Looking for a weekend wine tasting trip near Fresno? Look no further than Santa Maria Valley.
Approximately three hours southwest of Fresno is the Santa Maria Valley, the ideal road trip escape to the Central California Coast’s wine country. Beat the heat and explore a wine and food hotspot for the perfect weekender. The Central Coast’s climate makes it possible to enjoy wine tasting year-round.
The Santa Maria Valley is a wine lover’s paradise. Travel Channel may have named Santa Maria a Top 10 City for Wine Snobs, but you won’t find any snobbery here. The region’s temperate, Mediterranean climate allows grapes to spend extra time on the vine, producing exceptional Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. Bonus–our relaxed and approachable winemakers are present and welcoming, often pouring your glass themselves!
Once you’ve explored your neighboring wine trails such as the Fresno County Wine Journey and the Madera Wine Trail, hit the road for a new wine excursion all your own.
Visitors can experience 34 winery tasting rooms (and you can take home a bottle for $20!) within a 30-minute drive of Santa Maria. The Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, a 30-mile stretch of vineyard-lined country road, is home to 13 wineries. Experience some of the region’s most popular wineries, including Presqu’ile, Riverbench and Cottonwood Canyon.
Santa Maria Valley Wines
The Santa Maria Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) was established in 1981 and is one of seven AVAs in Santa Barbara County. It is California’s second oldest AVA and is the northernmost appellation in Santa Barbara County. Grape growing can be traced back to the early Mexican Colonial period in the 1800s.
The area consists of a unique transverse geography, an east-west orientation that produces cool air from the ocean to the valley. Compared to the Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Primitivo wines common to the Fresno wine region, Santa Maria Valley’s unique landscape has produced three flagship varietals of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Santa Maria Valley Chardonnays are tropical and floral, energetic and memorable. Pinot Noirs are juicy and elegant with blackberry, cherry and/or strawberry flavors with some spice and a hint of earthiness. Syrahs have blackberry undertones with peppery and meaty notes and are a delightful, decadent surprise. Wine tasters can also find Pinot Blanc, Rose of Pinot Noir and even Blanc de Blanc here.
While you’re here wine tasting, you mustn’t miss your chance to try a plate of classic Santa Maria Style barbecue. This iconic culinary classic originated more than 150 years ago, when Spanish settlers would host feasts to celebrate the work of the local vaqueros – or cowboys – who worked on ranches around the region.
Santa Maria Style barbecue consists of meat, usually tri-tip or top block sirloin, grilled over red oak coals. The red oak grows native on the Central Coast and has been used for more than 150 years to give the meat its hearty flavor. Santa Maria Style-barbecued tri-tip is paired with a side of pinquito beans, which also grow natively on the Central Coast, a fresh green salad, buttered garlic bread and red salsa. Pair your barbecue with a Pinot Noir from one of the local wineries to complement the flavors of the barbecue.
Get Outside Near the Ocean Air
Santa Maria Valley is home to the largest intact dunes ecosystem in the world, the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, where you’ll find a host of outdoor activities. The preserve allows you to enjoy the beautiful coast climate while viewing and learning about native plant life, birds and other animals.
Trek to Oso Flaco Lake and enjoy a 1.7-mile hike to the ocean. The trail is primarily along a boardwalk, making it a smooth and enjoyable hike. If you’re lucky, you may spot a rare Western Snowy Plover. Plovers often make their nests along the beach from March to September.
Be sure to check out the hotels and lodging in Santa Maria to see what additional deals your hotel can provide. Check out Santa Maria Valley’s hotel properties (find options from $125 per night!) and get planning.
There are also dozens of free events throughout the region, from live music and comedy to trivia, karaoke and more. Santa Maria Valley is also home to 24 beaches, 15 hiking trails and nearly endless miles of cycling trails, making it easy to make the most of your trip to the coast.
Explore laid-back wine tasting and all you can do and see in the valley. From Fresno and the Central Valley to Santa Maria Valley, hit the road and venture out where you can eat, drink and do more #SantaMariaStyle.