The term “wild west” often conjures up cowboy novels and movies starring John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. Viewed through a modern lens, these stories seem like ancient history—and some would call them more fiction than fact.

But here on the historic Santa Margarita, the past is not so distant—and the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. The label on our aptly named Renegade red blend says it all: “From missionaries to gunslingers, roughriders to outlaws, a colorful cast of characters has traversed the ranch’s rugged terrain since the 18th century.”

Outlaw Haven

For example, rumor has it that famed outlaw Jesse James passed through Santa Margarita Ranch in the 1870s. This was after his “James Gang” robbed a bank in Minnesota. Jesse came west on the train, while his injured brother Frank traveled via steamship down through Panama and up to San Francisco. They are said to have rendezvoused at the Wells Fargo stage stop at Santa Margarita Ranch, on their way to hiding out at their uncle Drury’s nearby La Panza Ranch.

Famed bandito Joaquin Murrieta—known as “the Robin Hood of the West”—is also said to have spent time on this land, and may have even left some buried gold here on a spit known as “Treasure Island” in the middle of the Salinas River. At least, that’s what the legend tells us!

Los Dos Vaqueros

Then there is the story of “los dos vaqueros.” In the late 1800s, two Santa Margarita Ranch cowboys became inseparable friends—their names were Clemente Villa (born 1854) and Felipe Pacheco (born 1869), and both of them worked and recreated on the ranch for decades. They loved to ride the high-elevation Mountain Field with sweeping views of the Pacific coastline. Later in life they both perished within days of each other, and a double funeral was held. The year was 1937. You can still see their tombstones at the ranch cemetery today.

Since then, many a cowboy has told tales of hearing voices in the night while riding in the mountains after dark. The voices are said to be the spirits of Clemente and Felipe as they ride over their beloved Santa Margarita Ranch. Clemente Villa’s grandson Luppy Villa worked on the ranch as a cowboy until his death in 1979, and the legend  of  “Los Dos Vaqueros” continues to this day.

A Taste of History

At Ancient Peaks, we are proud to be a part of this historical continuum, and while we can’t vouch for the veracity of every legend originating from our ranch, there are many more that could be told.

For now, we invite you to pour a glass of our new release 2021 Renegade red blend—an wine that speaks not only to the incredible terroir of our estate Margarita Vineyard, but also to the indomitable heritage and spirit of this ranch that we’re proud to call home.

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