It's easy to experience Solvang on feet, a walkable California highlight unlike many here. Go leisurely and acquaint yourself to the novelty shops of knick-knacks. Main streets include the very Danish-sounding Copenhagen and Molle Way, besides First St and Second St.
My wife, Sue, and I walked into Lion's Peak Vineyards Tasting Room in Solvang to enjoy not only the dazzling art works on the walls, but to taste many of the wines that are making Lion's Peak a household name. We were not disappointed. A smiling face greeted us with a big hello and welcome that warmed up the room. Mary, the tasting room manager and wine hostess for our tastings was a pleasure to converse with regarding wines and the well balanced Lion's Peak wines.
After several tastes of the whites, a label called "Lulu", a blend of Sauvigon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Muscat, was my wife's choice, winning her over from the Viognier and Marsanne that I enjoyed. As to the reds, most were satisfying with good finishes but the wine that knocked my socks off was the Reserve Lionnesse that is 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 20bernet Franc. No wine fancy talk needed here. The Lion's Peak Reserve Lionnesse was 100% right on with my discerning taste buds.
Both my wife and I agreed on Mary's suggestion of trying the Augustus XIX Port with her homemade brownie/chocolate chip cookie combo. What a knockout punch! In fact, as I write this, I am sipping a little of that Port, but unfortunately without the cookie. Thanks to Mary for a wonderful wine tasting and even a better appreciation for Lion's Peak Vineyards. Now, if I only could have met the owner, Jennifer Soni-Arant, to thank her for developing wonderful wines to enjoy. That would have completed my day.
Jennifer Soni-Arant, owner and winemaker of Lion's Peak Vineyards, has her hands full with the winery vineyards in San Miguel within the Paso Robles Appellation, the tasting room in Solvang, and the New International Boutique Wine Shoppe and Tasting Bar in Cambria. That's a lot of running around and it takes a dedicated staff to keep it running smoothly. Looked pretty smooth at the Tasting Room in Solvang. Lion's Peak has won many awards over the past years and with the dedication by Jennifer and her team, I am looking forward to many fine wines in the future.
Fine wine is an art in progress. You have to nurture the vine to produce the grape that releases the nectar of the gods. Art is very similar. Your have to produce the paints to color the palette that brings a painting to life. In Solvang, Lion's Peak wine tasting room combines the two together with the wine in the bottle and the art on the label. While taste sampling the fine wines with your palate, your eyes are dancing over the modern art works on the walls of the Lion's Peak Vineyards Tasting Room. Then you realize that the art is reproduced on the wine bottles label, a wonderful coupling.
Lion's Peak Vineyards Tasting Room is open Monday-Thursday 11:00 to 6:30 with extended hours on the weekends. Make sure you stop by and try the port and as the saying goes "any port in a storm". Don't believe it, no way, only Lion's Peak Augustus XIX Port will do.
Solvang is a Danish town with a California wine country flare. One of the best and brightest stars of the wine tasting bars in Solvang beckons to you to step inside the stone walled room. There is a magical draw to the entrance that sits below street level with wonderful wood doors and a red domed canopy that proudly exclaims "Tastes of the Valleys". At the entrance, you realize that this wine tasting room has enveloped your senses to stay and sip awhile.
Inside, you are mesmerized by the many bottles of fine wine, featuring the best in Central Coast winemaking, that line the walls and fill the racks. So many wine labels to choose for a tasting, that help is needed from the smiling faces behind the bar. My wife, Sue, and I were pleased to be greeted by Ash Mehta and his wife, Lissa Hallberg, with a warm and friendly hello, followed by a time to try wine suggestion. The ambiance is here and the bar chairs were comfy enough to sit and chat with the owners as well as fellow patrons.
One of the clever ideas that Ash brings to the room, is to ask if he can take a photo of you and your mate kissing for the "Wall of Fame Friends and Guests" photo pages of their website. That kiss puts you in the mood to taste a few wines. Tastes of the Valleys has many vineyards wines displayed, at least sixteen that I counted, and I am sure at least one of which shall please your palate. Remember, if you want to taste different wines to find the one that appeals to you the most, just ask at Tastes of the Valleys to help you decide with the sample tasting, which bottle or bottles that you are going to take home to enjoy. They are open Sunday-Thursday 12 Noon till 8 PM and Friday-Saturday 12 Noon till 10 PM. If you stop by, please say hello to Ash and Lissa from travelgourmet.
This copy of the famous Little Mermaid statue from Copenhagen is on the north side of the main road passing through Solvang. Located on the sidewalk between busy traffic and some shops, it may not be as well situated as the original. Take a look. It is just across the street from the primary shopping area of Solvang.
I've been to many, many churches on several continents, but never before have I seen an open air stations of the cross like there is at Mission Santa Ines in Solvang. If you aren't familiar with Catholic churches, the stations of the cross are like a picture time line of Jesus in his final hours (also know as the Passion, Way of Sorrows, Via Dolorosa).
This one is outside Mission Santa Ines, overlooking the beautiful Santa Ines Valley. You don't have to be Catholic, or Christian, or even religious to appreciate this scene. A quiet walk through the filtered light provided by the canopy of trees is precious.
