Furry friends are welcome at many Sana Ynez Valley wineries
With 175 wineries just a few hours from Los Angeles, the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County is a great place to get your wine-tasting fix.
Our first, and long-overdue, get-away since the 2013 world adventure! This time, we left the passports at home and went on a road trip with our new furry family member. We stayed at the Wine Valley Inn in Solvang for five nights and did two days of wine tasting with a driver. We planned to send Indy to doggie day care on one of the days so we could visit some non dog-friendly wineries. But after extensive research, we couldn’t find a good option, so Indy came along both days. In between tasting days, we relaxed at the hotel and explored Solvang.
Dog-Friendly Wineries in Santa Barbara County
We started with a helpful the list from the Marriott Hotel’s blog. But since the post was from 2013, we contacted the wineries to confirm. Nearly all confirmed that they are dog friendly (two did not reply: Kalyara and Rideau). After mapping the options, we were happy to find that they fell into two convenient locations: Los Olivos and Foxen Canyon Wine Trail.
Los Olivos Wineries and Tasting Rooms
Many of the Los Olivos wineries have a tasting room in town. We visited a few that were planned, and stopped in to some others along the way. The staff at two wineries said that most tasting rooms in town are dog-friendly – cool!
Byron – Our first stop of the trip – we had some yummy wines and Indy made friends with the staff (he also posed for a photo by the Christmas tree).
Alta Maria – We loved the wine bottle labels – an abstract design of nails from the original barn at the vineyard. We let Indy wander a bit and he ran into the back room where he disturbed a staff meeting and caused he resident dog, Diesel, to woof. Indy says sorry and that he will try to have better manners next time.
After leaving Alta Maria, we were seduced by a wine barrel displaying yummy looking olive oils
at Marianello. So we popped in for wine tasting and then the olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting (super yummy!).
Epiphany wasn’t on our list, but we were attracted by the hip, modern décor. Dogs are prohibited inside the tasting room, but are allowed outside in the spacious garden with big comfy couches.
The last stop of the day was Firestone winery, six miles from the center of Los Olivos. The large tasting room overlooking the vineyards was a great place to sample wine and chat. Thanks to the staff who let Indy wander around inside and explore.
Planned to visit, but didn’t make it:
Carhartt tasting room is in Los Olivos near the other tasting rooms.
Alma Rosa winery is about nine miles from Los Olivos in Buellton.
Foxen Canyon Wine Trail
The wineries below are all on Foxen Canyon Road – very convenient.
Foxen – has two tasting rooms, which pour different wines, the original barn and a new room down the road.
Planned to visit, but didn’t make it:
Cambria (4 miles from Foxen Canyon Road)
Foxen Canyon Road Presquile (10 miles from Foxen Canyon Road)
Dog-Friendly Tasting Rooms in Solvang
There are roughly ten tasting rooms in the center of Solvang. We popped into a few and found that all were dog-friendly.
Listen to rock music and taste wines named after songs like One Love at Cali Love.
Indy got all excited when we walked into Carivitas, probably because he sensed their love of animals (the smells on the comfy dog beds in the room probably also had something to do with it). The winery supports animal non-profits and features images of rescue animals on the wine labels. Indy flirted with the gal behind the bar the whole time, who was happy to give him some love.
Sort this Out Cellars has a unique name and a cool, inviting atmosphere. Lori’s favorite was the Bettie Page Sauvignon Blanc.
Wandering Dog Wine Bar has a wide selection of wines custom made for them by different vintners. Have a glass or do a themed flight. There’s a large bar and couch with coffee table.
Solvang Activities and Restaurants
Danish immigrants founded Solvang (which means ‘sunny fields) in 1911. The town became popular with tourists 36 years later after it was featured in a Saturday Evening Post article. This prompted the town to give itself a makeover to the traditional Danish style of architecture.
We didn’t make it to any of the museums and missions, but I had my eye on the Wildling museum. On Wednesday afternoon, there’s a Farmers Market in the center of town with some yummy-looking options.
