Santa Maria Valley Climate & Grape Growing
The Effect of Santa Maria Climate on Grape Growing
Temperatures during the growing season fluctuate less than the more extreme climate of more inland regions. Santa Maria Valley has relatively cool summers and warm fall. The AVA generally has cool nights and foggy mornings.
Pinot Noir and Riesling are concentrated in the west, but Chardonnay is grown practically everywhere in Santa Maria Valley. Cool wind and fog from the Pacific Ocean is trapped against the Sierra Madre Mountains, which form the eastern border of the AVA. The Bien Nacido Vineyard comprises 800 total acres, including over 200 acres of some of the best Pinot Noir in California. Several premium wineries source Pinot from this vineyard, including Au Bon Climat and Foxen.
At Point Arguello, California’s coastline begins moving predominantly north-south rather than east-west. A cold current from Alaska runs through the ocean north of this point, and the climate is windier and cooler. It is also much windier near the coast north of Point Arguello. Santa Maria Valley is located in this northern part of Santa Barbara County.
Warmer, eastern parts of the AVA grow Bordeaux varietals, including some very good Merlot. The Santa Maria Mesa contains some prized vines in the eastern hills. Cattle begin to replace grapes as the slopes get steeper.
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