Santa Maria Valley
By Donna Polizzi
After living on the California Coast since the mid-eighties, I’ve come to realize that every city in our region has treasures to be enjoyed. That is if…you know where to look.
Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo have always received favorable recognition for many reasons and justifiably so. What many people don’t realize, is that Santa Maria is evolving and you don’t have to look hard to be impressed.
Majestic mountains surround the Santa Maria Valley, in the heart of the Central Coast. How could anyone tire looking at the mountain range with billowing clouds peeking out in the morning sunlight? The rolling hills in our area are amazingly picturesque as you drive East of the 101 freeway on the outskirts of the city. I encourage you to take a scenic ride, it’s a photographers dream.
You’ll be delighted to find that the winding roads take you past vineyards, beautiful foliage, farm houses and rustic barns that look like a stiff wind would blow them over.
Santa Maria is also home to several fantastic wineries. Riverbench Winery at 6020 Foxen Canyon Road is one of my favorites. It is well known for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The tasting room and the back patio is an inviting 1920’s style beautiful cottage with white roses on a property that can sooth your soul. If you’re like sparking wine, you will love Riverbench. General Manager, Laura Booras stated “Our wines are made to showcase our vineyard, which is a perfect place to grow grapes. The Santa Maria Valley is an exceptional place to make wine.”
Riverbench also has a tasting room at 137 Anacapa Street in the Santa Barbara Funk Zone.
In a 10 mile radius there are numerous wineries and wine tasting rooms from humble to palatial estates.
Presquile Winery at Dusk
Presquille sits on a hilltop overlooking the valley and the views are spectacular. This is one of the most impressive facilities you will find on the Central Coast. Spend an afternoon sipping wine or picnicking at Presquille. It will feel like a mini-vacation.
I took my family and a few friends to Rancho Sisquoc for my daughter’s 21st birthday for her first wine tasting experience. The friendly staff showed her the proper way to swirl, sip, savor and enjoy. The setting is calming and energetic at the same time. The wines were excellent and the back patio is covered in a trellis that is laced with deep red vines.
You’ll be surprised, delighted and your time will be well spent in Santa Maria, California. I have been to Napa and I can still say that wines in our region are truly remarkable.
I hope that you’re convinced to move away from the desk, or to get out of the house and enjoy the best of Santa Maria.
If you are driving the view on the road to Santa Maria is sure to wow you. Traveling on the 101 from the North or the South is a gift in itself. Expect to see everything from crashing ocean waves, Longhorns, horses and cattle runs and vineyards in colors so vibrant that they look photo-shopped. It’s eye candy!
Not big on driving? We have a convenient airport. If you fly into the Santa Maria airport, the Radisson is right next-door.
The Historic Santa Maria Inn is very charming and the food is delicious. The Juevos Rancheros was the best that I’ve ever had.
Meandering Miller Street
Old Orcutt is on the southern edge of Santa Maria on Clark Avenue.This area has fantastic restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
My family loves Patricio’s gluten free pizza. The Far West Tavern is a great place for a nice steak dinner in an old western setting. Ulivetto is a classy and relaxed Italian restaurant with a cozy bar that the locals frequent. Some friend of mine met there on a recent Sunday night. Sofia Polanco Hollum was bartending. Ask her to make you something special. You wont regret it.
Santa Maria is the perfect place to stay in the heart of the Central Coast.
It is a short drive to Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Avila Beach, Pismo Beach or Paso Robles. Santa Maria is a great place to live, work and play, especially if you love natural beauty, golf, fantastic weather and really good wine. It is in close proximity to countless things to do and of course very friendly people.
(Donna Polizzi is a regional travel expert and founder of Keys 2 the Coast. Keys 2 the Coast is a free travel resource for the California Central Coast. You’ll find “Locals Choices” on great places to Wine, Dine, Explore and More in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Monterey County. We give an authentic, honest list of recommendations in multiple categories of interest. “It’s where I love to go, where my friends love to go, and the best part is that no one can pay us to be recommended.”