Wine Adventures in Santa Maria!
As you can tell, I am partial to the California Central Coast. Maybe because I spent a number of years there, or maybe because these Central Coast of California towns along The 101 just ROCK so much. Today, I am excited to at last share with you about my visit to several wineries in Santa Maria, California with the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association IFWTWA. Santa Maria is bursting with some of the best wines from its region. It easily was one of my favorite trips with my IFWTWA peeps yet. Read on to see why.
Nestled on Foxen Canyon Road in Santa Maria Valley is the tranquil Riverbench Winery. When we arrived, I was immediately taken with their cozy wine tasting room. Set in a 1920’s Craftsmen home, Riverbench has acres to explore of vineyards. Their gorgeous and ample garden awaits you to sip your wine overlooking their vineyards. And if you’re lucky, hear some live music, too. When we arrived, a live duo were finishing up a great set.
Known for their sparkling wines, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, their 2015 Bedrock Chardonnay quickly had me hooked as it’s 100% stainless steel; just how I like it. Due to that fermentation, it gives the Chardonnay distinct tropical notes like pineapple on the first nose, and a hint of lime on the first taste.I spotted some melon as I sipped, as well.
A common trend I found in Santa Maria was a Rose of Pinot Noir. AKA, a Mary favorite. Riverbench boasts a 2015 Rose that is rather magic. It truly can be paired with nearly any type of food and will work. A common pair with a bright Rose seems to be Thanksgiving turkey. I would highly recommend Riverbench’s for your holiday dinners, or any dinner, for that matter. The Rose was extremely bright and air-y. It paired perfectly with the sunshine day we were having in Santa Maria.
With over 300 acres and an additional tasting room in Santa Barbara’s “Funk Zone”, Riverbench has been operating since the 1970’s and hosts several events at their Santa Maria vineyard throughout the year. Learn more HERE.
No visit to Santa Maria’s wine country is complete until you have visited Nagy Wines and visited with their spunky owner, Clarissa Nagy. Clarissa is full of life, fun and passionate about wine. Somewhat of an accidental winemaker, Nagy has a strong background in the food industry, where she met her now-husband. What started as creating a Viognier for their wedding soon turned into Clarissa purchasing one ton of Pinot Noir in 2004. And the rest? History. Working with 3 local wineries (Riverbench included), Clarissa is an unstoppable entrepreneur balancing her time between family life (her and her husband have an 8 year old daughter. It sounds like she’s practically grown up in vineyards!) and wine making. Living the dream, no?
During our tasting with Clarissa, we got to experience 5 of Nagy’s incredible wines. Their 2013 Viognier was one of the highlights for me as I have found it difficult to find a “perfect” Viognier. Nagy’s fooled me as upon first sip, I found it a bit harsh and bitter. Then, as you swirl and let the notes aerate some, it becomes easily one of the best Viognier’s I’ve tried as of late. So much so, I came home with 2 bottles! The neutral oak is key in this Viognier. It was smooth, mellow and full of floral notes.
Their 2014 Pinot Noir was also something to write home about. With a shade to it that almost made it too pretty to drink, this no new oak Pinot was bursting with cherry and strong berry notes while feeling as if I were drinking silk. At only $30 a bottle, Nagy wines certainly is a steal.
Their 2nd Pinot I had the pleasure of trying was a 2012 Garey Ranch vineyard that was filled with tannins and made it very vibrant with some pepper and black berry notes.
Learn more about Clarissa and the brilliance that is Nagy wines HERE.
CA’ Del Grevino Estate and Vineyards
While I’ve been fortunate to visit some extraordinary wineries and vineyards, CA’ Del Grevino easily can take the cake as the most stunning and unique place I’ve visited in the name of wines. Meaning “House of Wine” in Italian, CA’ Del Grevino sits atop a gorgeous chateau over looking the Santa Maria Valley. While their estate (which recently underwent a renovation of over 20 million dollars) is quite ‘exclusive’, with three levels of membership available (Element, Grevino and CA’Del Grevino), their CA’ Del Grevino level is reserved for their celebrity club members (which brought to mind Club 33 at Disneyland), IFWTWA was in for an amazing afternoon as we were given a tour of the Santa Maria wine villa.
With 35,000 square feet and hundreds of acres, CA’ Del Grevino produces small lots of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Grenache, Dolcetto, Riesling and Syrah. While I got to experience several of their wines, the Dolcetto is the one that stood out most for me. At $100 for a bottle, Grevino’s Dolcetto is similar to a Pinot Noir and thrives with the Santa Maria climate. Notes of spices, cherry and plum, I could also spot some licorice from the fine tannins.
In the Summer, you can experience their villa as they also boast a concert “ampitheatre” right down in their vineyards where you can hear local Santa Maria favorites like The Molly Ringwald Project (remember when I introduced you to them in my Weekend Getaway piece?!). Run, don’t walk, to experience CA’ Del Grevino wines and learn more to plan a visit to one of their tasting rooms or events HERE.
As I said, hailing from the “805” area of California, I thought I was pretty familiar with Santa Maria. After being blown away at CA’ Del Grevino, I continued to have “Toto, are we still in Kansas?!” moments. When we arrived at Presq’ile Winery, that feeling came over me once again. Presqu’ile Winery sits atop a hill overlooking the Santa Maria Valley and offers much more than simply being a “wine tasting room.”
With a stunning, open and air-y tasting room at afew thousand square feet, Presqu’ile is an ideal place to visit as those Santa Maria temps rise in the summer. And especially when you need a Rose of any refreshing glass of vino. You can select either a table inside, perfect to be apart of the lively atmosphere, or collect your thoughts and have a quiet moment as you sit outside on their terrace near their fire pit. You can even catch glimpses of the ocean (yes, they are that high atop their hill on Presqu’ile Drive.
Presqu’ile also has several perks to becoming a wine club member. Something I would recommend even to those not in the immediate area. Learn more about this fantastic Santa Maria wine and visit them HERE.
Have you visited any of these remarkable wineries? Plan your trip to Santa Maria Valley on their website! xo
(*Disclosure: I was apart of a media trip to experience the wines of Santa Maria. All opinions are my own.)