Santa Maria BBQ isn’t the only sizzling attraction here in the Santa Maria Valley. Indeed, the local wine wine country is also red hot, as evidenced by three Santa Maria Valley-grown wines being named to the top 10 slots of the Wine Enthusiast magazine’s  annual list of “The Enthusiast 100: The Most Coveted Wines of 2010.”

The Fess Parker 2008 Chardonnay (96 points) from Bien Nacido Vineyard, the Byron 2008 Pinot Noir (96 points) from Nielson Vineyard and the Rusack 2008 Chardonnay Reserve (96 points) from Bien Nacido and Sierra Madre vineyards respectively rank second, sixth and tenth on the list.

According to the Wine Enthusiast, the list was developed from thousands of wines tasted throughout the year. Of the chosen wines, the magazine states, “These wines are truly exemplary, often represent the very best of their category, and should not be missed.”

The Santa Maria Valley earned a similar spotlight last year, when the Cambria 2006 Pinot Noir from Julia’s Vineyard ranked first in the Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 list for 2009.

So if you haven’t toured the local wine country lately, you might want to put it on your list of resolutions for 2011 (after all, not all resolutions should be about dieting and exercising, right?).

To make it easy to plan your Santa Maria Valley wine vacation, the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor & Convention Bureau offers a recently updated complimentary booklet called Santa Maria Valley Wine Country: A Guide to Local Wineries and Restaurants, which includes profiles and contact information for local wineries and dining establishments. An accompanying map reveals the layout of the Santa Maria Valley wine country.

The booklet is available for download here.  Hard copies can also be ordered from the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor & Convention Bureau at (805) 925-2403.

So what’s the secret to the valley’s viticultural success? The Santa Maria Valley boasts a rare “transverse” geography, an east-to-west orientation that channels cool ocean air directly into the valley. The result is one of California’s longest growing seasons, which in turn ensures the development of complex, flavorful and exquisitely balanced grapes. Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay are among the varietals that excel in the region.

And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that many of the locally grown red wines are a fine match for classic Santa Maria Style Barbecue, right?