Traveling the back roads of Northern Santa Barbara County's wine country is a peaceful indulgence any time of the year. Picturesque country drives complete with historic landmarks, miles of vineyards and an abundance of wildlife are savored around every bend. Coyotes, mountain lions and bobcats are seen on occasion along with plentiful deer.
Sisquoc, an unincorporated town is located close to 15 miles southeast of Santa Maria. A fire station, Sisquoc Community Church, Blochman School and the Sisquoc Store are all found here. This area is deeply immersed in history as the primary entrance to the San Rafael Wilderness.
During the 1880s a group of faith healers settled along the nearby Sisquoc River. The Manzana Schoolhouse from those days is still viewable today. Others arrived to start family homesteads in the area later on and it grew from there.
The area's Foxen Canyon Wine Trail is home to many wineries in this area complete with winemakers who are known for world class wines. Rancho Sisquoc Winery is captivating with its picturesque San Ramon Chapel, one of the most historic landmarks seen in the area.
Sisquoc means "Gathering Place," in the Chumash language and artifacts throughout the area are evident of that fact including rock paintings. Other highly recommended wineries in the area include Cambria Winery, Kenneth Volk Vineyards, Sanford, Qupe and Au Bon Climant Vineyards.
The road is named after Benjamin Foxen who established the area in 1837. Descendants still own property in the area along with nearby Foxen Canyon Winery. He is buried at the San Ramon Chapel's cemetery. San Marcos Pass otherwise known as Highway 154 leads you to Foxen Canyon Road which runs 30 miles of these back roads to Santa Maria. The first 18 miles wind through the hills until the Santa Maria Valley beckons. At that point it changes to Betteravia and turns flat. This is where an abundance of crops are planted.
"You don't have to visit the family-owned shops on Price or Pomeroy very often before people start to recognize you and give you an extra warm greeting. Once they see you a few times, you feel like you're among friends." So says a two-year resident of Pismo Beach. She is particularly fond of Pismo Bob's historic hardware and garden store where Bob says: "If we don't have it, you don't need it nohow." She adds, of course, "And the weather's great here."
Rancho Tepusquet was originally a Mexican land grant and included Sisquoc and Garey found along the river. Tepesquet Canyon is a beautiful, quiet community filled with small ranches. The population is in the low hundreds and is kept pretty low key for those who appreciate small communities and privacy. It lies between the Sisquoc and Cuyama Rivers.
Foxen Canyon and Tepusquet Roads are the crossroads well known throughout this wine country driving excursion. Biking is a very popular mode of transportation through these back roads with such incredible vistas. It is usually a quiet setting with a nice round trip for them as well as motorcyclists.
While the surrounding area is known best for vineyards and strawberry fields, neighboring hills are the home of the East Cat Canyon Oil Field with Chevron Corp, Aera Energy and Greka Energy all having operations here.