Whether it’s your first time exploring the Santa Ynez Valley or your fifteenth, how you taste your way through wine country can be just as important as what you taste. To be sure, world-class wine awaits here. But discovering new and different ways to experience the Santa Ynez Valley’s 100-plus wineries and four distinct AVAs—such as walking, cycling or riding horseback, to name a few—can be just as memorable as the wine itself. While there are a number of wine tour operators in the Valley, and professionally guided tours are available by limo, jeep, or private van for groups large and small, here are some suggestions for those looking for a more non-traditional way to explore the Santa Ynez Valley wine country:
Horseback: Vino Vaqueros offers wine country explorers the chance to soak in the beauty and serenity of the Santa Ynez Valley landscape on horseback as they ride through vineyards and ranchlands followed by tastings at either Estelle Vineyard or Fess Parker Winery.
Cycling: Ranging from leisure-paced to vigorous, and with single and multiple day tour options available, exploring wine country on two wheels with attentive, knowledgeable and responsible guides is a heart healthy and soul-satisfying way to sip and savor.
Movie-themed: Fans of the 2004 Oscar-winning film Sideways can follow in the footsteps of Miles and Jack with the Sideways Wine Route, which features many of the same wineries, restaurants and other stops that comprised the pair’s Santa Ynez Valley adventure.
Self-guided walking: Park the car for the day and stroll along the Solvang Wine Walk or the Los Olivos Promenade. With dozens of tasting rooms clustered close together, this is a great option for visitors short on time or who want to combine wine tasting with restaurant, shopping and cultural experiences.
UberWine: Connect with a driver on demand, which can accommodate groups of up to six people. With no limits on time or distance, UberWine is a no-frills, low-cost alternative to traditional wine tours.
Regardless of what mode of transportation your Santa Ynez Valley wine tour entails, vibrant vineyards surrounded by rural roads and oak-studded hills set the backdrop for a region that produces a palate-pleasing range of varietals, including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Viognier.
But what sets this region apart, and why those who visit tend to return year after year, is that so many of the wineries located in the Santa Ynez Valley are boutique, family-run operations known for welcoming visitors in an unpretentious, friendly and relaxed atmosphere. And with tasting rooms and wineries clustered close together, a wine-focused trip to the Santa Ynez Valley means more time actually spent tasting, and less time traveling from winery to winery.
About the Santa Ynez Valley:
Just two hours from Los Angeles and a scenic four-hour drive from San Francisco, the Santa Ynez Valley feels worlds apart from both. With six distinct communities encompassing everything from classic California wine country to Northern European traditions to the very best of the Old West, the Santa Ynez Valley is home to endless possibilities. Here in and around the towns of Ballard, Buellton, Los Alamos, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez and Solvang visitors will find more than 100 wineries, incredible food, special events and a unique, rich heritage. For more information, including a complete listing of restaurants, wineries, tasting rooms and events, go to VisitSYV.com.