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Whirlwind weekend: Solvang's Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, part 2

Ahhh, where did we leave off? Oh yes, ribbiting frogs, sated stomachs full of Alisal Chardonnay and barbecue-y goodness, and a bit o'frolic in the Oak Room. Quite a fitting prelude to Part Two of the Alisal Ranch Whirlwind Weekend, which was equal parts indulgence and enjoyment.

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I awoke to the overpowering smell of freshly cut grass and picture-perfect weather in the high 70s. (No surprise—Solvang boasts 340 days of pure sunshine every year.) It was *almost* time to head to the driving range, but not before a quick breakfast stop at the Ranch Room. Alisal offers a Modified American meal plan, which means that breakfasts and dinners are included in the room rate. And not just the usual continental fare—a full menu is also offered alongside a buffet-style setup. I opted to go the speedy buffet route; after all, golf awaited! Cheese blintzes, French toast, potato pancakes, scrambled eggs, and more followed, and it became clear that returning to Weight Watchers would be imminent upon my return to dear Tinseltown! Too good to turn down.

One quick scenic drive (top down with B-52s playing, natch) later, I arrived at Alisal's golf course just up the street. The last time I'd tried golf, I probably wasn't much taller than the actual golf club, so I decided to play it safe and hit some balls at the driving range, though I could have attempted one of Alisal's two 18-hole championship courses. And I'm so glad I did—-I found a new BFF in Joe, one of the pro shop employees, who happened to be out at the range hitting some balls before his shift. A few tips from him (straighten your left arm, twist your torso), and I was easily back in the swing of things!

Though I could have kept practicing all day, I would have been late for a very important date: wine tasting in Solvang! I connected with our group and we piled into one of Alisal's shuttles to do downtown in style. First stop? Lucas and Llewellyn, a tasting room on Copenhagen. With several samplers to choose from, I opted for the "Fun Wines" list, which lets winos try six delish dessert wines for $12. My favorites among the offerings were a 2005 Sommeil en Barrique (which means "sleeping in a barrel"), 2008 Rose of Pinot Noir, and a Silver King Port served in a Chocolate Port Glass. (They had me at "Chocolate Port Glass"--fun indeed.)

Next we hit up Presidio Winery, where strains of Stevie Wonder greeted us as we entered the tasting room. There we met uber-knowledgeable owner Douglas Braun, who took some time to fill us in on Presidio's earth-friendly processes. The first certified organic and biodynamic vineyard in Santa Barbara county, Presidio is inspiring many wineries around California to follow in its lightly treading footsteps. (And its tasty Viognier is inspiring me to return....soon!)

Final stop was D'Alfonso Curran Wines, home to the Brangelina of wine-making: Bruno D'Alfonso and Kris Curran. This dynamic winemaker duo and their brood of German shepherds are just as warm and inviting as the tasting room itself! Somewhat of celebrities in the wine world, Bruno and Kris served up tasty cheeses, crackers and desserts as they shared their wine wares.

Though we'd barely gone a quarter mile from tasting room to tasting room, we'd definitely gone the distance drinking-wise and it was time to head back to Alisal. But the indulgence wasn't over yet, as our itinerary held a relaxing dinner in the Sycamore Room...and more wine. Prepared by Alisal executive chef Pascal Gode and painstakingly paired by Micho Wine Company's Drea O'Connell, the meal that ensued was a four-course flurry of yumminess. Jumbo prawns, seared black angus filet mignon, potato gratin, the list went on and on—as did we about how good it was! Topped off with a brandy snap crème Brulee Napoleon with raspberry coulis, the night couldn't have ended on a better note.

Though it was early—barely 9:30 pm—and I easily could have gone for another sing-along round in the Oak Room, a 6:30 am wakeup call was on tap for Alisal's famed Breakfast Ride. It was time for shuteye...and dreaming about what the next day had in store! Stay tuned for part 3....


For more information: Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, 1054 Alisal Road, Solvang, CA 93463; 1-800-4ALISAL

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