The Santa Margarita Ranch District is one of the 11 sub-districts that make up the Paso Robles AVA. Established in 2014, Santa Margarita Ranch is located at the very southern tip of the AVA with vineyards in and around the town of Santa Margarita. 

The district is actually closer to San Luis Obispo than it is to Paso Robles, and shares a  special connection with the Spanish Mission in downtown SLO: an outpost for the Mission was built in the area, and the surrounding lands became known as Santa Margarita Rancho. 

Today those lands are known as the Santa Margarita Ranch District, and represent one of the most unique districts in the AVA.

One of the factors that the Santa Margarita Ranch so unique is that it is the only district not connected to the other ten, and is approximately five miles from the nearest district to the north or east. Additionally, the district sees almost twice the amount of rainfall at 29″ per year!

However, this doesn’t stop the vineyards in the district from producing amazing wines similar to those crafted in the larger AVA. Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots, and Zinfandels are some of the most popular grapes grown in the area, but the Syrah, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noirs are varietals that should not be missed! 

Unfortunately no vineyard tasting rooms in the Santa Margarita Ranch District that are open to the public for wine tasting and events, but this doesn’t mean you need to skip these wines on your next trip to the Central Coat! Varietals by wineries based in the Santa Margarita Ranch District can be found in several restaurants, wine bars, and even grocery stores, and offer a glimpse into the differences that define the region.

Make sure to check out Santa Margarita’s Food & Drink Page to find the wine bars, tasting rooms, and restaurants that include Santa Margarita Ranch District wines!


The Santa Margarita Ranch District is located at the very bottom of the Paso Robles AVA, and is the only district not connected to the ten farther north.

The district itself covers the city of Santa Margarita, and follows the natural borders the surrounding mountains and rivers provide: the Salinas River defines the east, the Santa Lucia Mountain Range the west, and the Los Padres National Forest the south. The northern border winds its way from the Salinas River and follows Santa Margarita Road in Atascadero to its western edge. 

The mountainous topography of Santa Margarita Ranch provides for some of the more unique growing conditions in the district, with its high elevation and annual rainfall contributing to the challenges farmers in the district face.

Many (if not most) of the vineyards in the district are found on the valley floors between the mountains, but are still over 1,000’ in elevation (and up to 1,225’). The vineyards are not influenced by the Templeton Gap in this region, but cooler air that travels through the Cuesta Pass can bring serious frost.

There are also no alluvial fans in this high, mountainous district, and soil along the valley floors are primarily young sandy loam with increased gravel content found in the higher elevations. Additionally, Santa Margarita Ranch sees a significantly higher annual rainfall than any other district in the AVA at 29”, with 3.74” during the growing season.

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These growing conditions still allow for the production of some of the most incredible wines that are very similar to those produced in all districts of the AVA. Santa Margarita Ranch is known for its production of Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots, and Syrahs in particular, but the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel coming out of this district are also varietals not to be missed.




Rain3.74 in*

*during growing season


Cabernet Sauvignon


Pinot Noir





Paso Robles’s AVA was established in 1983, and at the time encompassed approximately 614,000 acres across the cities of Paso Robles, Templeton, San Miguel Creston, Shandon, and Santa Margarita in northern SLO County.

At almost three times the size of Napa Valley’s AVA, Paso Robles remained the largest single AVA in California until 2014 when 11 sub-districts were established. Although the larger boundary did not change, these new districts provided a more nuanced understanding of the growing regions within the Paso Robles AVA, and the wines that could be successfully crafted.

Today the distinct terroir profiles (or growing conditions) of the eleven districts contribute to the production of over 40 varietals (the vast majority crafted from Cabernet Sauvignon, Roussanne, Zinfandel, Viognier, Merlot, and Syrah), and home to over 200 wineries for locals and tourists to enjoy and explore.

Learn more about the eleven districts below, and make sure to plan your next wine tasting weekend in Paso Robles’s Wine Country!