Your Day on the Santa Maria Valley Wine Trolley

August 22, 2018

The secret is out. The Santa Maria Valley wine trolley is the popular, affordable and fun way to experience the valley’s wine, beer, food and “Santa Maria Style” hospitality. When you hop aboard the wine trolley, don’t be surprised to see other winery-goers, sightseers and maybe even a group of girlfriends celebrating a birthday.

You can begin your day on the trolley in Old Town Orcutt. This great starting and ending point has plenty of restaurants, shops and tasting rooms to visit before and after your trolley tour.

Buy your $10 trolley tickets from merchants near Orcutt’s two trolley stops on West Clark Avenue. Old Town Market, a block from the historic Far Western Tavern steakhouse and the tasting room at CORE Winery, have tickets waiting for you.

CORE’s co-owner, Becky Corey, will invite you inside and may even greet you with a hug. Her winemaker husband, Dave, posts up behind the bar entertaining customers. It’s unusual in most other wine regions to see such down-to-earth winery owners, pouring their wines on-site, but this is where you’ll likely find Dave, Santa Maria’s cycling vintner. When he’s not leading his Bike & Bottle bicycle wine tasting tour to the beach, teaching college winemaking courses or handcrafting red blends in the cellar, he will be glad to provide banter from behind the bar.

Another spot that sells trolley tickets is the cnagy wine tasting room, home to Orcutt native Clarissa Nagy. Her handcrafted Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache and Gewürztraminer are delicious and fresh.

The brightly-painted street rods at one of the local car shows might catch your eye on California Street. If you prefer antiques over autos, you can go antiquing at Déjà Vu at the Loading Dock. Or, if your main focus is wine, indulge in tasting a few Central Coast boutique wines at Vino et Amicis (Wine and Friends) before venturing deeper into the appellation.

Be sure not to miss the wine trolley as it moves down West Clark Avenue to meet you at the pickup point. The handsome red trolley, resembling a San Francisco cable car, has room for 28 people and is well maintained and clean. With plenty of headroom to stand (or dance), the trolley is comfortable and full of windows to enjoy the valley views or feel the cool coastal breeze.

Show the trolley driver your tickets to continue your wine country adventure. Feel free to join others in song and sing along to the trolley’s music as you depart for the next stop on the trail.

After about 10 minutes, you will roll into the entrance to Presqu’ile Winery, up the hill through blocks of pinot noir and chardonnay vines full of leafy canopies and clusters of grapes soaking in the high noon sun. As your view becomes unobstructed by the vines, you’ll see Presqu’ile’s tasting room and winery perched atop Santa Maria Valley’s ancient sand dunes.

Presqu’ile’s contemporary hospitality center looks like an Architectural Digest cover photo, framed through the trolley windows. The views are stunning, with mountains to the east, a peak of the dunes to the west and vineyards all around.

Once inside the tasting room, you can select from a menu of wines, which includes Presqu’ile’s bright and lively sauvignon blanc. Some groups bring picnic lunches and sit at tables on the sprawling terrace with a bottle of wine. Others opt to order Presqu’ile’s charcuterie platter or Parisian sandwiches and head off for a game of horseshoes. You can also book a tasting and winery tour and stroll through their impressive barrel cave.

Like clockwork, the trolley will arrive to take you to the next destination. Turn in your horseshoes, take a final sip of pinot noir and say farewell to Presqu’ile. Or, you can stay longer to enjoy the spectacular surroundings and wines.

The trolley’s next stop is Cottonwood Canyon Winery, a 78-acre estate specializing in pinot noir, chardonnay and syrah. At Cottonwood Canyon Winery, you can absorb the views of the eastern Santa Maria Valley. Aside from the amazing scenery, they offer several picnic areas and wine cave tours, including the first wine caves built in Santa Barbara County. Make plans in advance to see inside the rustic, man-made, 6,000-square-foot cave system where the winery stores 700 barrels of wine and hosts winemaker dinners.

Another hour of discovery and the wine trolley will arrive to take you on a ride through Santa Maria’s rich agricultural fields on Betteravia Road. A brief ride on the 101 takes you to the next wine tasting room on the route. Take this opportunity to sit back, relax, and enjoy your carefree day.

The popular Costa de Oro tasting room bustles with people from the wine trolley. On Saturday afternoons, Costa de Oro has complimentary appetizers and live music. The winery is known for its estate pinot noir and chardonnay made by winemaker/owner Gary Burk, who also happens to be a rock guitarist and regularly takes the stage with his band.

You can finish your day at The Radisson hotel to rest and recharge before experiencing Santa Maria Style hospitality again tomorrow. Or, if you’re not ready to call it a day, your next stop will be in Old Town Orcutt, where your adventure started.

Wine tasting can take it out of you, and sometimes food is in order. The charming Pizzeria Bello Forno is perfect for dinner. Share delicious wood-fired pizza topped with cherries, fennel sausage, goat cheese, arugula and more.

Cheers to a true Santa Maria Style experience, and a memorable day on the trolley.  Be sure to check your calendars to plan another great wine adventure on the Santa Maria Valley wine trolley.

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