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Ancient Peaks 

A New Winery With Deep Roots

By Christopher Weir

Margarita Vineyard (Chris Leschinsky)You might call Ancient Peaks a new winery with an old soul. Indeed, while the first Ancient Peaks wines were released just three years ago, the winery’s estate Margarita Vineyard belongs to an agricultural legacy more than 200 years in the making.

Margarita Vineyard resides on Santa Margarita Ranch near the town of Santa Margarita between Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo. The ranch was first planted to grapes in 1774 by Franciscan missionaries as part of Father Junipero Serra’s famed Mission Trail. Later, in 1787, these same missionaries established Santa Margarita de Cortona, a sub-mission of nearby Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.

This historic structure – known as the Asistencia – still stands on the ranch. Santa Margarita Ranch also remains one of California’s oldest continuously operated cattle ranches.

“We recently replanted a small vineyard in the same location as the original Mission vineyard,” says co-owner Karl Wittstrom. “Preserving and celebrating the history of the ranch is something that we’re very passionate about.”

The Ancient Peaks FamilyBut it’s the complex soils of Margarita Vineyard that really distinguish the wines of Ancient Peaks. The name Ancient Peaks honors the towering Santa Lucia mountains that border the vineyard just 14 miles from the Pacific Ocean, and the same geologic forces that created the peaks also blessed the vineyard with uniquely complex soils.

“There are five distinct soil zones in the vineyard—ancient sea bed, sedimentary, shale, volcanic and granitic,” Wittstrom says. “Such soil diversity gives us a lot of colors to paint with, so to speak. It brings a lot of dimension and complexity to our wines.”

Ancient Peaks has released just three vintages so far, but its wines are already garnering substantial acclaim. For example, the winery’s 2006 Zinfandel, for example, was awarded 93 points by the Wine Spectator and called “Steal of The Year” by Sunset Magazine.

In addition to Zinfandel, the winery’s core wines include Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. Ancient Peaks also makes a series of limited-production “White Label” wines, including the Oyster Ridge red blend. This blend is named for a part of the vineyard where large white oyster fossils are literally spilling out of the soil, a testament to the land’s origins as an uplifted sea bed.

The Ancient Peaks tasting room is located in the town of Santa Margarita, just a mile from Highway 101 in the heart of San Luis Obispo County. Complimentary vineyard and ranch tours are offered on the first and third Saturdays of the month with advance reservations. Visit or call (805) 365-7045 for information.

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