You think you know a place, but a simple detour can miraculously reveal some genuine charms you had no idea existed. Since 2000, I’ve been riding past Santa Maria and its neighboring Orcutt on my regular jaunts to northern California, never venturing beyond the gas stations along US 101 which skirts these cities. So, this Shamrock Tour®, based in the lovely 12-room boutique Wine Stone Inn in Orcutt, had plenty of total surprises in store for me.
The quaint enclave of Orcutt sits just a few miles off the freeway, with a breeze bringing the distinct, salty air of the Pacific funneling down into the valley from distant hills. Located on the southern tip of Santa Maria Valley—an agricultural area known for its strawberries, broccoli, and avocados—Orcutt is in the midst of a transformation. The region has risen to prominence with its vineyards, emerging as a significant wine destination on the Central Coast. As the area gains in popularity, new hotels, eateries, breweries, and wineries are coming into vogue. For motorcyclists, the area is ripe with a number of rides that combine winding roads, stunning scenery, and interesting destinations.
Eggs Benedict & Foxen Canyon
Depart the Wine Stone Inn and head south on SR 1, which turns into SR 135. After 15 miles of pleasant backroads, you’ll land in the town of Los Alamos, where you will find The Maker’s Son. This 100-year-old former auto garage and gas station, transformed into an upscale restaurant, serves amazing eggs Benedict. The trick, owner Don Conner explains, is the smoked hollandaise. For added decadence, add the French toast fritters—toasted French bread, vanilla cinnamon custard, candied pecans, and powdered sugar, with orange maple syrup.
Motorcycle & Gear
2022 Ducati Multistrada V4
From Los Alamos, take US 101 south to Buellton, where you’ll turn east on SR 246 into Solvang, a touristy Danish village. Tucked away in Solvang Village Square is the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum, a private collection that covers a wide swath of motorcycle history with a tilt toward racing machines (including a Britten). The museum is only open Saturdays and Sundays, so plan accordingly.
Lodging: Wine Stone Inn
Situated in the far southern reaches of Santa Maria, where the city slips into the background and gives way to a quiet country setting, sits Wine Stone Inn. This quaint, unpretentious, and modern 12-room boutique hotel has spacious, well-appointed rooms with wonderfully comfortable beds. With the Pacific Ocean not far off, there’s a slight saltiness to the air.
The downstairs bar serves light snacks and offers an impressive wine list, as well as domestic and imported beers. It also plays host to several evenings of fun and games per week, like trivia contests, a bingo night, and various other excuses to socialize. They create a nice atmosphere for you to meet locals and other travelers.
For the motorcyclists, Wine Stone Inn has safe covered parking and is situated on the edge of town, granting immediate access to uncrowded thoroughfares that take you north, south, and east. The ocean limits westward treks. The Inn provides coffee and a light breakfast for guests to get you on your way. In the evenings, the surrounding safe and easy-to-walk streets allow you to visit a host of establishments, from a funky old-school bar to upscale eateries, and everything in between. Find it at 255 West Clark Ave, Orcutt, CA, (805) 332-3532.
Continue east on SR 246 to SR 154 in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley and motor north to Los Olivos, a quaint little town with shops and wine stores. Farther north, you’ll find Foxen Canyon at the edge of the town. This is a local motorcycling favorite, which twists and turns through vineyards and rolling hills, taking you past San Ramon Chapel, noted for being the first historical landmark listed by the county of Santa Barbara. Shortly thereafter, you’ll arrive at Riverbench Vineyard and Winery, where the 1920s craftsman-style home serves as a tasting center for their revered Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and sparkling wines. Almost immediately out of the winery, catch Tepusquet Rd north for an entertaining backroad ride that meanders its way to Cuyama Hwy (SR 166). This road takes you west via long sweeping corners until you land back in Santa Maria, where you’ll pick up US 101 for the short jaunt south back to Orcutt.
With time left in the day, I recommend enjoying Wine Stone Inn’s wine sampling happy hour before heading for dinner at Pizzeria Bello Forno. After dinner, Naughty Oak Brewing Company’s offerings serve as a great nightcap.