2024 Wellness Guide

A small, white, airplane flying over a Pacific Ocean. In the distance, there is a long, low green mountain range.
Surf Air


Surf Air and Auberge Resorts Connect Napa and Santa Ynez with Luxury and Ease

by Amanda Eberstein
A group of wine glasses filled with different colored wines, sitting on a wooden table.
Wine tastings at The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern

Napa Valley has long been synonymous with California wine country. Although relatively small in size—stretching 35 miles from top to bottom and just 5 miles across at its widest point—the bucolic destination 90 minutes north of San Francisco is widely considered to be the most renowned wine-growing region in the United States, as well as one of the most diverse in the world. Today—165 years since the area’s first commercial winery was established—Napa is home to more than 40 different grape varieties and 475 physical wineries, as well as world-class hotels, resorts, and restaurants, five of which are Michelin-starred.

Despite the region’s pitch-perfect Mediterranean climate and ideal topography, Napa grows only 4 percent of California’s total wine harvest. And in recent years, another Golden State region has emerged to complement the original: Santa Ynez Valley, an equally picturesque and pastoral stretch above Santa Barbara on the Central Coast. The historic ranching and farming community—an area of 5 square miles bookended by the San Rafael Mountains to the north and the Santa Ynez Mountains to the south—had been quietly producing high-quality wines before bursting into the public’s collective consciousness in 2004 as the setting for the hit film Sideways. Still understated, the destination boasts small-batch, family-owned vineyards (known for pinot noir, cabernet, chardonnay, and syrah) and quaint towns such as Solvang, the quirky, sun-soaked hamlet noted for its traditional Danish-style architecture, and Los Olivos, an old ranching village that is now home to more than 30 tasting rooms tucked within Victorian buildings in a five-block radius downtown.

As Santa Ynez has grown in visibility, it seems natural that connections would improve between the two regions. Previously, the three options to travel between the Central Coast and Napa were to drive (over 330 miles and at least 5.5 hours by car, more if taking the scenic coastal route), fly commercially from Santa Barbara to San Francisco, or hire a private plane. Another point to consider: Santa Ynez has long been dotted with boutique bed-and-breakfasts but had no big-name hotels. Now, a partnership between Surf Air (surfair.com)—an LA-based regional air service that offers both chartered and on-demand flights—and Auberge Resorts Collection (aubergeresorts.com) assures that guests can easily enjoy the best of both worlds.

White store front of Mattei’s Tavern restaurant. There are several windows on the wooden building as well as tables and chairs on the sidewalk in front of the building.
Exterior of Mattei’s Tavern

Roadside bar interior with a long wooden counter and several stools. There are many different sized bottles of alcohol lined up on shelves behind the counter.
The Bar at Mattei’s Tavern

Guesthouse with two double beds which have dark wooden frames and white bedding. There is a small bedside table in between the beds with a lamp, vase and books on it.
Guesthouse at Mattei’s Tavern

Outdoor gazebo with table and chairs located in the middle of a garden.
Outdoor dining at The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern

The impetus for this venture is the opening of The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern, Auberge Resorts Collection, a buzzy new property in Los Olivos that is being billed as the region’s first-ever luxury hotel. Located at the site of a former 19th-century stagecoach stop, Mattei’s is revered as one of the Santa Ynez Valley’s most beloved social hubs and historic landmarks. Now, under new ownership and Auberge’s management, the original craftsman-style structure—which houses a restaurant, bar, and coffee shop—has been meticulously restored, while the surrounding 6.5-acre property has expanded to become a 67-room resort. “We were inspired to purchase Mattei’s to preserve the historical significance and its relationship to the valley for future generations,” says Brian Strange, a longtime resident who bought the property with his wife, Shamra, in 2015. Overseen by AvroKO, the bright, newly constructed guest rooms, suites, and cottages feel airy yet cozy, with exposed-beamed ceilings, four-poster iron beds, indoor/outdoor fireplaces, and Pendleton blankets. The tavern itself remains a time warp—much to the delight of locals, who frequent the spot as often as visitors—with original wood flooring, a roaring stone fireplace, and walls covered in black-and-white photos depicting life in the Wild West. A spa will open next year.
Two female passengers deplaning and being greeted by two people at the airstrip of an airport.
Surf Air passengers arriving to Santa Ynez Airport

In the foreground, there is a vineyard with rows of green grape vines. In the background there is winery with a brown roof and mountains in the distance.
Crown Point Vineyards

A large patio area next to a brown wooden building with a couches, tables, and chairs. It is surrounded by trees and grass.
Patio of the Palomino Suite at Stanly Ranch

An assortment of salami, cheese, olives, and wines on a dark wooden table.
Cheese and charcuterie plate at a Crown Point Vineyards wine tasting

The Surf Air partnership—priced from $25,000 for two people and fully customizable—begins with two nights at The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern. There is plenty to do that isn’t wine-related, from paella making to olive oil tasting to painting lessons underneath Mattei’s iconic water tower. Oenophiles will want to venture off property, as tailored itineraries include visits to some of the area’s most exclusive wineries. At Crown Point Vineyards, guests explore the expansive grape fields on John Deere utility vehicles and then take a barrel-room tour and taste award-winning, cabernet-based wines. Meet-the-Maker experiences include one-on-ones with talented producers (themed options, such as an all-female maker tour, can be requested). For on-site dining, Mattei’s Tavern serves elevated Californian cuisine and has a wine list featuring 50-percent local options.

At the end of their stay, guests take a 10-minute drive to the Santa Ynez Airport—an airstrip surrounded by idyllic farmland and rolling hills—to meet their plane from Surf Air’s private fleet. A breezy, 75-minute flight up the coast to Napa delivers them directly to their final destination: the year-old Stanly Ranch, Auberge Resorts Collection. A stark contrast to Mattei’s historic feel, the strikingly contemporary Stanly spreads out over 700 acres. “Our vision was a harmonious balance between modern comforts and environmental stewardship, creating a destination that captures the essence of California’s wine country intertwined with the natural beauty of Napa’s surrounding landscape,” says Bob Shemwell, principal architect at Overland Partners. The 78 freestanding cottages and suites—comprising 135 guest accommodations—have been built to blend into the terrain, with sleek furnishings, open layouts, and floor-to-ceiling windows that slide open onto private terraces with fire pits and vineyard views. The dining options similarly pay homage to the land, incorporating local farms and makers to highlight the best of the region’s seasonal bounty.

The property’s crown jewel is the Halehouse spa and wellness center, where in addition to classic massages and facials, guests can experience more innovative offerings such as therapeutic bodywork and energy healing. The massive restoration and recovery area comes complete with a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, a Himalayan salt room, and a 400-square-foot undulating cedar sauna that has quickly become the resort’s most Instagrammable feature. Wine takes center stage during visits to celebrated, cult collector–level vineyards and top restaurants in the region. On property, take pasta-making and craft cocktail classes utilizing house-made juices and herbs freshly picked from Stanly’s garden.

Ed Gannon, general manager at The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern, says, “We are elevating the quintessential California road trip and offering something for every type of traveler.” As is the case with California’s wine country, these days it’s easier than ever to enjoy both sides.

Photo credits: Courtesy of Surf Air, The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern (Auberge Resorts Collection), Crown Point Vineyards, and Stanly Ranch (Auberge Resorts Collection)