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Discover the Wine Harvest Magic of Santa Maria Valley

Fall is Wine Harvest season. For yearly crops, this is when the leaves start to turn pretty colors and the fruit reaches its ripest peak (or at least maturity of the right level for the grower). For those of us living in Santa Barbara County, that means grapes.

Vineyards have been abuzz with harvest activity for more than a month in most cases. But still, this year the harvest has been late, from a few weeks to almost a month. Spring and summer were cooler than most in the wine-growing regions of Santa Barbara County, including Santa Maria Valley. A cool spring delays bud break on the vines, which pushes the whole vineyard process back by a few weeks. Our wine-growing regions are cooler than other parts of the state, and this summer lacked significant heat spikes, storms, and fires, so the grapes have been ripening pretty evenly at a nice, slow pace. This elongated manner of ripening leads to more flavor development in the fruit, which bodes well for the wines made from it.

shallow focus photo of bottles on yellow steel bucket. Wine Harvest
Presqu’ile Winery in Santa Maria Valley, by

These kinds of growing conditions usually produce less quantity of berries and smaller berries (which means less juice from the berries but generally higher quality. They also tend to have a higher skin-to-fruit ratio, which can also create more flavors in the eventual wines. So, even though there may be less and/or smaller grapes, those grapes have more concentrated flavors.

Some wineries have noted that this year is the latest picking date on record. Others picked grapes destined for sparkling wine at the normal time (that’s always early, as champagne-style wines require grapes with less sugar and maturity), but all the other grapes later. And some still have vineyards to pick through the end of October.

Vineyard Views from The Groves at Rice Ranch, by

One of our closest winery and vineyard neighbors, Presqu’ile (‘press-keel’) finished their harvest picks today, with the last of their Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc. All topped off with a gorgeous sunrise! (Picks happen during the night so that the grapes are cold and more protected from jostling.) This family-owned winery in the Santa Maria Valley is dedicated to crafting exceptional, cool-climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah from Santa Barbara County. Wine Harvest is located 3 miles from The Meadows and The Groves at Rice Ranch, and can actually be seen from the highest ridge at the Groves.

Wine Harvest

Wine Harvest Presqu’ile has some exciting options for visiting the winery and vineyards, and all of them include food. Chef Julie Simon creates a delicious and beautiful Mezze Picnic, with seasonal sharing plates and dips, with many ingredients coming right from the 1-acre winery garden. It is quite a feast and includes comforting dips and dishes like gazpacho as well as more exotic flavors and plenty of fresh herbs and edible flowers. You won’t leave hungry! And the Wine Harvest wine pairing is perfect.

Another fun way to visit is to do the Estate Horseback Tour, seeing the 400-acre estate and vineyards,  San Rafael Mountains, Solomon Hills, and Santa Maria Valley. This tour ends on a private terrace overlooking the property, with the Mezze Picnic and wine pairing at Wine Harvest.

To get a close look at what happens during harvest, plus the rest of the year, reserve the Private Wine & Food Tour. This tour through the state-of-the-art winery begins with sparkling wine, and a look at the modern tasting room, expertly integrated with the nature outside (Frank Lloyd Wright would certainly like it) and moves into the 240-foot barrel cave, which is also a tunnel to the rest of the winery above.

You’ll take an elevator up to Presqu’ile‘s tank room, which is at a higher elevation so that gravity can do the work of moving the wine instead of electricity. This is where fermentation and punch-downs happen after the grapes come in. Higher up still is a walkway above the tanks to the outside, in the back of the winery, where the grapes arrive to be pressed.

You’ll then walk outside to see the pond, where irrigation water is held, plus several vineyards that grow the grapes you are sipping in your glass plus solar panels that power the winery. You’ll then enjoy single-vineyard wines and the Mezze Picnic in a private lookout terrace surrounded by 280-degree views of our vineyard, the San Rafael Mountains, Solomon Hills, and the Pacific Ocean.

Presqu’ile Winery in Santa Maria Valley, by

Being in the middle of Santa Maria Valley wine country is just one perk of living at Rice Ranch! Located in Orcutt, the climate is moderate all year, with sunshine almost daily. The Meadows and The Groves are nestled against 580 of open spaces and rolling hills with majestic oak trees, plus hiking and biking trails right outside your door. It’s the only master-planned community in Santa Barbara County and includes private access to our Summit Club.

Live in Santa Barbara wine country and live the wine country life; homes are going fast so make your appointment today!

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