A Weekend In Santa Ynez Valley

Off the wine trail in Santa Ynez Valley

Fall harvest season is the perfect time to visit Santa Barbara wine country: The weather is wonderfully cool and the grapes hang ripe on their vines. If you're looking to get out of town, visit these spots and try some small-production wines not often seen in L.A.

Kenneth Volk Vineyards Winemaker Ken Volk is known for his single-varietal bottlings made with more obscure grapes like Negrette, Aglianico and Touriga. The recently released 2007 Touriga ($36) is a standout: It's portlike in flavor but far lighter in body, with aromas of honeyed flowers.

Palmina Wines The Italian décor of this tasting room, located in a Lompoc industrial park known as the Wine Ghetto, matches its native Italian grapes: Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Traminer. Palmina's new wine-keg program features affordable, young mystery blends–one red, one white–sold in refillable bottles and half-gallon growlers. Halfway through a growler of white and we're debating moving to Lompoc.

Taste of Sta. Rita Hills This new Wine Ghetto tasting room pours wines from small, off-the-radar producers and the occasional cult label; tastings run $10 for six wines. A just-released 2008 El Rey Pinot Noir ($33) was featured on our visit, a silky, smoky young wine sure to only improve.

After a day of tasting, stop by Full of Life Flatbread in Los Alamos for dinner (weekends only). Dishes cooked in the oak-fueled oven are highly seasonal, such as flatbread with prosciutto, smoked blue cheese, fresh figs and arugula–a pitch-perfect balance of savory, spicy and sweet.