Santa Maria Val­ley

Wine, wilder­ness and bar­be­cue

Travel Guide to California - - CONTENTS - BY JILL K. ROBIN­SON

RES­I­DENTS OF THE SANTA MARIA Val­ley know how to en­joy the best of the land, whether it’s food, drink, out­door ac­tiv­i­ties or sim­ply tak­ing in the stun­ning views. Many of Cal­i­for­nia’s top qual­i­ties— coastal cli­mate, in­trigu­ing out­door spa­ces for ad­ven­ture or re­lax­ation, fa­mous bar­be­cue and sen­sa­tional wine—all com­bine here to make Santa Maria Val­ley an ideal des­ti­na­tion for adopt­ing a few of the lo­cals’ best habits in pur­suit of the re­laxed Cal­i­for­nia life­style.

Wine Ways

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. A trans­verse val­ley (which runs west to east), the ori­en­ta­tion of the Santa Maria Val­ley chan­nels cool ocean air di­rectly into the val­ley, re­sult­ing in one of the state’s long­est grow­ing sea­sons for vine­yards. Get a taste for your­self while on a tour with the Santa Maria Wine Trol­ley, which runs from late May through early Oc­to­ber, or any time of year at 34 win­ery tast­ing rooms, bars and restau­rants.

Fa­mous Bar­be­cue

If you’re a fan of bar­be­cue, you don’t have to go to the South to get it. In the mid 1800s, lo­cal rancheros were known for host­ing day-long Span­ish-style bar­be­cues, and this Cal­i­for­nia spe­cialty con­tin­ues to­day. Santa Maria-style bar­be­cue is fo­cused on beef tri­tip sea­soned only with salt, pep­per and gar­lic salt. The meat is cooked di­rectly over the coals of lo­cal red oak, on a grill that raises and low­ers the meat to flame. Tra­di­tional ac­com­pa­ni­ments in­clude grilled French bread, green salad, salsa and lo­cally grown pin­quito beans. Taste it at The Hitch­ing Post, Shaw’s Steak­house, Jocko’s Steak­house and Far Western Tav­ern.

Trails and Beaches

Get out­side in the Santa Maria Val­ley and find your fa­vorite way to be ac­tive. Me­an­der­ing roads, beau­ti­ful scenery and tucked-away vine­yards are fea­tures of the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, con­nect­ing Los Olivos and Santa Maria Val­ley. The 30-mile road is ideal for a great bi­cy­cle ride, or even a slow drive in a con­vert­ible, and 16 winer­ies along the way mean that you can stop when­ever you like. Span­ning 22,000 acres and 18 miles, the Ran­cho Guadalupe Dunes Pre­serve fea­tures tow­er­ing 550-footh­igh sand dunes. Bird­ers add to their life lists here, as well as at the Santa Maria River Es­tu­ary, and en­joy sights of mi­grat­ing birds along the Pa­cific Fly­way. Each year, thou­sands of monarch but­ter­flies seek shel­ter in the eu­ca­lyp­tus grove of Monarch Dunes But­ter­fly Habi­tat, and vis­i­tors get up close to branches drip­ping with the ele­gant crea­tures from late Oc­to­ber to Fe­bru­ary.

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