Mattei's Tavern


When Felix Mattei rode through the Santa Ynez Valley in 1880, the hills were aflame with golden poppies and purple-hued lupine. These spring wildflowers and the snow-crested peaks of the San Rafael Mountains reminded him of his native Switzerland. When he left to return to his native land it was with a steely resolve: One day he would return to settle in this land of promise.

When he returned, Mattei purchased a 180-acre farm just outside the newly formed town of Los Olivos and built a hotel there in 1886. Anxiously he awaited the construction of the narrow-gauge Pacific Coast Railroad into the valley from Los Alamos. Over 300 Chinese were involved in the completion of this last segment of the railway, and on November 16, 1887, the first engine chugged into Los Olivos, ceremoniously bringing civilization into the valley.

Prosperity was short lived, however. In 1901, with the completion of the Southern Pacific Railroad along the coast, and in 1918, with the completion of the coast highway, Los Olivos retreated back in time. 

Today Los Olivos and Mattei’s Tavern remain idyllic and quiet, wineries and art galleries providing a new form of tourism without taking away from the quaint country charm, making this an excellent place to begin exploration of the valley’s unique beauty by bicycle.

To reach Mattei’s Tavern, drive either over San Marcos Pass, continuing on Highway 154 for thirty miles to the town of Los Olivos, or take Highway 101 along the coast and through Gaviota Pass to Highway 154, and east on this 2.4 miles to the tavern. The San Marcos Pass route is eighteen miles shorter.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014