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Phoenix
Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Sip, Savor, and Soar

As we arrived in Buellton, nestled in the heart of Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country just a short drive north of Santa Barbara, we were immediately taken by its authentic and inviting vibe. Only 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean along Highway 101, Buellton is cocooned in natural beauty, framed by the rolling Santa Rita Hills.

While the hit movie “Sideways” put the town on the map, Buellton has established itself as a celebrated destination for its exceptional Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with pioneers and masters of these wines flourishing here. But Buellton offers far more than acclaimed vineyards; it’s a hub for farm-to-table dining, thriving breweries, a whimsical selection of overnight spots, and boasts California’s biggest and fastest zipline tour.

Buellton’s charming neighbors, including Solvang, Santa Ynez, Los Olivos, Lompoc, and Santa Barbara, beautifully complement its unique offerings, creating a regional epicenter for wine, culinary delights, outdoor escapades, and cultural encounters.

Our adventure began at the Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground, which offers a wide array of accommodations, including 52 cottages, 16 glamping-style tents, modernized vintage trailers, refurbished Airstream trailers, and RV sites with full hookups. We checked into a cozy Ranch Cottage accessed via a private entrance in the Santa Ynez ranch. Our dog-friendly cabin could sleep up to four, with a queen-sized bed in the bedroom and two twins in the loft. The kitchen had everything we needed, and outside, we just loved sipping wine on the comfy patio and the adorable front porch.

Exploring during the day left us little time to enjoy many of the resort’s offerings like pools, bocce ball, horseshoes, and bikes for a tour around town. Feather & Fire, the on-site restaurant, serves up comfort food — including pizza, chicken Philly sandwiches, family-style dinners, and ice cream. The charming general store is stocked with essentials like local wines, soft sweatshirts, and artisan gifts.

Flying Flags isn’t just a relaxing spot to reconnect with nature; it’s also all about sustainability. They source ingredients locally, run a solid recycling program, and offer full-size, refillable shower amenities. In 2024, they’re going solar, in line with parent company Highway West Vacations’ commitment to eco-friendly properties — already in place at Hotel Hygge and Sideways Inn.

After getting settled, we made our way to “Wine Wednesday” on Industrial Way. This weekly event organized by Esfuerzo Wines and The Birria Boyz brings together food vendors, live music, and wine tasting for a memorable experience. At the heart of the event is Fidencio Flores of Esfuerzo Wines, a visionary vintner deeply connected to the vineyards. As a dedicated farmer and meticulous winemaker, he oversees every aspect, from tending the vines to bottling the wines. During our visit, we had the pleasure of savoring a remarkable flight of wines, many poured by Flores himself, in his newly designed tasting room which bridges the realms of Old World and New.

After indulging our taste buds, we strolled down the street to Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.‘s original taproom, where we discovered a fantastic outdoor dining and entertainment area. It was decked out with string lights, warm fire pits, and fun games like Jenga and bocce ball — all set against the backdrop of massive stainless steel fermentation tanks. There’s also indoor and brew deck seating, where you can watch the brewing in action. The beer includes a rotating list of specialty and cask beers exclusive to their taprooms.

Here, the food is just as good as the beer. Irresistible Crack Wings in a jalapeño-maple-bacon sauce is a dish you won’t want to share. Throw in some Giant Pretzels with beer cheese and spicy brown mustard for dipping and indulge in treats like Carnitas Nachos Queso, crispy Brussels Sprouts, and a Pulled Pork Sando, and you’ll be set for the rest of the day. It’s a feast for both beer and food lovers alike!

Buellton tends to wind down early, but for those seeking a late-night spot, the Sideways Inn Lounge adjacent to Flying Flags is the place to go. The vibe is contemporary and relaxed. It’s an eclectic atmosphere marked by a playful mix of vintage motorcycles, antler chandeliers, and tufted leather sofas. They’ve got a menu brimming with craft beers, creative cocktails, Central California wines, and mouthwatering sausages with hand-cut Belgian fries, served from the Santa Ynez Sausage Company Airstream parked outside.

