BEYOND THE BROCHURE: While many towns in and near a prominent wine country can be put under the header "Wine Country Towns," anyone who has taken a short Sunday drive knows that each burg boasts its own individual vibe. Take the Santa Ynez Valley and vino-loving burgs in and around Santa Barbara. The largest of those cities has its red-tiled, Stearns-Wharfian charms, while Solvang could only be Solvang and no other place. Los Olivos has its snug layout and tasting-room-y draws. And Los Alamos, which sits just a pip along the road beyond the valley? Well, it has its tasting rooms, too, but let's just call it the most Old West of all the settlements of the grape-loving region. True, the compact community just west of the 101 and to the northwest of the Santa Ynez hubs does have some beloved tasting rooms, but it also boasts the 1880 Union Hotel, a true-life charmer that's so picturesque you might say the words "movie set!" while standing before it. With its West-y roots in mind, Los Alamos pauses every early fall to mark Old Days, a three-day celebration that tips a ten-gallon to the waybackery of the winsome little town.
BOUNTIFUL HARVEST... is the 2014 theme. The free party, which clip-clops from Sept. 26 through 28, spotlights the "traditional old-west style community" which is closer to Santa Maria than Santa Barbara. This means a Peddlers Mart over two of the days, a car show, and the "Greatest Little Small Town Parade." Horses and cowboy hats and boots shall be out in full, yeehaw force, as will a chili cook-off competition, a stampede 5K run, and other sepia-toned doings in a place that keeps its 19th-century cred intact. Well, that's not the whole story; as mentioned, Los Alamos does pour the wine, like many of its neighboring villages, which just goes to show you: Every town is doing its own thing, even if a dozen of 'em exist within an hour of each other and are known for good tasting rooms. Some have amazing pea soup and craft beer -- hi, Buellton -- some rock the pastries -- howdy, Solvang -- and some are deeply connected to Old West ways. That's Los Alamos, one of the rootingest, tootingest, tasting-roomiest towns in the Golden State.