With a few exceptions, the shopping in Solvang didn’t much appeal to us. One day while walking Indy, Lori spotted a cute shop on a side street, B Living, and returned later to have some fun (the shop is dog friendly, but there were some fragile items within big-dog tail reach, so Lori thought it safer to let Indy sit this one out). The co-owner, Nikki, is very friendly and we had a nice chat. Favorite finds: handmade candles in unique found containers by Dewdabbled and greeting cards by photographer Natalie Morris. Oh – we spotted a few pet shops if you forget anything or want to get a souvenir for doggie.
We didn’t eat out too much because breakfast was included at the hotel and we brought some food. We got delivery from Tower Pizza (great pizza, so so chicken strips) and take away from Mandarin Touch. I had my eye on Succulent Café and Chomp (next time). There are also tempting bakeries galore throughout town. If you are looking to pack a picnic for wine tasting, stop by New Frontiers Natural Market just outside of town to pick up gourmet, organic salads and sandwiches (the harvest salad is super yummy).
SOLVANG TRAVEL TIP: Tuesdays are very quiet in Solvang – most of the shops and tasting rooms are closed.
Dog Friendly Hotels in Santa Barbara Wine Country / Central Coast
There are several dog-friendly hotels in the Santa Barbara County Wine Country. Most of the centrally-located hotels are in Solvang and Bulleton. We narrowed it down to Marriott and Wine Valley Inn. Although we really like Marriott (read about our two-week stay at the JW Marriott in Cusco), we selected Wine Valley Inn due to the location (central Solvang – walking distance to everything) and spacious one-bedroom cottages with kitchenette and fireplace.
We found great two options that allowed dogs Los Olivos Limo and Golden Rooster. Golden Rooster offered a great price with nice extras in a Lincoln Towncar Sedan, but we selected Los Olivos Limo because of the competitive price and Lincoln Navigator SUV option. We thought it would be more comfortable if Indy had his own area while we sat in the back seat. And we were right! Everyone had lots of space in the clean, comfortable SUV. Indy chilled in the back where he enjoyed looking out the big windows or curling up for a snooze.
Santa Ynez Valley Impressions
Although we only visited a small sampling of wineries and tasting rooms in the Santa Ynez Valley, we found it to be a great dog-friendly destination! When we have the chance, we will return. We also have our eyes on the town of Santa Barbara to explore the Urban Wine Trail and hang out at dog-friendly Hendry’s Beach.
Santa Barbara County Wine Tasting Resources
Discover California Wines – list of Santa Barbara County wineries
Santa Barbara County Vintners
Solvang Convention and Visitors Bureau
Los Olivos Visitor Guide
Tips for your First Road Trip with your Dog
If you are planning your first road trip with you dog, here are a few helpful tips and lessons learned.
Bring everything you think you will need, and a few extras: food and water bowls for the hotel room, towel or mat for under the bowls, portable water bowl, food, treats, favorite toys, medication. Don’t forget the poop bags! We also brought an old sheet for the back of the SUV on the days we went wine tasting with Los Olivos Limo.
Indy is a bit of a drooler when he gets excited, so we carry small towels to wipe his big slobbery jowls. He also has really bad allergies (we give him bi-weekly shots at home – really), so we brought some allergy pills and anti itch spray just in case (luckily we didn’t need them).
We tried to keep Indy’s routine the same – meal and treat time, walks for potty, etc. We expected him to behave pretty much like he does at home, with perhaps a bit of excitement. And, for the most part he did, with a few tense moments. On the first two days, he had a bit of excitement and anxiety. In the hotel room, he barked a little at random noises and didn’t show much interest in his toys. Then, as he relaxed, he got playful and enjoyed romping around the spacious cottage.
At the Foxen barn while lying in a relaxed position, Indy suddenly tried to bolt when the winery cat walked by outside. And, on our final day, while we made several trips to pack the car, he got anxious. At one point, he bolted out the door and started heading for the parking lot (at home, when we open the door he sits and waits until we say ok). He obeyed when Michael yelled ‘stop’ but wouldn’t come back inside until we lured him with a biscuit. We realized he was anxious that we would leave him. So, our lesson learned for future trips is to expect and be ready for a bit of anxiety.
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