Our next stop brought us to Vega Vineyard and Farm, where we fully embraced the sustainable, farm-to-table experience. Sitting on the beautiful patio, we enjoyed the sweeping views of the sprawling vineyards, restaurant, and wine bar. Its welcoming, rustic charm was the perfect prelude to an unforgettable dining experience.

The menu promised an exciting culinary journey, showcasing seasonal flavors from the estate garden and local producers. From vibrant salads to artisanal entrees, each dish conveyed genuine artistry. Exploring the curated wine selection by Steve Clifton became an essential part of our gastronomic adventure. Highlights included Deviled Farm Eggs with the 2022 Vermentino and a Charcuterie & Cheese Board with the 2021 Pinot Grigio. Standouts like Roasted Beets with salmon and the Asian Pork Burger were perfectly paired with wine.

The dining experience was elevated by wine-infused sauces that beautifully complemented the culinary delights. What made it even more special was the staff’s extensive knowledge and authentic passion for food, wine, and the region. They really understand the special magic of shared meals, recognizing how food and wine can bring people together in an extraordinary way. The opportunity to connect with their farm animals enriched our visit, emphasizing their unwavering commitment to authenticity and sustainability.

Our journey led us to Brick Barn Wine Estate, and just when we thought we hit our sipping limit, we couldn’t turn down a tasting of their distinctive wine selection. Nestled by the Santa Ynez River, this charming spot proudly boasts the title of the westernmost vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley AVA. The wine tasting room, offering both indoor and outdoor seating, provided an outdoor haven with fire pits, patio heaters, and picnic tables shaded by oak trees.

Brick Barn stands out for producing wines with a unique character, shaped by the region’s distinct climate, positioned between the warmer inland areas and the cooler Sta. Rita Hills. Their 35 acres showcase a strong commitment to sustainability, steering clear of chemical fertilizers and supporting native birds of prey.

Now, shifting gears, we dove into the thrilling world of ziplining with Highline Adventures, home to California’s largest and fastest ziplines. We soared through a three-part adventure, whisking us over the gorgeous Santa Ynez Valley, cruising across scenic hillsides, and following vast ridge lines. The views?

Absolutely breathtaking, giving us a whole new perspective on the area. Highline Adventures blew us away with their commitment to safety and education. The expert guides addressed any fears swiftly, and the top-notch equipment, including a secure basket-like harness, made the experience worry-free. This alone is worth a trip to Buellton!

Filled with endorphins, our day concluded with dinner at the renowned Industrial Eats, nestled in a repurposed warehouse on Industrial Way. This restaurant is a hub of quality, community-focused dining. It’s the kind of place where you stroll in and immediately feel like you’re among old friends. The chefs work some serious magic with fresh, local ingredients, offering dishes like Roasted Peaches with Prosciutto and Burrata; Beef & Ricotta Meatballs in Marinara; White Shrimp with Pancetta, Chile, and Garlic; and Fennel Sausage, Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil Pizza. The food was divine, and the experience was unforgettable.

Post-checkout, we explored DorWood Distillery with co-founder Jay Lockwood, a true hidden gem offering an authentic distillation experience. This family-owned spot embraces the soil-to-sip philosophy, crafting spirits with a genuine passion for craftsmanship. Their meticulously crafted spirits, perfect for sipping neat, leave a lasting impression — the gin’s blend of nine botanicals and smooth finish is noteworthy. And the DorWood Vodka-Infused Habapeño Limoncello was a totally unexpected delight — so much so that we had to bring a bottle home.

To conclude our journey, Ostrichland USA was a unique and fun way to cap off the day. Here, we fed emus and ostriches in a desert-like setting.

In Buellton, a perfect blend of wine, craft beer, outdoor adventures, and delightful dining encapsulates the charm and richness of Santa Barbara Wine Country and will forever be a journey etched in our memories!

Read more Travel articles from Green Living.

1 COMMENT

  1. Great article. The good news is that you still have plenty of places to see and explore. You missed two hidden gems for those who appreciate family time and the outdoors. Riverview Park and SYV Botanic Garden, both located at 151 Sycamore Drive. The botanic garden features trees and plants native to Santa Barbara county, and both park and garden offer plenty of opportunities for all ages to explore and experience. Free to visit, sunrise to sunset.

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