Weekend In Buellton
A weekend escape along California’s Central Coast with rich wine country, locally inspired dishes and inviting accommodations.
“How about Buellton?” Maria, the woman I’ve been dating, asks. “My mother used to drive us through the Santa Ynez Valley to my grandparents’ house. It’s beautiful up there.”
“I’ve never been,” I say. “Isn’t that near Santa Barbara?”
“Yep. Trust me. I think you’ll like it,” Maria says knowingly.
Maria and I met on one of those new dating apps—I was skeptical, I admit—but here we are, a few months in, and we’re planning our first weekend getaway together. It will be nice to escape the LA grind for a few days, and more importantly, it’s a great chance to spend some time together.
“Did I mention that Buellton has great wineries? Oh, and there’s a major craft beer festival this weekend,” Maria says.
She’s a wine drinker, while I have yet to find a craft beer that I don’t at least want to try, let alone enjoy. Date night can sometimes present a dilemma, if, say I want to try a new nano-brewery on the east side and she’s been reading reviews all week about a wine bar in the arts district. But young relationships are all about experiencing new things and stepping out of our comfort zones, so we’ve been making it work. Maria and I come from different backgrounds and work in completely different fields—not too mention our first interaction was over a mobile app—but when we’re together, we just know how to have fun. She inspires me to seek out new experiences.
Craft beer festival? I was sold. “I’m in. Where should we stay?””
“Well. Here’s what I was thinking,” she begins. “Have you ever been glamping?”
“Don’t you mean camping?” I ask. “Like with tents and a campfire? Ghost stories?”
Maria hands me her tablet. It’s open to a page that reads: Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground. As I read, I begin to see what she means. It seems, since my time as an Eagle Scout, camping has indeed been redefined. Our options range from traditional tent sites and RV sites, to safari tents, cottages, cabins and even vintage airstream trailers. We decide on a cottage. I’m psyched.
We arrive and it’s better than I expected. Our cozy, brightly colored cottage is ornately furnished, and I’m instantly convinced that glamping is genius. The property is at the confluence of a modern-day resort and a traditional campground that’s surrounded by trees. Maria kisses me on the cheek for a selfie, and we set off to explore. We discover a hot tub, heated pool, free Wi-Fi and even a fitness center on-site. Another couple, a few years older, walks past and smiles as we return to our cottage to unpack. They’re walking a golden retriever, who trots over to us for a friendly hello.
We introduce ourselves. We chat about our vacations and where we’re from (Julia and Thomas hailed from San Francisco—they’re celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary).
“This ain’t so bad, is it?” Thomas motions to the surrounding nature, the expansive property.
Buellton's wine industry is thriving. One of our favorite movies about wine, Sideways, was filmed in Buellton in 2004. In the time since, the Sta. Rita Hills have become a must-stop on any wine connoisseur’s tour of California. Hence, Maria’s suggestion to vacation here.
The cooler climate of the Central Coast yields award-winning Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, and we take it all in on a tour. We knew we wouldn’t be able to drive to all of the amazing wineries in the area, so we hire a private tour guide with expert knowledge of the region to take us to some of his favorites.
Our first stop, the Sanford Winery, offers a view of the Sta. Rita Hills that extends seemingly forever. We book a tour and tasting the day before we arrive, and when we get there, we’re shown around the property grounds by a tour guide, and taste five of the estate wines. Then, our driver picks us up and it’s on to the next one.
In the new tasting room at Loring Wine Company, we try wines that are aged in barrels stored in the caves of nearby Cottonwood Canyon. I know I claim to be a “beer guy,” but this is legitimately cool. Like the work of the artisan craft beer brewers, painstaking detail goes into producing such delicious—and potent—wines. We learn that for Pinot Noir, the barrel must absolutely be made from French Oak.
At this point, we could use some food—luckily, our tour guide also has expert knowledge of Buellton’s best bites.
“I know a place. You won’t be disappointed,” he says.
He takes us to Bottlest, a winery restaurant that’s the whole kit-and-caboodle, featuring 24 wineries and local, artisanal cuisine. We start at the Wine Wall, where we select our wine tasting preferences from a dispensing machine that pours the exact amount we want into our glasses. Then, we addressed our empty stomachs with two BLTAs—creamy avocado and smoky applewood bacon in almost every bite. Our guide was right, the food surely doesn’t disappoint here.
Craft beer festival
The craft beer festival is an annual draw in Buellton. When we get there, I’m in a hops and barley nirvana—not surprising, considering this is an area that Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. and the Firestone Walker Brewing Company Taproom & Barrelworks call home. Food trucks and local vendors offer delicious treats and savory options to hold in one hand while a cold, frosty brew is in the other.
“Try this one,” I say to Maria as I hand her an IPA infused with strawberries and brewed just up the coast in Santa Maria. She grabs the cup and takes a sip as another couple passes in front of us—it’s the same couple from our resort, Thomas and Julia. We all recognize each other and they walk over with a “Hey, you guys are glamping, too!” As I tell them about our beer vs. wine dilemma, I look over to see that Maria’s beer, previously my own, is nearly empty! “Whoops—guess I liked this one!” she says.
I start to laugh when Thomas says, “Come with me—there’s an oatmeal stout in another tent that has inspired poetry.” I walk over with him and as we’re waiting in line, he says: “We’ve been doing weekends such as this for years now. It seems like you two have as well.”
I look back at Maria, in line with Julia for another strawberry IPA.
“Yeah, it does. Funny thing is: We’ve only been dating a few months.”
“Get out of here,” Thomas says.
“I guess we just enjoy challenging each other to try new things.”
From glamping to wine tastings, discover the many ways you can play in Buellton.