A couple of weeks ago, I was drinking wine right here…
…on a family trip to Santa Barbara wine country. I’ll trot out the details of our vacation over a few posts, but a few highlights: A private wine and food pairing at Fess Parker’s vineyard, a picnic lunch at the picturesque Melville Vineyards and Winery (above), a swing through the Wine Ghetto (an industrial park full of tasting rooms) in Lompoc, fantastic dinners, a charming hotel in the Danish-style town of Solvang, and a couple of trips to the beach.
And some spectacular drives through wine country that make you think you could indeed live in the middle of nowhere, if nowhere is here:
The trip was researched and planned by my Uncle Steve, who loves wine in the way that some of us love … air. He drinks everything from $6 bottles to $200+ bottles, and keeps meticulous notes on every sip he’s ever had.
The reason for the trip: My dad’s 60th birthday and my aunt’s 50th birthday! They were required to wear their birthday buttons in public and sport their birthday glasses when appropriate. Pro travel trip: This enthusiastic display got us many extra wine pours and comped desserts at dinners.
Exhibit 1: First comped dessert of the trip at our first stop, Gladstone’s in Malibu. This piece of cake was roughly the size of a mailbox and was served with a knife plunged in the back. As if to say, don’t worry, we’ve already killed this beast for you.
PART ONE: GETTING THERE
The Santa Barbara airport is tiny, which makes it expensive to fly into. Flying into LAX and renting a car for the 2-hour drive north is a popular alternative, and it has its perks: You take Pacific Coast Highway (the 101), a famously scenic road that hugs the coast.
The drive will take you through Santa Monica and Malibu, where you can stop and put your feet in the sand before you head into the velvety hills of wine country.
We stopped at Gladstone’s in Malibu, a restaurant wedged between the road and the ocean, to eat some seafood and watch the sunset. Beachfront location + sunset + shrimp tacos + hearing that it’s snowing back home = best possible way to kick off vacation.
That’s me and my mom above, and the most loaded shrimp tacos I’ve ever had. I swear there were 100 shrimp in each.
Optional activities after stopping for dinner: getting a flat tire on a dark rural road in Oxnard, calling AAA to the rescue, putting on the spare, driving to the Santa Barbara airport to trade in your rental mini-van for a slightly cooler SUV with functional tires.
UP NEXT: CUTE OVERLOAD (OR, STAYING IN SOLVANG)