Food & Drink

Get a taste of Santa Maria Valley’s wine scene with these must-try tours

A couple enjoys wine and the views at Presqu’ile Winery in Santa Maria.
A couple enjoys wine and the views at Presqu’ile Winery in Santa Maria.

Not sure where to start a wine tour in the Santa Maria Valley? Here are two we suggest:

East Side in the Vines

Trek out to Tepusquet Canyon to visit the original Byron winery, now Kenneth Volk Vineyards (5230 Tepusquet Road, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thurs.-Mon.), which the legendary Paso Robles winemaker started after selling Wild Horse Winery in 2003.

Renowned for sourcing only the most outstanding fruit, KVV produces sublime chardonnay and pinot noir from the valley’s most acclaimed vineyards, as well as polished cabernet sauvignon and merlot from select sites in west-side Paso Robles.

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Travel the back roads over to Cottonwood Canyon Winery (3940 Dominion Road, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thurs.-Mon., 6 p.m. Fri.-Sat.) to sample pinot, chardonnay and syrah aged in the first wine caves built in Santa Barbara County, which you can tour on weekends by appointment. Taste what a few years of aging does to concentrate flavors while enjoying the gorgeous panorama from multiple outdoor patios.

A short 5-minute drive brings you to Presqu’ile (5391 Presquile Drive, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, 6 p.m. Fridays), where you’ll be torn between the view over the valley to the Pacific Ocean and the striking art and architecture of the winery and tasting room. Learn the history of the name (“peninsula” in French) from a display on the Murphy family’s Gulf Coast property, destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, while sampling the elegant pinot, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, among the only cool-climate versions in the region.

Order a charcuterie platter from the on-site kitchen and find a cozy spot to sit outdoors or get in a game of bocce ball or horseshoes. Friday evenings, you’ll find live music in the tasting room, and summer brings Saturday concerts to the large amphitheater out front.

If you haven’t exhausted your palate, hit Costa De Oro Winery (1331 S. Nicholson Ave., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, 7 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. Friday) just off Highway 101 to try out some pinot grigio as well as the noir variety and chardonnay and take in some live music Thursday through Saturday.

Walking Wine Tour in Old Orcutt

No need to drive from stop to stop in this easily walkable village on the south end of Santa Maria.

Start at Kay’s Country Kitchen (127 E. Clark Ave., 7-:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.) to fuel up with all-day breakfast and sandwiches, or head over to Ca’ Del Grevino (400 E. Clark Ave., noon-8 p.m. Tues.-Thus., 9 p.m. Friday, 6 p.m. Sunday) to take advantage of the new lunch service as you get started on wine.

Enjoy the Old-World atmosphere while you choose from menu items including an avocado bomb salad, flat-bread pizzas and daily taco specials. Sample the nearby estate’s ultra-premium wines, which include dolcetto and riesling as well as pinot, chardonnay, syrah and grenache. But if you want to see the lavish estate itself, you’ll have to check out one of its Friday night summer concerts.

Saunter across the street to find the small, cheery, tasting room of Nagy Wines, (125 S. Garey St., Suite 103, 1-5 p.m Weds.-Sun., later hours in summer), with fresh, bright wines to match. The wine-child of Clarissa Nagy, the label offers vineyard-designate pinot noir, syrah, viognier and the intriguing, uncommon pinot blanc. Nagy is also winemaker at Santa Maria Valley’s Riverbench Vineyard.

Amble a few blocks down the main drag to Core Winery (105 W. Clark Ave., 1-6 p.m. Wed-Sun., 8 p.m. Fri-Sat.) for big, barrel-aged blends from beyond Santa Maria Valley. With roots in viticulture at Cambria winery and elsewhere, Dave Corey and wife Becky have long been making the bold red blends that now dominate the consumer market. Chat with the winemakers and locals while checking out the family heirlooms and artifacts around the space. Sample artisan cheeses on Cheesewheel Wednesdays or stay late Friday or Saturday for fun and food trucks.

When you need a break from wine, hit the town’s shops or the new Naughty Oak Brewing Co., opened in December next to Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab. Before hitting the road, fill up at the renowned Far West Tavern or the brand new Pizzeria Bella Forno.

Sally Buffalo writes about wine, beer and spirits. Reach her at or on Twitter or Instagram @sallybuffalo.

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