cowgirl getaway

Cowgirl Executive Editor Deborah Donohue spends a weekend in the celebrity-sprinkled enclave of Santa Ynez. Here, her journal entries on the newest places to stay, play and dine, where to shop, and why wine tasting is better on horseback.

Friday 3:00 p.m. We arrive for our girls weekend in the tiny, casually hip western town of Santa Ynez, California. We’ve opted to stay at the 20-room Santa Ynez Inn, an elegant Victorian Bed & Breakfast recently rated one of the 25 Best Small Hotels in the nation. Our room has ornately carved queen beds, a fireplace, sitting area, veranda with fountain, jacuzzi bathtub and steam room. Plus, It’s a short stroll to anywhere in town from here. 3:30 p.m. Slip into the creamy robes and soft slippers provided for us…escorted to the spa for our aromatherapy massages. Heaven on earth!

4:45 p.m. Back to our room for a short nap and shower, then we lazily meander the picturesque grounds to a wine and cheese tasting in the dining room, hosted by Gainey Vineyard, a local winery. Delish! 5:45 p.m. Girl talk in front of the fire before walking to town for a 7:00 p.m. reservation at The Red Barn. A glass of Alma Rosa Chardonnay pairs perfectly with the best trout I can ever remember having. Too full for dessert, though.

9:00 p.m. Scratch the too full for dessert comment. Back at the Inn we find peppermint tea, lemon tarts and caramel brownies waiting on a silver tray in front of the fireplace. 11:00 p.m. In our room, we are full of excitement (and lemon tarts) for tomorrow’s adventures. Not sure we can sleep. 11:01 p.m. Our heads hit the pillows and we’re off to dreamland.

Alfresco breakfast on our private veranda at the Santa Ynez Inn; The garden at the Santa Ynez Inn; Local horsewoman Sheila Varian.

Saturday 8:00 a.m. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after some gentle early morning yoga. Complimentary breakfast on the veranda: Eggs Benedict and waffles with sautéed bananas…and YES! More tarts, scones, croissants and muffins…plus a variety of juices, fresh raspberries, strawberries and melon. 10:00 a.m. Just up the street is the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum and the 29th Annual Vaquero Show & Sale, “honoring the lifestyle, culture, and renowned horsemanship of the California Vaquero.” Lucky us! We catch a demonstration by Shelia Varian, a fabled local horsewoman who trains bridle horses in the authentic Vaquero tradition. Hard to tear ourselves away from all the gorgeous tack & silver and there ARE a lot of cowboys…

1:00 p.m. Walk across the street to Heaven Scent Apothecary and Accoutrements, owned by Maggie Winther, whose mother Audrey O’Brien Griffin is in the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. We can’t resist the Wild Fox Couture sweatshirts that feel like cashmere. A rustic wooden cross with a wire horse sculpture also catches my editor’s eye. 2:00 p.m. Time to hitch a short ride to rendezvous with Jaye of Vino Vaqueros for horseback rides through the Estelle Ranch and Vineyard to be followed by a post-ride wine tasting at Roblar Winery. Breathtaking views among the rolling hills. Fun!

Chef Luca Crestanelli of S.Y. Kitchen

5:00 p.m. Home, sweet home at the Santa Ynez Inn…a hot bath and our evening fireside chat. 7:30 p.m. Dinner tonight at the S.Y. Kitchen. Owners Kathie and Mike Gordon partnered with Verona-born Chef Luca Crestanelli to create a “California version of a little Italian farmhouse.” It’s the place to go. I’ll have the wild boar and risotto please! 9:30 p.m. Back at the Inn. Quiet time to read and reflect on our joyful day. 10:30 p.m. Tuckered out and tucked in for the night.

Sunday morning (who knows what time it is?) Breakfast in bed. Delectable fare and good, rich coffee. Is it time to go home already? Not just yet…no visit to Santa Ynez is complete without a trip to a cowgirl’s dream store. Back at the Ranch boutique is just up the street and around the corner, and I could use another pair of gorgeous boots! A latte at the Valley Grind and our lovely weekend in Santa Ynez must come to a close. Can’t wait to come back!

“Vaqueros & Vineyards” is featured in Cowgirl Magazine Feb/Mar 2014. Pick up a copy at a local retailer or bookstore near you!