The Santa Maria Valley is renowned for world-class Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. Our valley’s unique geography creates microclimates that allow varying types of grapes to prosper in different ways. We often characterize our wines and winemakers into two categories: those grown on the Santa Maria Bench and those not.
On the Bench
The Santa Maria Bench is located on the eastern edge of the Santa Maria Valley AVA, in the foothills of the Tepusquet Mountains. It runs along the bank of the Sisquoc River and sits higher than much of the surrounding valley. The bench is very shallow and rocky but contains alluvial soils, which are made up of alluvium, a material deposited by rivers. The rocky ground provides excellent drainage, while the alluvial soils give a fertile space for vines to grow.
The mountains surrounding the Santa Maria Bench are part of California’s Transverse Ranges, meaning they run east-to-west, as opposed to the general northwest-southeast orientation of most other ranges in California. Much of the bench is sheltered from the wind by the surrounding mountains. Fog from the Pacific Ocean rolls over the vineyards on the bench, burns off mid-morning and rolls back in late afternoon. The unique geography and topography breed an ideal micro-climate for growing grapes because grapes hang longer on the vine and develop more complex flavors. Wines grown on the Santa Maria Bench have round textures and notes of earth because of the loam and stones in the soil. To sample wines from vineyards on the Santa Maria Bench, try Cambria or Byron.
Off the Bench
Grapes not grown on the Santa Maria Bench are grown closer to sea level and exposed to more sunlight. Vines that grow off the bench are located further away from the mountains, and don’t have as much as exposure to the foggy microclimates. You can taste the difference between the wines grown on the western side of the Santa Maria Valley, off the bench, which are fruiter and spicier. To sample wines from off the bench, try Presqu’ile or Ca’ Del Grevino.
The Santa Maria Valley’s unique terrain allows visitors to experience both microclimates in one trip. Taste both earthy bench wines and bright wines from off the bench within a 15-minute drive. The Santa Maria Valley AVA’s unique transverse geography and temperate climate make for wines that you have to experience to believe.
*** In Santa Maria Valley, there’s so much to do from here. Hit the road and explore it all with our 24 hiking trails, 34 tasting rooms, seven unique AVAs, 13 beaches, and a growing selection of local breweries, all within a beautiful 30-minute drive. There is no need to venture far if you are looking for sand dunes, cycling and authentic Santa Maria Style dining. You’ll find it’s the perfect home base, where you can eat, drink and do more for less.