Weekend Escape to Solvang, CA

Weekend Escape Solvang, CA First and Oak Exterior

If you want a change of scenery, enjoying a weekend escape to Solvang, CA, offers a fantastic option with its Danish flair, good wine, and burgeoning dining scene. My recent visit included tasting wine at Coquelicot Estate Vineyard, dining at the Michelin Plate restaurant First & Oak, and staying at the Mirabelle Inn. This same trip, I enjoyed breakfast at Pony Express in Santa Ynez and lunch at Campo Del Sol, and a wine tasting at Kaena.

Solvang CA

Solvang, CA makes an excellent base to enjoy not only Solvang but also the surrounding towns of Buellton, Los Olivos, and Santa Ynez. All three are an integral part of the Santa Ynez Valley. Solvang in Danish means sunny field; perhaps that is why the area is ideal for growing grapes and other agricultural crops.

The city is often called the “The Danish Capital of America.” Solvang, CA, makes an excellent base to enjoy not only Solvang but also the surrounding towns of Buellton, Los Olivos, and Santa Ynez. All three are an integral part of the Santa Ynez Valley. Solvang in Danish means sunny field; perhaps that is why the area is ideal for growing grapes and other agricultural crops. The city is often called the “The Danish Capital of America.”

Solvang dates back to 1804 to the establishment of Mission Santa Inés. The Chumash Indians inhabited the area prior to the Mission’s founding. Their influence still remains. In 1911 that Danish Americans settled in the area to establish a community that by 1947 took on the appearance of representing their heritage with Danish-themed architecture. Ferdinand Sorensen spearheaded the concept of a Danish Village. Earl Petersen, an architect, continued the Danish Provincial style with the half timbers.

The style permeates the city, but the influence is carried down into its bakeries and many of the food purveyors of the area. The movie Sideways stimulated change in Solvang, CA. It brought more winery tasting rooms to the town and more upscale restaurants.

Solvang CA with a Windmill and Rainbow
A Windmill in Solvang, CA, with a Rainbow in the background

The Hats of Jonathan Rosenson

Recently I visited the properties owned by Jonathan Rosenson, who wears several hats as he interchanges between Sommelier, winery owner, restauranteur, and hotelier. Jonathan has his hands in many ventures as a hotelier and restauranteur. Those include Chateau du Sureau and its Elderberry House in Oakhurst, Ca, and The Mansion on Sutter, San Francisco. Many remember The Sky Room in Long Beach and the Wine Cask in Santa Barbara. Jonathan was involved with those endeavors in the past.

In Solvang, CA, Jonathan owns the Mirabelle Inn and First & Oak. His vineyards are in Solvang, but the Coquelicot tasting room resides in Los Olivos.

Coquelicot Estate Vineyard

Although the vineyards are in Solvang, Coquelicot’s tasting room is in Los Olivos. Coquelicot is a 94-acre CCOF Certified Organic Vineyard, planted in 1997, located in the Los Olivos District AVA. It lies just south of Solvang’s Mission Santa Iné, on the eastern board of Solvang.

The soils consist of gravelly fine sandy loam. The climate is temperate, and because of the east-west mountain ranges of the Santa Ynez Mountains and the San Rafael Mountains, the coastal breezes from the Pacific Ocean cool the air, causing a diurnal shift from day to night of about 50 degrees.

In 2007, Rosenson introduced sustainable and organic farming practices and became Certified Organic in 2015. Today regenerative farming plays a prominent role in the vineyard protocols.

Of the 94 acres, 58 are planted in the white varieties with Gruner Veltliner, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling. The reds consist of Sangiovese, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Carignan and Malbec.

Inside Coquelicot Tasting Room
Inside Coquelicot Tasting Room

Wine Tasting at Coquelicot

The tasting room in Los Olivos resides in an old blacksmith building. The tasting room opened in 2007.

Coquelicot means poppy in French. When I think of poppies, I think of the fresh beauty of the hillsides at the Antelope Reserve in Lancaster. Comparing that spring freshness of the poppy fields lends itself to the sensations you get when drinking many of the wines at Coquelicot, especially the Grüner Veltliner.

Coquelicot wines are natural and organic. The goal of winemaker Mike Roth is to create wines where nothing is added or taken away.

Coquelicot Tasting Room Los Olivos
Coquelicot Tasting Room Los Olivos

Favorites Wines From the Coquelicot Tasting

Grüner Veltliner: By Far my favorite wine of the tasting, this Grüner showcased light fragrant aromas and displayed subtle hints of citrus on the palate, which delivered a fresh, crisp appealing wine that ages nine months in neutral Oak.

Coquelicot Gruner Veltliner
Coquelicot Gruner Veltliner

Rosé of Sangiovese: Flavors of cherry dominate this wine. A small percentage, 10%, adds an exciting dimension to this wine that ages nine months in neutral Oak. 

Carbonic Sangiovese: This wine can be served chilled, making it an excellent summer wine. Flavors of red fruit, especially cranberry, dominate this wine.

Coquelicot Carbonic Sangiovese
Coquelicot Carbonic Sangiovese

Merlot Reserve. After aging for 26 months in 20% new oak, the wine reveals luscious dark fruit.

Rose & Son 2018 Queen to Kings Bordeaux Blend: A lightly spiced and very drinkable wine.

Mon Amour 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Blend: I like this better than 2009, which features a blend primarily with Merlot. The wine exhibited flavors of sun-dried tomatoes and a Mediterranean feel.

