By any measure, the sleepy Santa Ynez Valley town of Los Olivos is small—less than 3 square miles in size, with just 1,132 residents. But what it lacks in area and population, it makes up for in wine and charm. It's packed with tasting rooms pouring the Santa Ynez Valley's finest—without the stuffiness you might find in some other quaint wine-country towns.
Los Olivos's ever-expanding line of wine-tasting rooms now reaches above 40, and the quality of inns and restaurants merits a full weekend's stay. Join fellow visitors, citrus farmers, and dusty cowboys for a stroll on the main drag, where pastel Craftsman houses are embraced by white picket fences, arbors dripping with flowers, and hidden Mediterranean-style courtyards.
Here, from writer Jenna Scatena, are the five best ways to sip, shop, and eat your way through town.
1. STAYA recently rebuffed 19-room boutique hotel right downtown, Fess Parker Wine Country Inn & Spa transports the surrounding vineyards' charm indoors (from $375, including breakfast; 2860 Grand Ave.). Soothing neutral tones and sunny rooms serve as the backdrop for oversize photographs of the Santa Ynez Valley's iconic gnarled oak trees and sweeping blond hills. The twist? The inn's restaurant, Petros, serves Hellenic inspired fare.
2. ARTS & CULTUREGallery Los Olivos (2920 Grand Ave.) serves as a perusable almanac of local artists, with works from more than 40 represented throughout. Refreshed lighting highlights the many types of art packed into the bright space: vibrant pastel landscapes, dreamy watercolors, chiseled wood carvings, sculptures, and handcrafted jewelry.
3. SHOPHoused in a building that was one of the first gas stations in California back in 1901, the Los Olivos General Store (2900 Grand Ave.) now sells polished locally made goods and housewares (though a vintage gas pump in front pays tribute to its roots). For a tiny corner space, it packs a lot of punch—local marmalades, herbal drinking vinegars, handmade stationery and jewelry, even wine-barrel dog beds populate the shelves. And it still manages to keep a secret: The smallest wine-tasting room in town is connected next door.
4. SIPWith no shortage of winetasting rooms here, you have to prioritize. Qupé's tasting room (2963 Grand Ave.) may be one of the more understated ones, but it's famous as being Los Olivos's cult winery among the valley's biggest wine nerds. It was the first in the county to plant cool-climate Syrah, the varietal that brought it to fame. Tastings start at $10.
5. NIBBLEOn weekends, the whole town seems to gather in Mattei's Tavern's backyard for a brunch boosted by live music, bocce ball, and cornhole on the sprawling lawn. Sheep's-milk ricotta with burnt-orange marmalade on toast and cornmeal pancakes with citrus curd reflect the area's bounty of farm-fresh goods. They are served alongside rhubarb juleps and bubbles that stay chilled in a teardrop trailer turned cooler. The building itself goes back to 1886 as a stagecoach stop, but was recently renovated into a bright, green- and white-walled space with chic country decor—call it "farmhouse sophisticated." $$; 4350 Railway Ave.; matteistavern.com.