Savor a rustic-chic weekend escape in Santa Barbara wine country

Since the 1950s the Skyview Motel in Los Alamos has been a quick overnight stop for travelers making the L.A.-San Francisco run on U.S. 101. The motel fell into disrepair in the early 2000s, but new owners renovated and reopened it in April. On a recent visit, I discovered that its big yellow sign still looms over the 101, visible for miles, but the rebranded Skyview Los Alamos is more than a roadside motel. The 33-room boutique resort, which has a pool, restaurant and bar, bicycles, spa services and a vineyard, is a rustic-chic home base for visitors enjoying a weekend of wine tasting, dining and chilling out in Santa Barbara wine country. The tab: $279 a night for the room; $75 for dinner at Norman, excluding wine.


It was a tough choice between a “Cozy” and a “Classic” guestroom at the Skyview. Both rooms were smallish but pleasingly decorated and had king-size beds, but the “Cozy” had a larger bathroom with a double-sized farm sink and a separate toilet. As much as I appreciate spacious bathrooms, I chose the “Classic” because it had a patio with a view of the Santa Ynez Valley. No regrets. At dusk, my husband, Paul, and I snuggled into patio chairs, gazing at horses grazing and birds soaring over the vineyards.



Norman, the Skyview’s restaurant, was named after the ghoulish Bates Motel owner in “Psycho,” but the macabre ends there. Norman has swank midcentury décor with a bar that opens onto the pool deck. Chef Will Hanko offers a small but sophisticated and proudly locavore menu. We enjoyed a refreshing salad of peppery greens, watermelon and fresh herbs; succulent Jidori chicken with garlic mashed potatoes; and a tasty filet of Vermilion rockfish that had been caught that morning, the menu noted, by a local fisherman.


Los Alamos’ 1880 Union Hotel, which was built in the 1880s and charmingly looks it, now is available only for weddings and private events. Its saloon, however, is open to the public, we learned. We stopped in at 5 p.m. and found locals playing table shuffleboard under the gaze of a mounted wild boar’s head. They regaled us with wine-country news as we savored the old-fashioned furnishings, authentic down to the massive antique bar and potbelly stove.


There’s more to drink than wine in Santa Barbara wine country. After a long day of driving from winery to winery, sampling wines until they blur together, many guests return to the Skyview eager to hang out at the pool and/or relax with a cocktail. Norman and the 1880 Union Saloon are the only places in Los Alamos with a license to sell those drinks. I’m not much for cocktails, but for those who are …

Skyview Los Alamos, 9150 U.S. 101, Los Alamos; (805) 344-0104. Wheelchair accessible.

1880 Union Saloon, 362 Bell St., Los Alamos; (805) 344-2744. Wheelchair accessible.