Join us this summer as we celebrate the 250th anniversary of the historic Santa Margarita Ranch, which was established in 1774 by Franciscan missionaries who planted grapevines and other crops here in the heart of California’s Central Coast. The ranch is today home of our estate Margarita Vineyard.

“Santa Margarita Ranch is a crown jewel of the Central Coast that dates back to the earliest days of California, including a rich Native American heritage,” says Ancient Peaks co-owner Karl Wittstrom. “It is also one of the very earliest sites of winegrowing and winemaking in California.”

Located in what is today known as the Paso Robles wine country, Santa Margarita Ranch is recognized as its own sub-AVA. In 2001, three longtime local families—the Filipponis, Rossis and Wittstroms—came together in joint ownership of the 14,000-acre ranch. They later established Ancient Peaks Winery in 2005.

Celebrate with Us

We will mark this milestone anniversary with a “Renegades & Outlaws” party on September 6 at our Oyster Ridge event barn in the heart of Margarita Vineyard, featuring our Renegade red blend, tacos and barbecue, a mechanical bull and barn dance.

We will also celebrate at our Wine Club Harvest Dinner party on October 26 at Oyster Ridge, featuring a four-course meal with pre-party VIP vineyard tours.

Stay tuned this summer for more details on these events.

A Remarkable Heritage

Santa Margarita Ranch enjoys a long and industrious pedigree, beginning with the Chumash and Salinan peoples. For more than 10,000 years they called this valley their home.

Franciscan missionaries first cultivated wine grapes on the ranch in 1780, and a classic head-pruned vineyard was later planted sometime in the 1800s. Remnants of these old winegrowing days can still be seen at the ranch, including a stunning arbor vine at the ranch headquarters and a gone-wild 60-foot vine in a nearby creekbed.

In 1772, Mission San Luis Obispo was established by the Franciscan monks as the fifth mission along the California coast. The Native Americans kept telling the padres of this beautiful valley just over the mountain from San Luis Obispo. The padres were intrigued and finally accompanied the Native Americans over the Cuesta Grade in 1774, and they found this beautiful Santa Margarita valley.

They discovered a small village with about 300 inhabitants, and they quickly endeavored to convert the natives to Christianity. At first, they built an outdoor shrine with a bell to call the people to worship and a large wooden cross was the center of the shrine. Eventually, the padres convinced the Native Americans to help them build a structure from local stones (pictured below). They named it Santa Margarita de Cortona and it was formally recognized as an “assistance mission” to Mission San Luis Obispo. The walls of this “Asistencia” are still standing today, as they are protected from the elements by a huge wooden barn.

Photo: Asistencia Circa 1882

After Mexico secured its independence from Spain in 1822, the mission properties were privatized. Santa Margarita Ranch today remains one of California’s oldest historic sites. The ranch history begins with the Native Americans, who called this valley home for 10,000 years. The more modern part of the history started with the arrival of the Europeans. Joaquin Murrieta, a famous Mexican bandit, was known to have a hideout in the Salinas River. In 1847, John C. Fremont marched through the ranch, arresting ranch owner Joaquin Estrada on his way to attack the Mexican army in Santa Barbara. Later, the ranch was visited by the James boys as Frank and Jesse hid out at their uncle’s La Panza Ranch east of Santa Margarita.

In the early 1900s, the ranch had multiple crops including wheat, barley, cattle and sheep.

A New Winegrowing Era

The modern era of winegrowing on Santa Margarita Ranch began with the planting of Margarita Vineyard in 1999 by the Robert Mondavi family. In 2005, the ranch’s three ownership families assumed the vineyard’s lease, started Ancient Peaks Winery and never looked back.

Ancient Peaks wines are today distributed across 48 states as well as Canada and Japan. The winery is renowned for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Oyster Ridge Bordeaux-style blend and other wines that reflect the unique character of this sustainably farmed estate.