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It can be helpful to find a silver lining when living through a pandemic. For us, it’s been puzzles and pinot noir. Our 7-year-old helped us conquer our first 500-piece puzzle in the early weeks of quarantine, before we ordered a couple 1,000-piece monsters.
And after putting our two daughters to bed, pinot tastings have helped my husband and I simulate date night — no sitter or valet required.
After nearly 100 days at home, our newfound interest in pinot led us to Los Alamos, Calif., a teeny town in the grape-laden Santa Ynez Valley. The coastal region’s cool temperatures make it ideal for growing heat-sensitive pinot grapes. And Los Alamos’ small-but-formidable food scene has risen to the level of its wine in recent years, which was a plus for me (as someone who regularly travels to eat).
We booked a simple suite at Alamo Motel, a redesigned motor lodge that offers contactless check-in, then made the easy drive from Los Angeles. Going midweek proved a safe way to stretch our travel legs. It felt like we had the place to ourselves. We bought bottles of wine and to-go meals from local restaurants, then picnicked on the lawns of our motel.
Ostrichland USA, home to more than 100 ostriches and emus, is surely the quirkiest tourist stop in the Santa Ynez Valley. We thought our big kid would enjoy the experience most, but it turns out feeding the gigantic, flightless birds is rather terrifying. Taking selfies while social distancing with the animals was more my speed.
But it was the wine that brought us here, so we punctuated the trip with a visit to Koehler Winery in Los Olivos, one of numerous tasting rooms in the area that allow children. Again, we found ourselves almost alone — does no one else wine taste on a Thursday at 11:30 a.m. with children? All the more room — and pinot — for us, then.