Santa Maria Valley AVA History
In 1981 The Santa Maria Valley American Viticulture Area became the third AVA established in the United States, and the first in Santa Barbara County. With its east-west valley and river lands, the Santa Maria Valley AVA has a climate that leads to early bud break and a long ripening season for the grapes. The area’s soils are mostly sandy loam with some limestone and chalk. In 2011, the AVA was increased by nearly 19,000 acres, allowing winemakers who source fruit from vineyards outside the original boundaries to designate Santa Maria Valley on future vintages.
The original Santa Maria Valley AVA comprises 97,483 acres in Southern San Luis Obispo and Northern Santa Barbara counties; the additional acres number 18,790, with most of them lying south of the original boundary line. The appellation’s original southern border followed Clark Avenue east from Highway 101 to well past Foxen Canyon Road and Santa Maria River, then turned north into San Luis Obispo County, along Highway 166, and finally back south, paralleling Highway 101.
“When the AVA was first put together, no one envisioned the growth of southwestern vineyards, and so the borders were based on area roads,” including Clark Avenue and Highway 101, said Nicholas Miller, who in 2005 started the initial petition to expand the original Santa Maria Valley appellation boundaries. Jim Fiolek, Executive Director of the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association, said the expanded boundaries highlight the unique geography of the Santa Maria Valley as a region.”The great thing about this is that it fully takes into account the Santa Maria Valley AVA, including its watershed and climatic conditions, as opposed to the “AAA” directions” that followed existing roadways, he said.