Feel like taking the wine trail less trammeled? You’ve found your secret spot here in Northern Santa Barbara County. Santa Maria Valley isn’t just beautiful wine country; it’s a classic slice of California, with fine wine, world-famous barbecue, country roads, and little towns where winemakers and cowboys share the same sidewalk.
Follow this wine trail to sample artisanal boutique wines at more than 20 tasting rooms set amid rolling hills and picturesque vineyards, and clustered in the town of Santa Maria. Sip award-winning Pinot Noir, as well as Chardonnay and Syrah—some of the varietals that thrive in the region’s unusual climate, with hot days and marine-cooled nights. In the town of Santa Maria, choose from even more tasting rooms.
One of the best ways to taste your way through Santa Maria is on the step-on, step-off Wine Trolley. The trolley stops through town and at popular wineries along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail such as Cottonwood Canyon Vineyard & Winery (sign up for a cave and tasting tour!) and the hilltop Presqu’ile Winery, an elegant family-run operation that has both ocean and vineyard views. Insider tip: Sign up for the trolley ahead of time for a cheaper rate than in-person.
Experience the full charm of the region by ordering a heaping plate of Santa Maria barbeque at restaurants in town such as Woody’s Butcher Block, a butcher shop that also serves meals onsite, the Hitching Post, which has been family-owned and -operated since 1952, and the Far Western Tavern, another longtime area fixture in the nearby town of Guadalupe. The traditional presentation includes of red oak-fired tri-tip, pinquito beans, garlic bread, salsa fresca, and tossed green salad. You will not leave hungry.