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The Santa Ynez Valley — one of California’s most inviting wine regions — now has something new to offer: its first bona fide luxury resort.
The storied The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern in Los Olivos, California, has been meticulously modernized by design firm AvroKO and has just been opened under the management of luxury hospitality titan Auberge Resorts Collection. The new resort cements Santa Barbara County’s once-under-the-radar wine country destination — where past and current residents include Bernie Taupin, Noah Wylie, Bo Derek and David Crosby — as a vibrant vacation spot.
A former 1800s stagecoach stop between San Francisco and Los Angeles offering food and lodgings for travelers needing a recharge, Mattei’s Tavern reigned as the roaring social hub of the Santa Ynez Valley for over a century. Over the years, the spot had a host of iterations under various owners, including several spirited restaurant and bar concepts, all the while maintaining its original Craftsman-style structures, including the signature water tower that soars over the property.
After extensive renovations under Auberge, the inn has emerged with the character of its original era preserved and a pervasive sense of warmth and intimacy. But the decidedly low-key vibe at The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern is matched with a throng of sumptuous new elements, the centerpiece being a saloon-style bar befitting a Clint Eastwood western, where the theme of embracing the past carries through to the cocktail menu. The Old Gus Berg — featuring Russell’s Reserve single-barrel bourbon, Demerara, house-made bitters and pinot noir — is named for a former maître d’. The setting is Wild West cozy-meets-jovial without feeling manufactured, so expect to have a difficult time tearing yourself away from the inviting seating near the crackling fireplace.
Dotted with old-growth palms, the property immerses guests in a luxe version of the California ranch lifestyle. Greenery and fire pits line walkways which lead to 67 airy, freestanding guest rooms and four original cottages. Light-filled interiors, which veer cozy contemporary while honoring the past, feature four-poster beds, exposed wood-beam ceilings, vintage furnishings and touches of brass, delivering a relaxed, country home feel. The accommodations are complemented by private outdoor patios and porches — ideal for sipping the region’s award-winning wines. The property also includes an indoor/outdoor modernized barn and event space (already booking up with weddings and other celebrations and corporate retreats).
After a day exploring the area — whether wine tasting or bike riding among sun-dappled vineyards — visit The Lavender Barn spa. It offers guests complimentary yoga, Pilates, meditation, strengthening classes and an olive-tree-ringed serenity pool, plus body and facial treatments (from $180) featuring Oak Essentials, the skincare collection by designer Jenni Kayne.
Dining options on property are aplenty. Executive chef Rhoda Magbitang, who fine-tuned her culinary talents working alongside such stars as José Andrés, Suzanne Goin and Josiah Citrin, holds court at the open kitchen inside The Tavern restaurant where her inventive, yet unfussy creations complement her charismatic nature. The menu includes a delightfully addictive crispy cauliflower enhanced with savory almond dukkah and spiced honey; ocean trout with roasted mushrooms and pickled onion relish; and a savory yet light fennel-infused pork belly and clams, all featuring ingredients from the on-site garden and local purveyors.
There’s also casual all-day fare, coffee and baked delicacies at Felix Feed & Coffee (named in honor of Felix Mattei, the tavern’s original owner) and Mediterranean poolside staples at The Shed. Gin’s Tap Bar, which pays homage to Gin Lung Gin, one of the property’s back-in-the-day chefs, offers up ranch-smoked meats and cocktails, with live music by local artists planned for spring. (For a look at other places to eat and stay, as well as wine tasting, in the Santa Ynez Valley, check out THR’s 2023 guide to the Santa Barbara wine region.)
The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern (rooms from $950 a night) is located 2350 Railway Ave. in Los Olivos, California.
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