The Santa Margarita Ranch AVA is the most southern portion of the original Paso Robles appellation. The Santa Margarita Ranch started as an agricultural satellite location for the San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Mission, was responsible for producing wheat and wine grapes beginning in 1774. The mission was then known as Santa Margarita de Cortona Asistencia. It was later identified as a rancho or land grant.
The area is found between the La Panza and Santa Lucia Mountains in the Santa Margarita Valley with the Salina River running throughout. The elevations in the appellation range from 900 feet at the riverbank to 1,400 feet at the highest point. Santa Margarita Ranch receives moderate marine influences with ocean breezes coming through the Cuesta Pass but these are less than the air currents in the Templeton Gap AVA further downstream. Santa Margarita Ranch averages 29 inches of precipitation per year, more than the majority of the Paso Robles sub-appellations as a result of these breezes and also because of the elevation of the Santa Lucia Mountains.
The majority of vineyards in the environs are found on the valley floor where cooler temperatures tend to pool. There is a small aquifer in the area that is used for frost protection as well as irrigation. The soils overlaying this basin consist of alluvial loams and gravels and some clays created from the surrounding Monterey shale, Santa Margarita sandstones and older Cretaceous rocks. Grapes being produced in the region include: Chardonnay, Malbec, Merlot, Muscat, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Zinfandel.
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