Stephen Villa and Chelsea Rushing share a deep understanding of the Santa Ynez Valley. Stephen is a winemaker by trade from Santa Barbara, and Chelsea grew up in the Santa Ynez Valley. This connection to the land, the wine industry and the hospitality business meant that when the opportunity arose in 2018 to purchase Zaca Creek. Initially developed in the 1960s by town scion Jim Buell, this team knew exactly what to do with the scenic compound on Jonata Park Road. Now Buellton has another destination to fill some gaps in the area’s offerings.
The couple transformed Zaca Creek into a six-room inn, revived the beloved but long-shuttered Tavern restaurant, and built a new full-service event venue. At the Inn, the rooms bring in an old world rustic atmosphere with handcrafted stonework and amenities including bathrooms with luxurious oversized rain showers and tubs. The duo has brought a regionally savvy and respectful intentionality to their brand of hospitality, which services events as well as wine country travelers.
At the Tavern, the menu by chef Cullen Campbell fully embraces the local bounty from produce to seafood, as well as Wagyu beef and enviable access to Mangalitsa heritage pork. Start with traditional gougères and escargot, and move into seasonal salads, housemate pastas and serious proteins featuring ingredients like lamb raised at Central Coast winery Tablas Creek. The cocktail menu showcases serious mixology cred that ranges from the classics to a martini with Calvissius caviar.
Situated next to a lushly landscaped pool and outdoor area, the primary event space at the Buellhouse can accommodate up to 200 guests. In the subterranean level, the Cellar is ideal for more intimate dinners and special occasions. Better yet, pick from Stephen’s own wine offerings that include some rare, special selects from his Santa Barbara area winemaker pals.
We spoke with Rushing to learn more about this special property.
What’s the most requested room at the property and why?
Suite 3 would be our most requested, which is understandable once you step foot into the room. Entering the room, guests are immediately greeted by its centerpiece: a gigantic 300-year old, handcrafted, Malaysian teak and copper bed frame, on top of which sits a luxurious California king mattress which is like sleeping on a bed of clouds. It is all centered under an original vaulted wood ceiling with a classically-styled chandelier which, coupled with Provençal stonework on the walls, instantly transports guests to a space which could easily be thousands of miles away, on a different continent.
What is the nightly rate range for this room?
Rates start at $350.
What’s an interesting tidbit about the hotel that speaks to its status as a new icon?
At the Tavern, the historic aspect of a rustic ranch steakhouse has been resurrected, but with nuanced California brasserie touches. Overall, the menu is focused on classic, Old World recipes utilizing locally-sourced California Central Coast ingredients.
What’s your personal favorite room and why?
Room 5. It has two double queen beds with stunning hand-carved teak headboards. The vaulted ceiling and stone walls make it feel like you’re in an old castle. The giant, walk-in stone shower is what really makes it, though. It’s incredible.
What’s your favorite design element on the property?
The underground brick wine cellar. It’s absolutely gorgeous and makes for a great after-party spot.