The Santa Maria River runs west through the valley directly to the Pacific Ocean, providing no opposition to the sea fog that quickly moves in at midday and engulfs lower lying vineyards. As a result, this cool area often produces grapes that underripe and highly acidic. This AVA features a long growing season and very little rainfall, meaning grapes have an extensive time to build flavor on the vine.
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir thrive in the Santa Maria Valley, but the Rhône Rangers are quickly overtaking vineyard plots. Many of the vineyards are farmer-owned and contracted out by the wineries meaning vineyard names are often insignificant, but two of the more notable vineyards are Bien Nacido and Sierra Madre Vineyard.