Solvang is located in one of the most beautiful parts of California. Please don't just drive in from highway 101 and leave without taking a side trip along some of the smaller, rural roads. Just by getting one of the free winery maps in the tourist office in town you can see that there are several roads leading north and west from Solvang that take you through some great countryside.
This was once primarily ranch land. The economy is now based on tourism and wine, but the landscape hasn't turned ugly. What is not to like about seeing acres of vine covered hillsides and pastures? The Santa Ynez Valley is now one of the most expensive places to buy land in California, and while you may not ever be able to own any of it, you sure can drive and enjoy it.
There are many wineries to choose from in the area, and although I drink a lot of wine, I'm not about to say which is the best, or even better than, the others around it. If you are really into wine, you probably won't be looking on VT for advice anyway.
But of the several we have visited, I would recommend Lincourt for a few reasons.
1 - their wine is good.
2 - their tasting room is unpretentious and friendly. It is in an old, 1920s era kit house - quite unique these days. If you don't know what a kit house is, ask when you get there.
3 - the grounds are beautiful - they have a big outdoor patio area overlooking the vineyards.
4 - they are dog friendly. They let your dogs run around outdoors on the grass.
5 - they have great tasting glasses. Most wineries let you keep them for a nominal fee. Lincourt uses Riedel glasses, which is about as good as you will find anywhere.
6 - it is close to Solvang, just a short drive up Alamo Pintado Road
Solvang is well known for its bakeries. There are three main ones to choose from, and in my opinion, you can go to any of them and be happy (others claim preferences). The point is, in Solvang you are expected to do this; it is part of the experience. If you are concerned about staying on your healthy diet, you have to put it aside. When in Solvang, give up.
The white plastic buckets of little cookies are popular and easy to transport home, if you can keep your traveling companions' hands out of it before you get home.
If you feel you ate too many of the luscious pastries in Solvang and in need of a walk make your way to the Nojqui Falls.
It is close by and provides a tranquil setting and a short hike to very attractive water falls.
In this secluded space you can feel lost in the depths of the country side whilst remaining close to the route you want to follow.
It is about a 15 miniute drive from Solvang through gentle "horsey" countryside.
Full details on how to arrive on the web site given below.
A short walk takes you to this 100ft waterfall.
This delightful spot, part of a country park 10 minutes from Solvang on Alisal Road, is reached via a short walk on a canyon trail. Nojoqui Falls in winter is a silvery cascade down the cliff and in summer is a cool bank of moss, ferns, and dripping runoff. Park picnic tables, barbecue facilities, and a playground area enhance the experience.
You have to walk into a bakery and have one of there specialty pastries. Dam, I wish I knew the name of it But, I will try my best to describe it. Ok, It look like an edible wreath made out of dough covered in raisins, nuts and sugar. I beleive it has some type of a pudding in the bread as well. Anyhow it is so, DELICIOUS!
Try Olsens Bakery on your way out and buy some yummy pastries to go.
As I said, be in the frame of mind of being a mindless tourist for the day and you should be fine. Explore the shops that you pretty much see in every tourist trap town. There is some pretty flowers and unique architecture anyway.
There is alot of shopping to do in Solvang. the streets are lined with little shops where you can purchase trinkets for rememberances of your visit to this neat little town.
Some of the more popular things to buy here and they are everywhere. are miniature windmills, cuckoo clocks, hand painted clogs and nitted items.
This originally Danish settled town in Santa Barbara County is very much on the Tourist map - think Danish pastries, windmills and Hans Christian Andersen - but it has a great deal of charm and the friendliest of people.
We spent some time just walking around the wide streets - very quiet on the March day we were there. Visited one of the many bakeries for coffee and cake before reaching the Visitor Centre.
We spent a long time there, we were a family group of six from England, Scotland and Wales and ended up exchanging information about Solvang for information about our countries of origin with the very helpful lady on duty who was planning a UK trip for herself.
She directed to an "old "homestead in the town, now part museum, part art gallery. We had actually missed it on our walkabout because it was at the end of a road that seemed to lead nowhere. It was well worth retracing our steps to Elverhoy Way and the Elverhöj Museum of History and Art was a real treat, retelling in the museum the lives of early Danish settlers and displaying, in a lovely gallery space, the work of local artists.
Here too, the staff, or I should say volunteer guides, were very generous with their time and made us feel most welcome.
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Address: Solvang, Santa Barbara County,California
Directions: We visited Solvang after two cold and wet days in Santa Barbara. The sun came out and we picniced at Lake Cachuma just choosing places from the map and our guide book. It was very easy to get there along the quiet, pleasantly rural 154.
It helps to have a game plan for wine tasting in the Santa Ynez valley. Wineries and tasting rooms can be 60 miles away from each other, some are open until 4pm or 7pm, some are open on Sunday and some are not, and some are only available by appointment. You can search around for reviews of different winemakers on the net, but here are some favorites broken down by area:
Lompoc, west of the 101:
Buellton, at 101 and 246:
Santa Ynez, at 246 and 154:
Los Olivos, Alamo Pintado & Roblar:
Los Olivos, Grand Ave:
and many more
Los Olivos, up Foxen Canyon