A coveted wine connoisseurs insider’s secret, the Santa Maria Valley AVA is located east of the city of Santa Maria, only 15 miles from the Pacific Coast. This appellation is the oldest in this area of Central California with grape growing in this region dating back to the Mexican Colonial period of the 1830s. It was not until the 1960s, that commercial vineyards begin planting to supply wineries statewide. Today, Santa Maria Valley vineyards number over 7,500 acres, with vineyards such as Bien Nacido being named in the “Top Ten Vineyards in the World” by Wine & Spirits Magazine and others have garnered national recognition for their individual expressions of numerous varietals, including their most notable, Pinot Noir. This funnel shaped valley opens to the Pacific Ocean on the west, bordered by the San Rafael Mountains and the Los Padres National Forest to the east, and the Solomon Hills and the city of Santa Maria to the west. The valley crosses the Cuyama River, converges with the Sisquoc River, and together forms the Santa Maria River in the southernmost corner of San Luis Obispo County and the northernmost part of Santa Barbara County. The east–west orientation of this valley allows cool winds and fog to flow in freely from the Pacific Ocean, settling at lower elevations, often lingering until midmorning. The valley’s cool maritime climate and sparse rainfall lengthens the growing season, contributing to the well-balanced sugars and acids, and low yields, resulting in complex wines of intensely flavored berries, and gorgeous aromatics, notable in Santa Maria Valley wines. The valley’s cooler climates and high elevations in the east, allow vineyards to grow Burgundian varieties that produce lean, elegant wines from California Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as northern Rhone grapes making lovely wines from Syrah, Viognier, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Marsanne. Santa Maria Valley artisan wines can be tasted at more than a dozen tasting rooms. And for strawberry lovers, Santa Maria Strawberries are renowned for their bright, intense flavor. Enjoy them fresh from the field April through June at roadside fruit stands and farmer’s markets. For a complete list of Wineries and Wine Tasting in Santa Maria Valley visit their website.