SANTA MARIA VALLEY
Eat, drink and slow down
CALIFORNIANS KNOW HOW to relax and enjoy the best of the land, whether that’s food, drink or stunning views. In Santa Maria Valley, the coastal climate, outdoor spaces, sensational barbecue and luscious wine all combine to make it an ideal destination for those looking to adopt a few of the locals’ best habits.
On the northern perimeter of Santa Barbara County, the Santa Maria Valley is an uncommon transverse valley, which means that it runs west to east, counter to California’s Coastal Range. The valley’s orientation channels cool ocean air directly into the valley, resulting in one of the state’s longest growing seasons for vineyards. Grapes produced here in one of the six federally recognized American Viticultural Areas (AVAS) within Santa Barbara County are often a little more complex, balanced and flavorful.
Sweet & Smoky Barbecue
What cuisine do you want to enjoy with your wine? If you like barbecue, you’re right at home. In the mid 1800s, local rancheros were known for hosting Spanish-style barbecues, and that tradition continues today. Santa Maria-style barbecue is focused on beef tri-tip combined with a simple seasoning of salt, pepper and garlic salt. The meat is cooked directly over the coals of local red oak, giving it a sweet and smoky flavor. Traditional accompaniments include pink pinquinto beans, fresh salsa, tossed green salad and grilled French bread with melted butter. Try it at The Hitching Post, Shaw’s Steakhouse, Jocko’s Steakhouse, and Far Western Tavern.
No Dress Code
A special key to relaxation: It doesn’t have a dress code. In Santa Maria Valley, you can sip your wine or beer while wearing worn-in jeans, and if you get a little drop on your clothes, nobody will mind. In fact, you might get a nod of approval for blending in so well.
Get outside and enjoy the fresh air after (or before) your meal. Meandering roads, beautiful scenery and tucked-away vineyards are features of the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, connecting Los Olivos and Santa Maria Valley. It’s ideal for a great bicycle ride, or even a slow drive in a convertible. Head to the beach to spy the second-largest stretch of dunes in California. Spanning 22,000 acres and 18 miles, the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve features towering 550-foot-high sand dunes. It’s also a great spot for birders, as migrating birds along the Pacific Flyway stop here on their journey.
A STROLL IN THE VINEYARD, above; Santa Maria Valley’s famous barbecue, below.