In the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley there is a little slice of Denmark in the small town of Solvang. Some may call it kitschy, others just love it – see for yourself and you make the call – maybe it’s a bit of each? Driving up there from Los Angeles is a nice and easy drive and once you arrive, the scene is so much more tranquil.
There are many wineries in this part of California and the wine industry has had a growth spurt for the last 20-30 years, whereas earlier the bigger and sometimes better wineries were located further up North in California. The Santa Ynez Valley which is in Santa Barbara County has experienced a slow growth as far as wineries go. The first wine grapes in Santa Barbara County were planted by Junipero Serra in 1782. Serra is often referred to as “Father of California wine”. The more recent plantings in the Santa Ynez Valley region started in the 1960’s, but it was not until the 1980’s that the growth took off and many more wineries and grape growing enterprises entered the area. You can find out more about local wineries and their tasting rooms at the Santa Barbara Vintners website.
The most popular varietals in the Santa Ynez Valley are – in order:
- Pinot Noir
You can learn more about wine in general at Wine Institute which on their web-site, is described in the following way – “Wine Institute is an association of 1,000 California wineries and wine-related businesses that initiate and advocate public policy to enhance the environment for the responsible production, consumption and enjoyment of wine”.
Wine Valley Inn & Cottages is a nice place to stay in Solvang – centrally located and they have a wine bar on Friday evening with a very nice and knowledgable host (check for hours and availability).
H.C. Andersen 1805-1875 was a Danish author who wrote many pieces such as “The Emperor’s New Clothes” which is a rather hilarious tale with serious undertones.
Solvang Brewing Co is in the centre of town and it is a nice homey place with some outdoor seating, perfect to enjoy a beautiful California day and some good beer and eats. The beer selection is extensive and they have some good hoppy beers for the beer connoisseur, or a good stout if that’s your preference. The food is good as well and they do actually have some good vegetarian options – mostly salads – for us healthy eaters. It would be a shame if they didn’t being in or at least close to the main vegetable growing areas of the US.
The Valhalla IPA is a really really good beer, amazing to find something like this in the US and in Solvang, of course the Danish heritage comes through very very well! The food is good and the service is countryside friendly.
Dessert is great – Cream Brûlée, as tasty as I have ever had it – if you like coffee or coffee and a cognac – you are out of luck however, they have neither. I would strongly encourage having coffee and espresso available with let’s say good local Brandy – so much depends on the finish!.
As you stroll back to your lodging later at night you may, if you are lucky, experience the moon over Solvang as in the image below…