Thursday, June 17, 2021
Santa Barbara Wine Country and the return of summer
I'm wondering if years down the road, historians will note the span of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic as running from March 15, 2020 to June 15, 2021. It would make sense, as June 15 is the day the state of California removed most major health restrictions and the summer kicked off with a sense of normalcy. I witnessed this while on a wine tasting vacation in Santa Barbara.
Having airline tickets from a cancelled wedding in the spring of 2020, my wife and I were looking for somewhere we could fly (from a limited selection with a small airline), and the Santa Barbara/Santa Ynez Valley provided a pleasant and satisfying return to the idea of vacationing. We flew into LA, and spent an evening with a cousin in Old Town Pasadena, a vibrant district that has come back to life. People were out, shopping, dining, and strolling all evening ... and it felt almost normal. Cafe Santorini was the place to be, with a delicious sangria and a moussaka that was probably the best I've had since my time in Greece years ago.
Our time in wine country was centered at the Sideways Inn in Buelton, CA, and, yes, it's the same motel from the Alexander Payne film that put pinot noir on everyone's mind, and nearly caused a crisis in the Merlot industry. The Sideways, which was called The Windmill (for obvious reason), has definitely remodeled and upped its game, and we were quite happy with the accommodations. That said, if we ever go back to the area, I'd probably stay in the town of Solvang instead, for it is adorable and quaint with many attractions, and some easier access to the wineries we visited.
Our winery tour consisted of: