VIVACIOUS VALLEY VITTLES: Sunshine seen through a glass of wine doesn't exactly cast a shadow, but more like a colorful liquid bit of hue. A merlot's shadow is going to be seen as a garnet-gorgeous red, while chardonnay is a shimmer of lemon-pretty loveliness. This ability of wine to make art, with a bit of light, speaks to its ability to be the dominate player at times, even over some of the other goodies on a table (it is hard to beat something that is both tasty and a work of art). But vino's shadow isn't so long that it obscures the fact that great food often arises in a popular valley that doubles as a lauded slice of wine country. Wine country vittles, too, have their own work-of-art-ness to display, even if they're not casting the same sort of liquid shadows on a table cloth that a glass of sauvignon blanc so easily can.
EXHIBIT A? Gaze upon the Santa Ynez Valley, if you will, and all of the eateries that complement the wine-driven scene and stand apart from it, doing their own distinct thing (while, of course, still offering wine on the menu). A solid chance to get to know both sips and sustenance is Santa Ynez Restaurant Week, which will roll out from Sunday, Jan. 22 through Saturday, Jan. 28. Bell Street Farm in Los Alamos, First & Oak in Solvang, and Alma Rosa Winery in Buellton are just three of the participants. A number of wineries will offer pairings of the "wine & cheese" or "wine & chocolate" assortment, so peek and see if there is a spot you've been wanting to check out (the chance to nibble cheese while trying the local libations is a pretty strong draw). What beautiful hues will your sip of chardonnay make when held up to the sun? For the full list of wine-country-y cuisine places and vineyards, peek here.