Santa Maria Valley is the northernmost AVA of Santa Barbara County established in 1981 and is one of the most unique AVAs in the world. The Santa Maria Valley is in a region containing a funnel created by the only two transverse mountain ranges on the whole west coast of North and South America, framed between the San Rafael Mountains on the north, and the Solomon Hills to the south. This serves to accentuate the cooling maritime influence that Santa Maria would already enjoy due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and helps maintains an average temperature of 64 degrees in the town of Santa Maria. The cool winds from the Northwest partner with the Coriolis effect and together they push the cool breezes up into the valley like a funnel. Many say Santa Maria maintains the most constant temperature of any city in California. The heat summations of the area range from Region 1 to Region 2 (where Region 1 is the coolest and Region 5 is the warmest). This truly cool climate viticultural region boasts one of the longest wine-growing seasons in California (125 days on average), often starting at the end of August and carrying through the end of October. The long period of ripening due to the cool climate produces complex wines with low pHs, exceptionally balanced natural acidity, intense flavors and is always intensified by the area’s low yields.
The majority of the vineyards are planted on elevated plateaus or along the river bench of the Santa Maria River mesa and Sisquoc River drainage. The soils are typically of marine origin and sedimentation of river wash. Typically, the soils are extremely well-drained and range from clay loam to sandy loam. However, nature’s irrigation is never overly bountiful. The average rainfall in Santa Maria is only about 14 inches.
The vineyards are mainly planted on slopes with elevations ranging from 200-800 feet and dominated by Chardonnay and Pinot Noir production. The eastern portion of the AVA has had success with Rhone and Bordeaux varieties.