It seems like every time I visit the Santa Maria Valley north of Santa Barbara, I discover an incredible wine that I’ve never tried before. On a recent visit, I not only found some new wines, but I discovered one of my new favorite wineries in the area.
Tucked away in the charming town of Los Olivos sits the new Alta Maria Vineyards tasting room. Although the tasting room is less than one year old, wine makers Paul Wilkins and James Ontiveros have been making wine for years. In fact, the Ontiveros family has a long ranching and farming history in the area. They drove thousands of heads of cattle into the Santa Maria Valley in the early 1800’s, finally settling there on the Rancho Tepusquet Land Grant of 1837.
With a rich farming history, a shared love of the land in the Santa Maria Valley, and a mutual passion for wine running through their blood, college friends Paul and James decided to turn their passions into careers. James’ expertise lies in viticulture while Paul serves as winemaker.
Before stopping in the tasting room, I had heard about Alta Maria Vineyards and had seen their unmistakable bottles at specialty wine stores around CA.
The artwork on Alta Maria’s wines features hand-hewn iron nails used by homesteaders in Santa Maria before the Industrial Revolution. Each nail was essentially a one-of-a-kind based on the conditions in which it was made along with the expertise of the craftsman. This same idea of uniqueness and authentic, artisan craftsmanship carries seamlessly through to the wines of Alta Maria Vineyards.
When we walked into the gorgeous tasting room, we had our dog with us and assumed we would be sitting outside with him. On the contrary, he was welcomed inside with open arms and sat by us at the bar while we did our tasting.
Inside, the tasting room was warm and comfortable with natural stone floors, aged leather chairs, and a great cowhide rug. Our tasting consisted of four Alta Maria Vineyards wines: a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, a 2009 Chardonnay, a 2009 Pinot Noir, and a 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon.
We also tried a 2008 and 2009 Native9 Pinot Noir, and a 2008 Autonom Rhone Cuvee. Native9 (strictly Pinot Noir) and Autonom (focused on Rhone varietals) are labels Paul and James produce in limited quantities along with the Alta Maria wines.
I truly loved all the wines we tried and could taste the attention to detail in each glass. I took home a few bottles of the crisp Alta Maria Sauvignon Blanc, the Alta Maria Pinot Noir, and the lush Autonom Rhone Cuvee – all of which I thought were really exceptional.
I’m so glad to have found Alta Maria Vineyards and recommend it to anyone visiting Los Olivos. It is officially on my list of regular go-to spots in the area.
ALTA MARIA VINEYARDS
2933 Grand Avenue
Los Olivos, CA 93441
Phone: (805) 686-1144
Tasting room hours: 11AM – 5PM Daily