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Bard in Wine Country

Updated: Jul 1, 2023

"My wife and I are taking a long weekend in wine country," was a phrase I uttered last week when booking my PTO at my day job. It felt oddly posh, something a different person would say. Someone who wears blazers and shops regularly at Bloomingdales.

But nah, still me.

We first decided on our location inspired by a feature on The Cold Spring Tavern in Santa Barbra. Angelique showed me photos and we thought it looked like a delightful space between cottagecore and fantasy. Amusingly, we never actually got there. The plan was basically that we would drive up Thursday afternoon after work, get dinner, and have an early night so we could drive up to Solvang for Friday. Unfortunately, we didn't realize that on Monday and Thursdays they close at 3:30pm.

So! Instead, we made our way down to the Santa Barbra Wharf.

First, it's beautiful. I don't think that really needs to be said but it feels important as I'll rave about other things later. Because while it was gorgeous and lovely, and the waves and mist were just fantastic--it honestly could have been anywhere. We could have been closer to home in Santa Monica. Beautiful horizon, boats, great seafood--but if I'm honest, a bit touristy.

Not that there's anything wrong with touristy, but you can't really get a feel for the city you're in. We dined at the Harbor Restaurant, partially because Angelique had some hankering for oysters, and partially because it was one of the few restaurants open on a Thursday after 7pm. In the spirit of wine country, while the glass of Meomi Pinot Noir was surprising and delicious.

Though, if I'm completely honest, it tasted more like a Malbec... and I feel really fancy that I both knew that and could type it with relative confidence.

I will never be a wine snob. I will never be one of those people who can blind-identify any kind of adult grape juice, but I do appreciate the tasting and flavor process.

Solvang is a strange place. Imagine if Epcot did wine country. Don't get me wrong it's fantastic, but it's strange to be in the mountains of a Californian town in Scandanavian Cosplay. There are faux windmills, a place called Hamlet Square, and bakeries filled with delicious scents that remind me of being home with my family on the holidays.

We started the day at Chomp to get some espresso... where I learned they are not accustomed to serving straight espresso, as it was served far too hot to take as a shot, and it was super bitter. On the upside, it definitely woke me up!

The theme of this weekend ended up being 'pleasant surprise', and it started with stumbling upon the 64th Annual Meet-up of the Pierce-Arrow Society! (We also learned we were one day off from Solvang's 1st Pride Parade!)

I'm not a car person. But these were gorgeous, and they had them organized in chronological order so you could see how the design changed over time. One supposedly was rumored to have once been owned by Charlie Chaplin and had a hidden whisky flask compartment under the floor mat... though we weren't allowed to see it and I'm still a little salty about that. I'm here for the history, gosh darn it!

Most of the society members seemed at least in their 70s, and one talked a little bit with us, joking that he'd talk our ear off.

Joke was on him, we absolutely talked HIS ear off about US history, and piecing together what was going on in the world around the time each of the cars was made--such as the rubber shortage due to the world wars. I think he thought he was going to have a friendly jab at two alternative-looking girls and got more than what he planned.

Looking at the website, it seems like all in all the society (which is surprisingly based out of Michigan even though the Manufacturer was based out of Buffalo, NY, and obviously this particular meet-up took place in Solvang, CA) was pretty set in its ways and old fashioned. They even still have gender-segregated events like a demonstration and educational talk on auto restoration with an emphasis on upholstery and top-making for the gentlemen and a tea and colorizing black and white photographs for the ladies. To each their own, but may I have a full high tea WHILE I learn how to restore auto upholstery? I think that's fun for all, frankly.

We popped into The Red Viking to share a plate of sunny-side up eggs and corn beef hash. I was surprised to learn Anglique had never had corned-beef hash (in our house we still call it Who-Hash thanks to the Grinch), and theirs was absolutely delightful. Perfectly ground beef to properly make sure each bite had the right balance of flavors--and with the runny yoke it was just perfection.

We also snagged some of Arnie's Famous Aebleskivers, and I have to be honest with you... I was both saddened and joyous that they're so much better homemade--at least by my family. They were good, but a little more fried-tasting than I'm used to... sort of like if you made a funnel cake into a ball. But that's also probably because it was doused in both powdered sugar and a raspberry syrup that I think was meant to be jam but was a bit cloyingly sweet and ultimately choked the flavor of the pancake.

Ultimately, I think this was tourism winning over authenticity... which shouldn't be a shocker considering it's a town in California wine country in Scandanavian Cosplay.

But back to the wine because apparently that's the point of wine country, and not if the pulla from the bakery under the fake windmill tastes like how your father used to make.

Spoilers: It did not, but it was pretty darn good anyway.

Toccata wine tasting was lovely, and the breeze that flowed through the terrace was exactly what we needed in the 90+ degree weather.

We also visited their sister store across the way (which focuses more on French-style wines, unlike Toccata which focused on Italian).

But the big thing about Solvang is that it closes down at 5pm. It also didn't really open until about 10 or 11am--or even 12pm for the wine tastings. Not going to lie, the idea of having a 5-hour work day (assuming it's the only job you need to have to support yourself, which... doubtful, but one can hope), sounds rather divine. Props to Solvang!

But a trip to Solvang would not be complete without a stroll around Rennaissance Antiques.

I have no photographs because it felt disrespectful, but every item in there is breathtaking, out of time, and so far out of my budget I am often terrified to breathe on it. But they also have disc music boxes... And I swear these things... You can feel the music resonate in your chest. While originally created in (I believe) the Baroque period, there is a company that still faithfully recreates both the boxes and discs even with modern music.

So while I did not record at the antique shop, I can share the experience through the power of YouTube.

With our hearts and bellies full, we drove back down to Santa Barbra, stopping to admire the sunset on the waves from the bluffs.

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