Santa Maria is the Northern most Appellation(the region’s first AVA). The diverse climate support the growth of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, benefiting from the coastal influence.
Santa Maria Valley is the northernmost appellation in Santa Barbara County. The average temperature here is 64 degrees. The area is bounded on the north by the San Rafael Mountains and on the south by the Solomon Hills. They get early bud break here and then a long ripening season with an average of 125 days from bloom to harvest. The maritime fog keeps things cool here from sunset until about 10 am. This AVA boasts Nielson Vineyard, the oldest commercial vineyard in Santa Barbara County that was planted in 1964.
The Santa Maria AVA was the 3rd established AVA in the United States. We think of this Santa Barbara region as being so new. But truly AVA’s are new. The Santa Maria Valley AVA was established in September of 1981. To give a little perspective here, the first US AVA was established in June of 1980. (And crazily enough that 1st AVA was in Augusta, Missouri!) If you are like me, you won’t be able to read any further until you know where the 2nd US AVA hailed from…so….I did the research and it is the Napa Valley AVA which was established in February of 1981, just a scant 7 months (or actually 6 and a quarter months) before the Santa Maria Valley AVA. Are you still curious…you can find this info at The Wine Institute (http://www.iwineinstitute.com/avabydate.asp). Feel free to search for AVA establishment dates to your hearts content.
There has been a massive replanting of the Santa Maria vineyards in recent years to varieties that are more suited to the climate and soil. You will find lots of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay here due to the climate, but you will find many vineyards expanding into cool climate Syrah as well as other Rhone varieties.
The Santa Maria AVA encompasses some incredible vineyards like Bien Nacido, Solomon Hills, Julia’s Vineyard and Foxen Estate Vineyard. As to Wineries… here you will find Cambria, Kenneth Volk, Riverbench and Tres Hermanas. Fine wineries such at Alta Maria, Au Bon Climat, Bien Nacido, Byron, Qupe, Solomon Hills and others feature wines from Santa Maria.
Santa Maria Valley Santa Barbara County’s 1st AVA
The Santa Maria Valley is well known for its Pinot Noir, especially from the rightfully revered vineyard of Bien Nacido. This most northern region in Santa Barbara has the Vandenberg Fog drifting in daily, making this a perfect place to grow Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and cool climate Syrah and Pinot Blanc.