Everybody knows that Santa Maria Style Barbecue boasts a long and storied history in the Santa Maria Valley, but few are aware that its up-and-coming wine country has roots that run deep, too.

Indeed, this year, Riverbench Vineyard celebrates the fortieth anniversary of its first vineyard planting in 1973. The 1960s and 1970s ushered in an era where viticulturalists began to realize that the Central Coast could potentially be a quality grape growing region. Recognizing the unique geography of the area’s transverse mountain ranges, which funnel cool ocean air across the valley, planting pioneers experimented with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. Forward thinkers including Uriel Nielson, Louis Lucas and Dale Hampton started it all, and the valley owes them many thanks.

Today, Riverbench Vineyard is comprised of 344 planted acres of mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  The vineyard site, located in an ancient riverbed, is ideal because of its cool breezy climate and alluvial soils that provide excellent drainage. Riverbench also shares this momentous anniversary with fellow Santa Maria Valley pioneering wineries, Bien Nacido Vineyard and Zaca Mesa Vineyard.

This year Riverbench is celebrating its past by moving forward with the launch of a second tasting room, which opens in Santa Barbara in April. Meanwhile, its beautiful tasting room on the Santa Maria Valley wine trail continues to charm guests. Opened in 2007, this 1926 Craftsman-style ranch home overlooks the property’s historic vines.

Cheers to Riverbench and other local vineyard and wineries who paved the way for the Santa Maria Valley’s emergence as one of the world’s top wine regions!