the role my Mom plays with her older sister around. And it was also fun (but a bit odd) for me to see my aunt, my emo, as a Grandmother to my young cousin. I still feel like a little kid but of course I know I’m not.
We didn’t go to all the places I would have gone had I taken this trip with my friends, but we made some new memories filled with love and family and a bit of wine that day.
Buttonwood Farm Winery and Vineyard: 1500 Alamo Pintado Road, Solvang, CA
Fess Parker Winery: 6200 Foxen Canyon Road, Los Olivos, CA