Coquelicot Reserve Merlot
Coquelicot Reserve Merlot

Kaena At The Ranch

Just outside downtown Solvang, CA, along Highway 246, you will come upon Kaena At the Ra h. This is the second location for Kaena Wines. Their other location is in Los Olivos.

For winemaker and owner Mikael Siqouin, Kaena means potential for greatness. It is the name Mikael’s great-grandmother, Tutu, gave him while growing up in Hawaii. Her influence on Mikael is profound. She helped invoke his sensory experiences, which ultimately played a role in the winemaking process. Family is also important; you can see that as you view all the images of Mikael’s heritage in Hawaii in the tasting room.

Mikael started his path to owning his own winery at Beckman in 1999. He then moved to Fess Parker only to return to Beckman in 2006 as head winemaker. His first vintage under the Kaena label occurred in 2001 with a Syrah. In 2014, Mikael left Beckman to concentrate full-time on Kaena.

Mikael Siqouin, Kaena Wines
Mikael Siqouin, Kaena Wines

The logo is a Hawaiian quilt design that utilizes the Syrah leaf into the design.

The primary focus at Kaena is Grenache. Mikael describes Grenache as “a varietal that is intensely aromatic, sexy, feminine, bold, and always full of surprise.” At the same time, Mikael tells us that his true love is Cabernet Franc. Mikael also likes to produce wine for fusion cuisine.

Kaena sources from Tierra Alto Vineyard, Larner Vineyard, and La Presa Vineyard, along with several other vineyards.

Kaena Grenache
Kaena Grenache

Favorite Wines at Kaena At The Ranch, Solvang, CA

We sampled two vintages of the Hapa Blanc. Hapa means mixed, and both represented an interesting mixture with the 2018 blending of Roussane, Viognier, Grenache Blanc, and Albarino. Mikael calls it his Chateauneuf de Pape white blend. Each variety is vinified separately and aged ten months in barrel.

The 2019 Hapa Blanc blends Rous ane Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Albarino. Mikael describes this wine as three-dimensional.

Kaena Hapa Blanc
Kaena Hapa Blanc

In the reds, the 2018 Reserve Buona Terra Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot delivers dark cherry flavors.

The 2019 Hapa Red, a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Merlot and Sangiovese. Mikael refers to this wine as a cosmopolitan with flavors of blackberry.

Finally, the 2018 JWB Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah blend and the 2018 Merlot were other favorites.

Kaena Hapa Red
Kaena Hapa Red

Breakfast at Pony Espresso

Looking for a quick morning bite. I suggest taking a 10-minute drive to Santa Ynez for coffee, tea, and breakfast at Pony Espresso. My favorite is the Avocado Toast on Gluten-free bread.

Pony Espresso is open daily from 7 am to 4 pm, serving breakfast, lunch, and of course, coffee from their coffee bar.

Pony Espresso Avocado Toast
Pony Espresso Avocado Toast

Weekend Escape to Solvang, CA: Lunch at Campo Del Sol

The indoor-outdoor ambiance of this colorful restaurant is inviting whether you sit inside or outside. The restaurant comes to Solvang from the chef and partnership team of Coast Range & & Vaquero Bar. This restaurant features contemporary and traditional Mexican.

Campo Del Sol is open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. Monday, Thursday, and Friday from 10 am to 9 pm, Saturday and Sunday from 9 am to 10 pm.

Campo Del Sol Outdoor Patio
Campo Del Sol Outdoor Patio

Solvang, CA Michelin Plate First & Oak

Over the years, I have eaten at restaurants in the space now occupied by First and Oak at the Mirabella Inn. Our friends had a store up the street from the restaurant, so it was an ideal location to meet for dinner after their shop closed. It was fun revisiting the restaurant as First & Oak and discovering the wonderful menu options.

First & Oak garnered a 2022 Michelin Plate designation for Solvang, CA. Blending wine country cuisine with the local fresh produce of the Santa Ynez Valley, this restaurant features a small plate menu. The ambiance of the restaurant is very romantic and cozy. It fits ideally with the character of the Mirabelle Inn.

First and Oak Interior
First and Oak Interior

One must try the Duck Wings if they are on the menu. The duck wings are slow-cooked and fried to order and served with a sweet and sour Italian sauce, giving the wings a sweet yet savory appeal.

Another favorite was the Roasted Cauliflower with truffle and chive vinaigrette, almonds, and Quinoa.

I am hooked when I see scallops on the menu. I enjoyed a Pan Seared Scallop with baby turnips, Maitake mushrooms, and black truffle dashi.

First and Oak Scallop Dish
First and Oak Scallop Dish

With dietary restrictions due to allergies, I was in heaven with the dessert, a Coconut Pannacotta with Poached Pear. Usually, dessert is not part of the meal plan since I am limited.

Solvang, CA Mirabelle Inn

The Mirabelle Inn is a charming, quaint northern European-styled boutique hotel on First Street. Many have known the hotel from days gone by as the Storybook Inn. Typical of Solvang, CA, you will find the classic half-timber style architecture that gives Solvang its nickname, Little Denmark.

The rooms feature gas-lit fireplaces, Samsung flat screen w/ premium DirecTV, complimentary wireless internet, and plush in-room robes.

The staff is very accommodating and responsive to your needs.

You cannot go wrong staying at the Mirabelle because you can walk downstairs and enjoy a sumptuous meal or walk a few blocks into downtown Solvang to enjoy the tasting rooms, restaurants, and unique shops.

The Timber Style Architecture of the Mirabelle Inn in Solvang CA

Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer received a hosted wine tasting, dinner, and hotel stay. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.