Last updated on February 21, 2024
When I think of fall, I think of the changing colors in the vineyard as the lush green grape vines turn yellow and orange. It is the perfect time for a weekend escape to Santa Maria Valley. Not only is it the ideal time to enjoy the wineries, but it is time to enjoy the famous Santa Maria Barbeque. The Santa Maria Valley boasts some interesting wineries, breweries, and farms.
Santa Maria Valley is located in the northernmost appellation of Santa Barbara County’s AVAs. Santa Maria Valley comprises three towns, Santa Maria, Orcutt, and Old Town Orcutt.
Table of Contents
Weekend Escape to Santa Maria Valley – Santa Maria Style Barbecue
The Santa Maria Style barbecue is a long tradition and dates back to the 1800s when local rancheros hosted barbecues for cowboys. The secret is the native ingredients and special seasonings, including salt, pepper, and garlic salt. It would not be Santa Maria Style Barbecue without the meat-cooked red oak, which gives a sweet yet smoky flavor. The most popular version, the Tri-Tip, is considered the signature cut of meat for any Santa Maria Style Barbecue. Another component of the barbecue is the accompanying Pinquito Beans.
One popular restaurant in the area is the Hitching Post in Casmalia. Owned by the Ostini family, they have perfected this method of barbecue, making them one of the most famous to feature this grilling style. Hitching Post’s Casmalia location is a trek without cell reception. Enjoy delicious cuisine without technology.
Naughty Oak Brewing Co.
Established in 2015 by Steve and Emily Kitts as the first craft brewery in Orcutt, the Naughty Oak Brewing Co. prides itself on “Comradery Through Quality.” The brewery is a big part of the community as a gathering place for the locals. One finds 12 house-brewed craft beers and seltzers available at a given time.
Steve worked in aeronautics at Vandenberg with a hobby as a home brewer. After five years, he took the leap and started Naughty Oak Brewing Company. The name is a play on the oak trees used for the Santa Maria Style Barbecue.
The flagship beer is Able, a Central Coast IPA. My favorite was Pumk- in Drublic, a spiced golden ale with Cinnamon. This beer drinks more like a wine or brandy, not as hoppy. It is more of a malty beer.
Weekend Escape to Santa Maria Valley – Presqu’ile
Compared to other wineries, Presqu’ile offers exclusive wine and food experiences on the Central Coast. The modern architectural designed winery sits at the crest of the estate with breathtaking views of the San Rafael Mountains, Solomon Hills, and the Pacific Ocean.
The name Presqu’ile means almost an island or peninsula. It is befitting in many ways. The property, upon entry, is almost like an island unto itself. At the same time, the name represents and pays tribute to the family’s gathering place on the Mississippi Gulf Coast that was lost in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina swept through.
In 2007 the Murphys purchased the 200-acre property, a Gladiolus farm, and planted 73 acres with vines. Their first vintage was in 2009. Besides using estate fruit, they source grapes for well-known and established vineyards, including Sanford and Benedict, Bien Nacido, Rancho Ontiveros, and Steiner Creek.
Today two generations of Murphys run the estate with a very hands-on approach. Winemaker Dieter Cronje has been with the family from its inception and played a role in the planting of the vineyards and the design of its gravity flow winery.
Since food is a significant component of the winery experience, Executive Chef Julie Simons’s role in culinary aspects of the winery includes overseeing the one-acre organic vegetable and herb garden to create the Mezze Picnic offering six dishes family style. The idea is to provide guests with a glass-to-plate taste of Presqu’ile in a very relaxed atmosphere.
Your tasting might include sparkling wine, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Aligoté, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Gamay, and Nebbiolo.
Favorite Wines: Presqu’ile Nebbiolo and Presqu’ile Aligoté
Weekend Escape to Santa Maria Valley – Bien Nacido Estate
The land Bien Nacido Estate sits on is an old Spanish Land Grant. The Boone Family purchased the land from Spain when California became a state. The property stayed in the family but under different surnames. The generations include the Thornhills and, currently, the Millers. The first grape plantings occurred in 1973. The family started as growers but, in 1999, began to produce wine.
The Gatehouse at Bien Nacido tasting room represents the newest structure on the property. Think Spanish Adobe set against the vineyard landscape. The indoor/outdoor feel is inviting any time of the year.
Favorite wine: Bien Nacido Estate Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley
Weekend Escape to Santa Maria Valley – Luffa Farm
Discovering the Luffa Farm represents something unique in the Santa Maria Valley. The Luffa Farm was established in 1999 and opened for business in 2020. The luffa is a gourd that, when dried, becomes a no-scratch, non-abrasive way of cleaning your skin, pots, and pans. A luffa can last anywhere from 6 months to 6 years.
The luffa grows on vines like a squash. It looks like a Chinese Okra before it is dried. Once dried, you can peel off the outer skin to expose the luffa.
Visiting the Luffa Farm is taking a step back to the 70s with all the trinkets and Gnomes.
Weekend Escape to Santa Maria Valley – Dewlson Family Farm
The most unique farm to visit is Dewlson Family Farm. Here they grow coffee and tea along with their bumper crop of lemons. Various tours include a walk around the farm, learning about coffee or tea, and sampling the coffee and tea. Sipping coffee or tea is perfect for a fall day.
Dining in the Santa Maria Valley
Kay’s Country Kitchen in Orcutt is located in a charming 1904 building. Owner Kaylynn Tims worked at the restaurant for many years before the owner offered to sell her the Country Kitchen. The restaurant’s popularity grew with the locals, and eating there, one understands why. Try the Hot Mess Muffin, a fried blueberry muffin with whipping cream chocolate and caramel sauce.
Cups & Crumbs, another Orcutt restaurant serving breakfast, offers a great selection of Avocado toast, a favorite of mine for breakfast.
The Homestead, located in Old Orcutt, offers a great selection of sandwiches and salads that can either be eaten on the back patio or you can order to go, especially for a winery picnic.
Getaway to Santa Maria Valley
A weekend escape to Santa Maria Valley is the perfect getaway any time of the year but especially in autumn during harvest. From good wine to delicious cuisine and beautiful scenery, you will enjoy your stay.
Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer received hosted wine tastings, meals, and hotel stays. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.