Superblooms, Wine, and Michelin stars- Why you need to Visit this Underrated California Gem

The Santa Ynez Valley refreshes experiences while remaining true to it’s signature charm, authentic character, and laid-back California Central Coast vibe.

A view of the vineyards in Santa Ynez Valley California
A view of the vineyards in Santa Ynez Valley California / Courtesy Santa Ynez Valley

The Santa Ynez Valley refreshes its experiences while remaining true to it’s signature charm, authentic character, and laid-back California Central Coast vibe.

Perhaps the best news is coming from the Valley itself, where recent rains have pushed the water level at Cachuma Lake to 99% capacity for the first time in years and have outdoor enthusiasts optimistic for another California Poppy “super bloom.” And the Valley’s innovators continue to find new ways to enhance the Santa Ynez Valley’s signature charm, authentic character, and laid-back California Central Coast vibe.

Oh, the Santa Ynez Valley offers so much new to explore! Among the most notable:  One of the world’s “Most Anticipated New Hotel Openings for 2023,” according to U.S. News & World Report, a re-imagining of the food and lodging experience at a beloved inn, a new food experience from a pioneering vineyard and farm, a beer and wine concept from the same couple that has already brought two MICHELIN ratings to the Santa Ynez Valley, and a new opportunity to get a bird’s-eye view of the Valley from a mile-long zipline.  

Fresh Oysters at Bar Le Cote restaurant in Santa Ynez Valley California
  The Oyster & Peel and Eat Shrimp at Bar Le Côte in Los Olivos/ Craft & Cluster Courtesy Santa Ynez Valley
Bell's Los Alamos in Santa Ynez Valley California
Bell’s in Los Alamos / Courtesy Carter Hiyama

“The Santa Ynez Valley has become a world-class destination in large part because the community has consistently found new and innovative ways to showcase what is best about this region,” says Shelby Sim, President & CEO of Visit the Santa Ynez Valley. “We are so lucky to have such a creative and tireless group of people who call this community home. It is through their efforts that the Santa Ynez Valley continues to re-imagine and refresh the experience while managing to hold on to what has always made it such a special place.”

Following is a list of recent awards and recognition, businesses that have opened their doors in the Santa Ynez Valley in recent months or plan to do so in the coming months, and other new or notable offerings: 

Santa Ynez Valley / Courtesy Santa Ynez Valley


New additions to MICHELIN Guide California — Add three more establishments to the Santa Ynez Valley’s list of MICHELIN-rated restaurants. Bar Le Côte in Los Olivos, and Solvang hotspots Coast Range and peasants FEAST were added to the MICHELIN Guide California. Peasants FEAST also earned the Bib Gourmand recognition for “good quality, good value cooking.” The three “New” restaurants to the guide joined Bell’s Los Alamos, which became the first Santa Ynez Valley restaurant to earn a coveted MICHELIN Star in 2021, and First & Oak in Solvang, which was the first Santa Ynez Valley restaurant to be included in the California Guide when it was awarded a MICHELIN Plate in 2019.

A laid back room at The Inn At Mattei's Tavern in Santa Ynez Valley California
A laid back room at The Inn At Mattei’s Tavern/ Auberge Resorts Collection


The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern — An Auberge Resort, the Inn at Mattei’s Tavern has been years in the making. Named one of the world’s “31 Most Anticipated New Hotel Openings for 2023” by U.S. News & World Report, the wait has been well worth it. The result is a careful and detailed embrace of this landmark destination’s history, all while blending the simplicity of modern farmhouse design with the eclectic textures and patterns of nearby ranch life.

The Genevieve — Debuting in March, the former Santa Ynez Inn will offer the same sophisticated service that has long made it among the must-stays in the valley. But The Genevieve has added fresh, opulent touches that offer a new level of luxury, all with an understated elegance.

Hotel Hygge — Set in Buellton, Hotel Hygge embraces a Danish-influenced minimalism, featuring elegant simplicity while delivering everything you need to unwind. Hotel Hygge was also designed to foster connection with its communal courtyard, firepits, cornhole boards, and picnic tables. Plus, guests can enjoy the amenities at sister property The Sideways Inn.

peasants FEAST restaurant Pastrami Smoked Salmon in Santa Ynez Valley
Pastrami Smoked Salmon sandwich at peasants FEAST restaurant / Courtesy Santa Ynez Valley


The Victor — Headed by Executive Chef Beto Huizar, The Genevieve’s new restaurant, The Victor, offers unique, chef-driven renditions of flavors found on the central coast of California. No wonder it’s become one of the hottest new gourmet dining experiences in Santa Ynez.

Giorgio’s at Parkway — Opening in Buellton in 2022, Giorgio’s is proof that some of the best flavors sometimes come in the most traditional packages. Serving unique takes on pizzas, pastas, salads, and sandwiches, Giorgio’s Italian-inspired dishes offer a casual, mouth-watering option.

Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard – Owner Betty Williams set out in the 1960s to create a working farm based on good practices for people, animals, and the earth. First there were horses, then organic vegetables, and then in 1983, a vineyard. Now, the next step in Buttonwood’s evolution: a true farm-to-table menu created by Gleason Family Vineyards Executive Chef Peter Cham and Buttonwood’s Sous Chef Lee Gottheimer. Offered from Friday through Sunday, Buttonwood’s seasonal menu will utilize the ingredients from Buttonwood’s own sustainable farm, ensuring the freshest culinary experience possible.

