24 Jan Los Alamos Wine Tasting 2017 – Small Town Big Fun
This story originally appeared in California Winery Advisor.
Los Alamos – One Single Block Offering Days of Fun
The town of Los Alamos is one block long. As you drive through the single main street, it will seem like you have entered an old pioneer town. It is almost like a movie façade. But look closely and you will see storefronts for wineries, restaurants and antique shops. This tiny town is a wine country destination.
Los Alamos was a former stagecoach stop on the edge of the Santa Ynez Valley. A twenty-minute drive north of Solvang, Los Alamos was a sleepy town until a decade ago when refugees from Los Angeles arrived. Music industry, entertainment industry and fashion industry executives left their hectic city lives for the calmness of this little town. The town that used to be called “Los Almost” is now sometimes called “Little Los Angeles.” Los Alamos has also attracted young winemakers/entrepreneurs to set up shop there as the town, for the time being, is an affordable destination with unlimited potential.
Although the town is only one block long, from eating to drinking to shopping, there is plenty to keep you occupied. Exit the 101 Freeway at San Antonio Blvd and then make a right onto Bell Street. You are now on the main street of Los Alamos.
Just past the old Post Office is the Alamo Motel. Recently renovated, the motel has twenty-one rooms. From the outside, the Alamo Motel looks like any other 1970-style motel with a carpark in the center. But the rooms are modern, clean and comfortable. The minimalistic décor is rustic with bleached cow skulls and animal skin rugs. My room even had a claw foot tub. In the center of the parking lot is a fire pit, an ideal spot to sit and relax at the end of the night. Located in the center of Bell Street, this motel is the perfect place to make a home-base for your stay. You can walk out the door and spend the rest of your visit on foot wandering up and down Bell Street.
Eating and Drinking on Bell Street in Los Alamos
Every morning of a stay in Los Alamos should start with breakfast at Bob’s Well Bread Bakery. Bob Oswaks, former head of marketing for Sony Pictures, opened the space where he serves freshly baked artisanal breads made with 100% organic flour, sea salt and freshly filtered water. The breads are naturally leavened and made in small batches in an Italian oven that results with the perfect crunchy crust. There is not one dish on the menu that does not come with some type of wonderfully fresh bread. Bacon & Eggs, Egg-in-a-frame, Beans on Toast, or the Gravlax platter that I enjoyed. In addition, the butter and jam are house-made and Oswaks grows his own herbs and tomatoes in the garden outside. Add a Stumptown coffee to your order and you are good to go. Bob’s Well Bread Bakery is also open for lunch serving delicious sandwiches on a ficelle demi baguette. You will also be tempted by the homemade pastry case and, for those asking, there is even a gluten-free Centennial toast available.
Located in the Los Alamos General Store, Pico is owned by Will Henry and his wife Kali Kopley. Henry, whose father started the wine import/distribution company Henry Wine Group, grew up in the wine industry and today makes Lumen Wines with winemaking legend Lane Tanner. When he and his wife opened Pico in early 2016, the idea was to showcase what the region has to offer. The restaurant is located inside the general store, where you can also buy high-end housewares and sundries. The menu is divided into “uno,” “dos,” and “tres” with portion getting larger within each section. The long bar is also an ideal spot to stop in for a glass, or two, of wine, and a small bite, such as the not-to-be-missed house-cured bacon praline.
Stephen Bedford has been making wine in the valley since 1985. He established Bedford Thompson Winery in 1994, changing the name to Bedford Winery in 2009. In addition to a passion for wine, Bedford is a local historian who enjoys history, science, cooking, baseball and more and has been a part of the new Los Alamos Library. The tasting room represents these passions and has a comfortable, scholarly flair to it. Tasting at Bedford Winery is like visiting your old English professor’s office.
From Bedford’s warm and comfy tasting room, the tasting room for Frequency Wine Company next door has more of a hipster vibe. It is a minimalist, modern tasting room that features the wines of brother and sister team Zac and Almond Wasserman.
Jamie Gluck, a former fashion advertising executive, opened Bell Street Farm. Open only from Thursday to Monday from 11am to 4 or 5pm, the eatery and market offers sandwiches, salads and meats for lunch or a snack. Eat in or assemble a picnic basket to take out with you for the day. Bell Street Farm also sells products from local artisans.
Casa Dumetz is owned by Sonja Magdevski who was one of the first people to make her home in the tiny town of Los Alamos. Casa Dumetz features a Rhone-focused program and Magdevski sources her fruit from great vineyards in the area. The Casa Dumetz tasting room is a bright and friendly space with very cool recycled decor that feels like you are spending time in a friend’s living room. In addition to wine tasting, stop by for Magdevski’s Words to Live By Speaker Series, a weekly open forum covering a vast array of topics.
For the beer lovers, head next door from Casa Dumetz to Babi’s Beer Emporium, also owned by Sonja Magevski. Babi’s Beer Emporium offers discoveries into the land of beer with a selection of diverse craft producers.
The 1880 Union Hotel looks like it is straight out of a movie set. Originally built in 1880 and then again in 1915 after being destroyed in a fire in 1893, the saloon next door is a local spot to stop for a cocktail or beer at the end of the night.
Full of Life Flatbread was opened by Clark Staub, a music business veteran. The motto of the restaurant is to “eat good food” and that is what you will do. Sourcing its organic, seasonal ingredients locally, the flatbread pizzas are baked in the 20-ton stone oven.
Located in front of the Los Alamos Motel is the hipster, modern outpost for Municipal Winemakers, where owner and winemaker Dave Potter makes affordable, small production wines. After a long day, pick up a bottle and grab a seat at the fire pit to enjoy the wine before heading to your room for a good night’s sleep.
Los Alamos may only be one block long but there is so much to do. Los Alamos is where the cool kids go. So, next time you are heading to Santa Barbara Wine Country, make Los Alamos your destination.
Read the original story in California Winery Advisor.