To view the amazing vineyards of Sta. Rita Hills, there are two main arteries from Buellton to Lompoc: highway 246 and Santa Rosa Road. The latter is one of my favorite 16-mile stretches anywhere. I’ve driven it, ridden it on my road bike, run it, and walked on it countless times—and there is always new beauty to soak in.
To get perspective on SRH, it helps to remember that you’re mostly talking about three ranges of hills (La Purisma to the north; Santa Rita Hills in the middle; and the Santa Rosa hills to the south) and the two valleys between them. Santa Rosa Road runs between the latter two, with the Santa Ynez river meandering just to its north.
For my mileage markers, I’m beginning on the eastern end of the road, marking it from where the pavement changes right by Moseby Wines. (To get there, turn south off hwy 246 onto Avenue of Flags.) Especially in the morning you’ll notice the layer of fog rolling through the valley, thanks to the East/West direction of the hills.
From our beginning point (see above), you can first see the Santa Rita Hills at about 2.70 miles. Until then, Santa Rosa Road and hwy 246 are parallel, and you can often spot the highway. But all of a sudden Santa Rosa Road bends south while hwy 246 turns northwest—because between them is this middle range of hills.
At around 3.20, you hit the official boundary of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. The first vineyards are Thorne’s Rio Vista, including their north vineyard and a south vineyard (at 4.18).
At 4.63, el Jabali vineyard is on the left, where until recently Richard Sanford’s Alma Rosa tasting room was located. (Their new tasting room is on Industrial Way in Buellton.)
In the next mile, watch for Lafond’s Arita Hills vineyard (5.10), Burning Creek Ranch (5.45), and Lafond’s tasting room (5.52).
Just past Lafond, notice the break in the Santa Rita Hills. Through this valley to the north are wonderful vineyards like 3D (think: Brewer-Clifton!), Ampelos, Lafond, and the one-acre La Lomita.
At this point, elevation is only about 250′, but it is about to rise, driving or riding toward Santa Rosa Park and a view of the gorgeous southern slopes of the highest peaks of the Santa Rita Hills.
(Part 2 to follow)