Craft House at Corque — Hotel Corque’s newest culinary concept, Craft House, offers a fresh modern look, craft-inspired food and drink, and a family-friendly atmosphere in the heart of Solvang. It’s mom-and-pop quality brought to its American gastropub menu. 

Campo Del Sol — From the same team that brought MICHELIN-rated Coast Range & Vaquero Bar to the Santa Ynez Valley, Campo del Sol in Solvang presents a fresh take on Mexican Cuisine. The menu emphasizes fresh, locally sourced ingredients that liven traditional Mexican plates while leaving room for contemporary takes on familiar favorites.

Downtown Los Olivos -Craft & Cluster in Santa Ynez Valley
Downtown Los Olivos -Craft & Cluster/ Courtesy Santa Ynez Valley


The Other Room — Led by Greg and Daisy Ryan — the couple that brought MICHELIN-rated Bell’s Los Alamos and Bar Le Côte to the Santa Ynez Valley — Companion Hospitality is branching out with this new beer and wine bar in Los Olivos. The Ryans bring the same attention to detail they brought to their MICHELIN-rated darlings with The Other Room’s thoughtful selection of wines and California craft beers.

Terre Et Sang — Founded in 2019 by father-son team Dalita and Duncan Harmon, Terre Et Sang boasts of a singular mission to hand-craft wines that are compelling and delicious expressions of site and origin from the great vineyards of Santa Barbara County. Now Terre Et Sang will have a new home, with a gorgeous tasting room in Los Olivos.

Vega Vineyard – Demetrios (Jimmy) & Karen Loizides sought to produce wines that are “a window to a place,” and the experience at Vega Vineyard is a window to the Santa Ynez Valley and its deep agricultural roots. Wine tasting is an important part of any visit, but the Loizides family invites visitors to explore their historic ranch, enjoy a bite, visit and feed the farm animals, or just relax and take it all in from the ranch’s picnic areas.

Sam Sara winery in Los Olivos California
Sam Sara winery in Los Olivos California/ Courtesy Santa Ynez Valley
The Solvang Windmill in Santa Ynez Valley California
The Solvang Windmill / Courtesy Santa Ynez Valley


Highline Adventures — Situated on a 1,200-acre ranch just outside Buellton., Highline Adventures seeks to educate visitors on the history, environment and culture of the area through a series of adventures and outdoor activities. Most notably, the longest and fastest zipline in California – a series of three tandem ziplines, ranging from 1,300- to 3,360-feet long and soaring 1,000 feet above the ground, overlooking the breathtaking Santa Ynez Valley. In addition to the zipline experience, an on-site aerial ropes course consists of 85 different elements to climb, crawl, swing, and hang from all suspended amongst old-growth California Live Oaks.

Solvang Festival Theater — The open-air theater in Solvang recently completed its $5.3 million renovation. The Santa Ynez Valley’s premier outdoor venue for concerts and dramatic performances has long been a magical place. But the renovation of the 700-seat theater adds much-improved lighting and other features to make a night at the theater even more special.

Zaca Creek Ranch and Zaca Coffee — Coffee lovers will be able to follow the path from farm to cup with Zaca Creek Ranch and Zaca Coffee. Zaca Creek Ranch offers regular farm tours, where visitors find cattle, horses, alpaca, llamas, goats, dogs, and Walker the pig all living in harmony with the land. Zaca Coffee’s new roastery in Buellton is an altogether different experience. Co-founders Hayley Firestone and Dennis Patrick explored the world’s finest beans and blends for more than a year in a quest to identify rich flavor and subtle complexities that reflect the Santa Ynez Valley life. The result is Zaca Coffee.

Farmacy — The first cannabis shop in Santa Ynez, Farmacy serves as a community hub and welcoming environment for anyone age 21 and over. The staff promises to help customers find the right products for their needs and interests.

Olive & Lavender Farm — O+L farms is a beautiful and charming property boasting more than 100 imported olive trees in Los Olivos. Visitors are invited to taste a wide range of fine olive oils and to tour the farm, which was once home to a blacksmith shop for stagecoaches and still features a 100-year-old stone wall.

Global Gardens — Since Theo Stephan founded it in 1998, Global Gardens has become a Santa Ynez Valley flagship with its olive oils and farm stand. But ahead of its 25th anniversary, Global Gardens has opened a new production facility and tasting room in Santa Ynez. The beautifully decorated tasting room also includes a gorgeous open outdoor tasting space, offering an entirely new experience.

The Arcade at peasants DELI & MARKET — MICHELIN-rated dining experiences and retro arcades aren’t generally synonymous. But peasants DELI & MARKET, the companion restaurant to the MICHELIN-rated peasants FEAST, now offers an adjoining gaming room with vintage video games, pinball, and an air hockey table.

About the Santa Ynez Valley:
Barely two hours from Los Angeles and a scenic four-hour drive from San Francisco, the Santa Ynez Valley is home to six distinct towns each with its own culture, vibe, and menu of experiences. Blanketed with fruitful farms and vineyards, the California Central Coast wine region’s temperate weather allows for year-round activities of all sorts, spread throughout the historical communities of Ballard, Buellton, Los Alamos, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, and Solvang. Destination dining and world-class wines await, accompanied by lodging at every level, all painted into atmospheric backdrops that colorfully mesh Old World and Old West. Visit more than 100 wineries, feast on chef-driven cuisine, and enjoy festive events and design details from Victorian-era to mid-century to modern Danish.

Read the Spring 2023 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.

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