Central California: The Santa Maria Wine Valley


About 20 minutes up above Santa Barbara, the Santa Maria Wine Valley is peppered with gorgeous driving, great food and sweet little places to shop.

And if you’re into wine? Boy, are you two in for a treat.

The most scenic route to the Santa Maria Wine Valley:

From downtown Santa Barbara, take State Street north to signs for the 154
Hop on the 154 heading up into the hills, past gorgeous Lake Cachuma
Go 17 miles
Follow signs for Los Olivos on your left

Los Olivos, the valley’s main town, has a downtown that’s two blocks long and a block wide on either side, with artist’s studio showrooms, gift boutiques and antique shops, and a Western-wear store that’s been here for ages.

For a home base up here, try the Fess Parker Wine Country Inn & Spa. With a new outpost of our Manhattan Beach favorite, Petros, as the onsite restaurant, and a few romantic spa packages to choose from,  you both (as well as the recently deceased proprietor) could rest in peace.

Across the street, Los Olivos Cafe & Wine Merchant uses locally-farmed produce and boasts a great wine shop. Here you’ll find offerings from excellent independent wineries that can be hard to find outside restaurants menus. I’d recommend Qupé, Fiddlehead and Tantara.

If you’d like to pair a picnic with your wine, stock up at the Los Olivos Grocery.

Once you’ve had your fill of town, head over to the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail.

1/4 mile past Los Olivos, turn right off the 154 onto Foxen Canyon. Spread out along a couple miles’ worth of loping drive dotted with cows and gnarled trees amongst golden grass are our favorite area wineries:

Friendly tasting room with beautiful syrahs and an adjacent picnic area overlooking a small hill and creek.

Zaca Mesa
Come here for a daytime party atmosphere on weekends. They specialize in unusual, tasty whites and have an absolutely huge outdoor chess board to play with…when said whites kick in.

The tasting room is a small tin shed, but the real action’s out at the valley-view patio’s two tasting stations. We’ve never been here without a small crowd, but have also never gone without seats if we wanted them. Long respected for their chardonnay and pinot noir, in recent years they’ve begun creating gorgeous, French-varietal red blends for around $30 a bottle; each one is a work of art.


See related posts

Central California: The Santa Ynez Wine Valley
Romancing the Old West: Alisal Guest Ranch
Central California: Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail
A Santa Barbara “ReTweet”…I Mean, Retreat
Lean Times for Luxury?
The Best of Central California



  1. Jason Scalese says:

    Hi there,
    Thanks for recommending me to your blog on Facebook. A couple of the wineries above caught my eye when researching our trip, so I’m excited to see you had great things to say. I’m going to bookmark this so I can comment when I get back.

    Happy New Year!

    Jason Scalese

  2. There are a ton of spectacular wineries in the Santa Barbara area and the surrounding mountain cities like Solvang and Santa Ynez. I’ve been there so many times and the Kaylra winery is a great one to check out as well as Santa Barbara wineries in downtown SB. An excellent selection and the service is above and beyond! They deserve every tip and then some. I recommend going during peak season in late summer early fall, the weather is perfect and it is just the best place to be. If you are heading towards Santa Ynez a great hotel to stay at is the South Coast Inn (www.goleta-hotel.com). Elegant and closer to Santa Ynez then any Santa Barbara hotel.

  3. I really like it when people get together and share thoughts.
    Great website, keep it up!


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