Rovology: Wineries and Butterflies – Exploring Santa Maria Valley, CA
Travel site Rovology featured Santa Maria Valley in this article by Judy Karina, exploring the wonderful possibilities an excursion to Santa Maria Valley has to offer. Read more in the excerpt below.
Wineries and Butterflies: Exploring Santa Maria Valley, CA
Santa Maria, along the Central California coast, offers a wonderful weekend excursion from Los Angeles or San Francisco. The gorgeous green hills create the perfect landscape for clean, moist air moving in from the ocean that you can feel and smell.
Spectacular wineries, interesting family farms, peaceful natural settings and unpretentious dining highlighted my exploration of the area.
Presqu’ile is a family-owned winery here dedicated to crafting exceptional, cool-climate wines. Their spacious outdoor patio provides expansive views for your enjoyment while sampling wine with a healthy lunch.
The sandy soil enables good drainage for the vines and lends a unique minerality to the grapes. I enjoyed visiting the narrow underground cellar lined with stacked barrels along each side.
The winery mainly purchases barrels from a single seller in France and each barrel is marked with the type of wood grain and year created. Piping carries the wine from the fermenting containers located on the floors above the cellar to each barrel.
Presqu’ile uses grapes from their own vineyard as well as neighboring vineyards to create spectacular Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah wines.
Chef Julie Simon loves gardening and has created an organic plot to provide fresh ingredients for her gourmet meals. I feasted on white bean stew with crushed cilantro and peanuts, chicken wings with caramel and sriracha sauce, along with a rich farmer’s cheese. This was accompanied by a butter lettuce salad with Asian pear, edamame and shiitake mushrooms in a lime vinaigrette.
Riverbench Vineyard and Winery also offers a lovely patio set among trees and flowering vines. The vineyard, established in 1973, is one of the oldest in Santa Maria. The grapes are planted on the bank of the Sisquoc River, also known as the Santa Maria Bench.
I sat listening to almost constant birdsong snacking on a charcuterie picnic lunch. Cheese, salami, quince jam, rosemary crackers, and almonds arrived in a metal basket complete with a cutting board and cheese knife. My favorite wines were the sparkling Blanc de Noirs and the Clone 115 Pinot Noir.
A chilly wind was blowing on the day I visited Cambria Estate Winery so I sat indoors next to a picture window overlooking the large steel containers and rows of barrels below the tasting room. They also offer a lovely outdoor patio as well as tables and chairs on a small hill with a panoramic view.
Cambria is completely women-run with daughters Katherine and Julia learning the business from their mother Barbara. They focus on sustainability and drawing the flavors of the land into their wines.
Dewlson Family Farm
When Judy and Ron retired from the Navy, they dreamed of creating Dewlson Family Farm to share with their children and future generations. They bought 20 acres of land and planted rows of Lisbon Lemons with ground cover in between to reduce erosion. They have since added another 20 acres of lemons as well as experiments with many other types of plants.
Judy led me on a fascinating tour where I was able to sample many of the fruits of their labor. We walked through a greenhouse filled with various types of coffee plants. She explained that the beans must be hand-picked due to their different stages of maturation.
She was also cultivating several types of tea plants imported from China. I was shown many other trees and plants that I hadn’t seen before, such as passion fruit, pink lemonade trees, Buddha trees, and Finger Limes.
Judy works diligently with many exotic plants to determine how and where they grow best.
Dewlson Family Farm offers tours by reservation as well as coffee and tea tastings. I sampled a few teas then gathered some herbs from the garden outside the red barn to bring home for brewing my own.
I couldn’t resist doing some shopping among their homemade soaps and preserves. I even brought home a gorgeous tea set to enjoy.
My learning and exploration of the Santa Maria area continued in the town of Nipomo at The Luffa Farm. I had no idea that luffa sponges grow on vines and start off looking like long green squash. For over 30 years, the farm has been processing the sponges in a gentle way that keeps the luffa soft and delightful for use. They also sell many popular handmade products such as bath teas, soap, and lotion.
A Depression era migrant labor camp in Nipomo is the location of photographer Dorothea Lange’s iconic “Migrant Mother” picture, perhaps the most recognizable image ever captured on film.