Get away to Los Alamos, in Santa Barbara’s wine country

August 24, 2015

The patio at Babi's Beer Emporium in Los Alamos.

In the heart of Santa Barbara’s wine country, the California town of Los Alamos is slow to awaken in the mornings. It’s quiet along Bell Street, the main drag lined with vintage storefronts clustered around a flagpole. But at lunchtime, doors swing open, corks pop and local eateries come to life.

You might think this quirky spot was once a cow town. It was actually a biker haven. Now wine-tasting rooms, antique shops and art galleries co-mingle with boutique hotels and artisanal food producers. And a few bikers, too.

There are plenty of ways to spend time in Los Alamos. Here are just a few to get you started.


1. Bob’s Well Bread Bakery

Tucked inside a vintage service station, Bob’s Well Bread Bakery beckons passers-by. The big patio is dotted with red cafe chairs and tables. Owner and master baker Bob Oswaks mans the counter. And the yeasty aroma of baked bread, croissants and pain au levain fill the air. Resistance is futile.

Everything here is made by hand, from the English muffins to the butter, salad dressings and pate. Breakfast and lunch are served all day, so if you want the avocado toast tartine ($8.50) for your morning meal, you’re in luck.

Don’t miss: That avocado tartine, slathered on thick slices of toasted pain au levain, seasoned with sea salt and chile flakes, and topped with toasted pumpkin seeds. Egg-in-a-Jar ($8.50) is the ultimate comfort food, with its poached egg perched atop a purple potato mash with chives and crispy bacon lardons.

Details: Open 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday through Monday; 550 Bell St., Los Alamos;


2. Bedford Winery

Poke around the antique shops and used-book shops along Bell Street, then head for Stephan Bedford’s winery and Los Alamos’ first tasting room. There, you’ll find old typewriters scattered about. Bedford hopes to refurbish the burgundy Smith-Corona on the tasting bar, so guests can type out their wine-tasting notes.

Don’t miss: Wine tasting in the lovely garden among succulents, wine barrels and a gurgling fountain. Try the bright, citrusy 2010 Chenin Blanc ($25); fruity 2010 Grenache ($35) with strawberry notes; rich, powerful 2010 Syrah ($35); and our favorite, the 2010 Cabernet Franc ($39), full of black plum, blackberry and blueberry fruit.

The details: $10 tasting fee. Open daily 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; 448 Bell St.;


3. Frequency Wines

Pop next door to feel the good vibrations at a relative newcomer on the town’s wine scene. Behind the bar at this rustic tasting room, winemaker Zach Wassermann’s mother, Maria, chats up visitors. Zach’s take on the winery name, she explains, "is we all vibrate at a certain frequency, including wine and grapes. My take on it is Frequency: Drink it frequently."

Don’t miss: The 2014 Blanc ($25), a viognier, grenache blanc and roussanne blend with a lovely aromatic honeysuckle nose and citrus, stone fruit and toasted nut flavors; and the GSM ($32), a deep purple-hued wine with notes of crushed violet and rose petal, baking spices, blueberry and black plum.

The details: $5 tasting fee. Open 12-6 p.m. Friday-Sunday; 448B Bell St.;


4. Cafe Quackenbush

Lunch at this cozy eatery is just a few steps away in one of the oldest buildings in Los Alamos, built about 1880. The General Store here houses both the cafe and an art gallery, with local artists’ work on display. The cafe’s lineup of sandwiches includes a Pulled Pork BBQ & Cole Slaw on a Bun ($12.95), overstuffed with succulent, smoky pork in a zesty sauce.

Don’t miss: One of the best burgers we’ve had in recent memory, a juicy, meaty 8-ounce hamburger with blue cheese ($12.95).

The details: Open 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; 458 Bell St.;


5. Casa Dumetz

Head next to this bright, joyful tasting room to sample the Rhone varietals from passionate winemaker Sonja Magdevski. Colorful stencils cover the walls of this welcoming space, with a corrugated metal roof awning and rustic wood bar. Magdevski makes feminine and soulful wines. Her philosophy is "Ground. Grapes. Grit. Without that you have nothing."

Don’t miss: Her 2013 Viognier from Ballard Canyon’s Tierra Alta Vineyard ($30) is a revelation, rich in white flowers and pear on the nose, with a mouthful of juicy, luscious peach, a hint of honey and a minerally finish. The 2013 Common Ground Grenache ($35) is an earthy, luscious blend, with jammy blueberries and blackberries, black pepper and star anise.

The details: $10 tasting fee. Open noon-7 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. 388 Bell St.;


6. Babi’s Beer Emporium

If you’d rather quaff suds instead, Magdevski can oblige. Her Babi’s Beer Emporium next door to Casa Dumetz serves an eclectic mix of local and international craft beers. Choose from an ever-changing roster of six beers on tap ($20 for six tastes), plus loads of bottles and hard ciders, too. "You won’t find any beer you can get five miles down the road," she says.

Not sure what to order? Pop in on a Thursday for the weekly Bottle Share. "People come in, buy a bottle and share," Magdevski says.

Don’t miss: The emporium’s Craft Kitchen at Babi’s, where chef Georgio Curti serves beer-friendly, farm-to-table food. Enjoy your brews and eats outside on the large, sunny patio.

The details: Open 4-8 p.m. Thursday, 12-8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 12-6 p.m. Sunday. 448 Bell St.;


7. Full of Life Flatbread

Locals rave about Full of Life with good reason. The front bar is warm and inviting, but head straight for the back, where all the magic happens. The smoky, yeasty aromas will hit you before you even see the gigantic wood-burning oven, whose light bathes the room in an amber glow as it roasts flatbread after flatbread.

During the week, Full of Life operates as a bakery and sells a line of frozen flatbreads at local grocers. But on weekends, locals and visitors flock here. If you don’t arrive early you’ll have a long wait — no matter, stick around. The wait for these divine, seasonal pies is worth it.

Don’t miss: The creamy Burrata and Peach Salad ($14) served with purslane, mint and cherry tomatoes, or the flatbreads with their ultrathin crusts. The savory Squash Blossom and Burrata ($21 for a flatbread generous enough to serve two) and the Central Coast Sausage ($21), with spicy housemade pork and fennel sausage, were both winners.

The details: Reservations not accepted. Open 4:30-9 p.m. Thursday, and 4:30-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. A "Sunday Supper" menu is served 4-8 p.m. Sunday. 225 Bell St.;




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