When people ask for winery recommendations in the Santa Maria area, I never hesitate to recommend Rancho Sisquoc Winery.
Located at the north end of the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, Rancho Sisquoc is not only in a gorgeous setting, but it seems to have a wine for just about every palate.
One of the first things visitors see as they approach Rancho Sisquoc is the old chapel perched on top of a hill overlooking the entrance. The San Ramon Chapel as its called was built in 1875 by Frederick Wickenden, at the request of his wife, Ramona Foxen Wickenden. Frederick drove 5,000 sheep up north to Redwood City, which he sold to purchase redwood boards to build his home and the chapel you see today.
The San Ramon Chapel was officially dedicated in 1879 and services were held once a month. The chapel’s structure was built on stilts, which often resulted in service being disrupted by cold temperatures and wind. When attendance dropped, the chapel was used for special services only.
Fortunately, the San Ramon chapel began a period of rebirth in July 1966 when it became the first official landmark in Santa Barbara County. On August 31, 1975 the chapel was dedicated as State Historical Landmark #877 and in November 1976, Father Anthony Runtz agreed to restore regular services. Finally, in 1979 the San Ramon Preservation Committee was formed. Their job is to maintain the beautiful chapel and to preserve its historical integrity.
The chapel with its storied past appears as the logo on every bottle of Rancho Sisquoc wine.
After a trip down the long driveway – barely wide enough for two cars – visitors approach the cozy little tasting room. Every time I visit, I’m taken aback by the charming surroundings at Rancho Sisquoc. It feels as if you’re miles away from Foxen Canyon Road and surrounded by a lush landscape with a perfectly placed, wood shingled wine cottage and an inviting, secluded little picnic area.
I come to Rancho Sisquoc Winery on a regular basis for three main reasons: the beautiful setting, consistently good wines, and prices that are surprisingly affordable. I love that I can walk away with several bottles of great wine without feeling like I broke the bank.
Rancho Sisquoc has a portfolio of 12 beautifully crafted and reasonably priced wines from which to choose. From a sweet Riesling with hints of citrus to a dark velvety Malbec full of black fruit, tasters get to choose 6 wines from the list for an $8.00 fee (logo glass included). The least expensive wine is priced around $12.00 and the top end is $30.00 per bottle.
I always walk away with a few bottles of Tre Vini and Sylvaner – both of which are unique to Rancho Sisquoc. Tre Vini ($20/bottle) is an Italian blend that seems to change slightly with each vintage and pairs perfectly with Italian food. The latest vintage (2008) is a unique blend of 52% Sangiovese, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon & 22% Syrah, and is absolutely delicious.
The ’09 Sylvaner ($14/bottle) on the other hand is a white blend of the Sylvaner grape with 16% Riesling. Rancho Sisquoc is the only producer of this varietal in California. It’s perfect for summer with hints of light lime, apricot, sweet pear and roasted peanuts on the nose and a crisp, slightly sweet finish. It’s very unique and loved by many – including those who don’t typically enjoy drinking white wine. I’ve also purchased Rancho Sisquoc’s Malbec, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Pinot Noir, and have thoroughly enjoyed each and every bottle.
With over 30 years of experience making estate grown wines and a claim of being one of the first wineries in the now famous Santa Barbara County wine region, Rancho Sisquoc Winery truly knows their craft.
RANCHO SISQUOC WINERY
6600 Foxen Canyon Road
Santa Maria, CA 93454
Phone: (805) 934-4332
Fax: (805) 937-6601
Tasting room hours: 10AM – 4PM Monday through Thursday. 10AM – 5PM Friday through Sunday.