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Hey, Weekend: Walking for Wellness in the Vineyard

Spring has come to Santa Barbara wine country and if you’ve been looking for an excuse to make the easy two-hour drive north, we’ve got the perfect upcoming itinerary for you.  Few wineries are as beautiful as Alma Rosa in the vaunted Santa Rita Hills appellation to the west of the 101 outside of Buellton. (Turn left at Andersen’s Pea Soup and feel wistful when you note that this coastal icon has sadly closed and fallen into disrepair.) Alma Rosa was founded by revered winemaker Richard Sanford who planted the very first pinot noir vines in the area in 1971 and who later planted Alma Rosa’s famed estate vineyard “El Jabali” in 1983, one of the Central Coast’s first organically farmed plots.  

Alma Rosa Estate. Photo by Lena Britt Photography.

Alma Rosa has been thriving under new ownership since 2014, and winemaker Samra Morris is making incredibly textured, silky pinots in addition to pristine chardonnays, pinot gris and some Rhône varieties. Current owners Bob and Barb Zorich, in conjunction with Morris and General Manager Debra Eagle, are opening their bucolic winery to the public for a very special event on May 18. This is the fifth year of the annual Peace of Mind: 10,000 Steps in the Right Direction fundraising walk at which participating teams will enjoy a vineyard stroll to support of both local community mental health initiatives and critical research into treatment for anxiety and depression. The event has now raised over $745,00 for two organizations, One Mind and the Mental Wellness Centerin Santa Barbara. Debra is excited to welcome guests back to Alma Rosa and notes that “Each year, it’s special to see our greater community come together to support the critical work of these two organizations. Funds raised through this event will make an impactful difference in advocacy, research, and treatment for individuals experiencing mental illness.”

Winemaker Samra Morris. Photo by Kathryn Zdan.

After an exhilarating 10,000 step tour of Alma Rosa’s varied terrain and gorgeous vineyard views, guests are invited to a very special collective tasting at the historic Ranch House.  Following the walk, the winery will host an intimate reception at a covered hillside tasting space, featuring the latest releases from Alma Rosa as well as from other local wineries including The Hilt EstatePeake Ranch WineryThe Brander VineyardSanford WineryCasa Dumetz Winesand Loubud Wines. Non-alcoholic refreshments will be provided by additional sponsors including Culture PopLeisure Project and Suzy Zimmerman State Farm Insurance.

Following the event, for an added donation, Alma Rosa will also host a three-course private luncheon catered by Full of Life Flatbread at the historic Ranch House from 12 to 2 p.m. with special guests including Brandon Staglin, President of One Mind, and Annmarie Cameron, Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Wellness Center in Santa Barbara. Tickets to attend are $250 per person and all proceeds from the luncheon will be directed towards One Mind and Santa Barbara’s Mental Wellness Center. Limited seats are available for purchase here. The private luncheon menu can be found here.

The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern, Auberge Resorts Collection

After your day surrounded by poppies, vines and butterflies, head out to Los Olivos for dinner and a night of luxury at wine country’s newest must-stay destination: The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern, Auberge Resorts Collection. Mattei’s dates back to 1886 and was once the main stagecoach stop between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Today, it’s been reinvented by the Auberge Resorts Collection and its level of luxury is a new benchmark for Santa Barbara County. If you’re not ready for Mattei’s pricetag, you might also consider the Ballard Inn in the nearby hamlet of Ballard. This charming hotel offers what has to be the best breakfast in the Santa Ynez Valley and they also serve guests complimentary local wines, cheese and charcuterie in the hotel living room each day from 4 to 5 p.m.  

Nella Kitchen & Bar (left). Peasants FEAST (right). Photos courtesy of the restaurants.

Where to eat? The restaurant scene is thriving with both locals and weekend warriors flocking to restaurants like SY Kitchen, Nella, Peasants FEAST, Bar Le Côte and Bell’s. If you want to stay in Los Olivos, the team at Nella Kitchen & Bar—housed in the Fess Parker Wine Country Inn—is cooking up amazing things and the outdoor dining space is gorgeous. Over in Solvang, Chef Michael Cherney is garnering rave reviews for his thoughtfully sourced cuisine at Peasants FEAST, proving there’s more to this Danish town than just aebleskivers and wooden windmills. And the short journey up the 101 to Los Alamos – nicknamed “little Los Angeles” for local celebs like Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn – is worth it just for the chance to dine at Bell’s where husband and wife team Daisy and Greg Ryan have won diners’ hearts and a coveted Michelin star. 

A little exercise, a little fundraising and a whole lot of relaxing and good eating makes Santa Barbara’s wine country a great choice.  

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