Continuing with the More part of our California Tiki Tour & More road trip, Kemey and I made our way to sunny central coast city of Solvang – just up the road from Santa Barbara and about a 100 miles north of Los Angeles.
Not in the know about Solvang? I wasn’t either before this trip. Here’s the gist.
Solvang is a small Danish town in the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County. By Danish, I mean Danish immigrants from the Midwest founded it. In search of milder winters, they moved on to California to settle in Solvang in 1911. Then came the fake windmills, Danish bakeries, a replica of Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue … stuff like that. It’s kitsch and quaint – a walkable and extremely pleasant spot to relax.
The town’s biggest claim to fame is that it was the location for the film Sideways. Given that Solvang is surrounded by dozens of vineyards and has more than 20 wine tasting rooms in town, it was a smart choice for such an off kilter film about a true wine connoisseur. The look of Solvang might be Nordic, but the feel is as California as it gets with warm dry weather throughout the year – which makes for a quirky juxtaposition for sure.
For Kemey and I (big fans of Sideways and generally of wine), Solvang was an ideal stop on our road trip and a smart base for a couple nights stay. The highlights of our visit follow.
Stagecoach Co Wine Tours
We had a great time touring vineyards and wineries with Stagecoach. Our guide, Kurt, was extremely knowledgeable about wine and able to explain things in layman’s terms without dumbing it down. All the sites visited were lovely and the wines were delicious. I especially loved what I tasted from Pence Ranch, a gorgeous tract of rolling hills (recently deemed Santa Rita Hills AVA) about 30 minutes west of Solvang, just beyond Buellton, producing some amazing pinot noirs.
Situated in the heart of downtown Solvang, this is the place to go for a hearty breakfast. I loved my aebleskivers (Danish puff pancakes), ever replenished cup of coffee and the friendly diner atmosphere of this third generation family owned eatery. When you go, see if you can grab the booth where Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack (Thomas Haden Church) had breakfast in Scene #5 of Sideways.
First & Oak at the Mirabelle Inn
One of the finer meals had during our entire trip to California was at First & Oak. Set within the pretty little Mirabelle Inn, the restaurant showcases British-born Chef Steven Snook’s adept hand at creating attractive and scrumptious dishes with organic, sustainable and seasonal ingredients grown nearby and pairing them with locally produced wine. Dishes I devoured with glee included truffle roasted cauliflower and coffee glazed duck breast. The dining room is lovely but I recommend sitting outside, especially if you can time your meal with sunset.
We stayed at Hotel Corque. An easy stroll from just about everything in Solvang, our room at this boutique hotel was spacious and ultra clean with a balcony for admiring a commanding view of the countryside. A dip in the hotel’s hot tub one night was a perfect ending to our day.
I hope you enjoyed this non-tiki detour. We’ll be back on the tiki trail with my next post. So stay tuned for more in my series of posts about my California tiki tour.