This year marked the return of the Santa Maria Wine Trolley, after the attraction’s two-year pause due to the pandemic.
The trolley resumed transportation services to local tasting rooms in May, and a recent boost in ticket sales inspired the program’s organizers to extend this season’s end date—originally in mid-October—to late November.
“This is our first year back, and we were super excited to launch it,” said Taz Dougherty, tourism coordinator for the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce. “As the trolley season went on, there was just more hype about it. … Towards the end of the season, September into mid-October, we were seeing an uptick in ridership, which is great.”
Dougherty has worked with the Chamber of Commerce since 2017, the same year as the Santa Maria Wine Trolley’s debut season. The unique trolley service usually starts around Memorial Day and runs through mid-October each year, Dougherty said.
One of the benefits of pushing back the trolley’s run time through Thanksgiving weekend this year is that riders get to experience some fall weather as the post-summer heat dies down.
“Kind of a bonus of us extending the wine trolley season is getting to see the leaf color change, which is really, really pretty as you’re going out there,” Dougherty said, commenting on the scenic routes that lead up to some of the trolley’s pickup and drop-off points. “It’s a lot of fun. Even just the views are wonderful.”
The trolley runs on Saturdays and Sundays and travels on a loop between five different stops, from 10:30 a.m. to about 6 p.m. Ticket holders are free to hop on and hop off the trolley at any stop and can stay as long as they want at each destination before the last loop of the day.
“You just have to know it’s going to be an hour-long route,” Dougherty said. “So, if the trolley comes back around and you’re not done somewhere … you can totally stay there another hour and wait for it to come back.”
Dougherty has enjoyed riding the trolley himself a couple of times over the years. One of his personal favorite destinations on the route this season is Old Town Orcutt, where a handful of tasting opportunities are located.
“You get a little bit of everything out of it. Even aside from wine, you have all the restaurants,” said Dougherty, who added that Old Town Orcutt is usually where riders roam around to check out the various tasting rooms, eateries, and shops sprawled across Clark Avenue, and wait a while before hopping back on the trolley.
The trolley stops twice in Old Town Orcutt, once near the front of town and again a few blocks later at Steller’s Cellar, located at 400 E. Clark Ave.
Although it doesn’t matter which stop ticket holders decide to start their journey at, the first pickup point on the trolley’s loop is Costa de Oro Winery, located at 1331 Nicholson Ave., Santa Maria.
The next stop is Amplify Wines Tasting Lounge and Winery, located at 2320 Thompson Way, suite F, Santa Maria. After Amplify, the trolley makes two stops in Old Orcutt before taking riders to Cottonwood Canyon Vineyard and Winery, located at 3940 Dominion Road, Santa Maria.
During the remaining weeks of the season, the trolley will operate on Saturdays and Sundays, except during the week of Thanksgiving, Dougherty clarified, when the program will run on Friday as well.
“We are going to run Friday for Black Friday,” Dougherty said. “Lots of wineries do some fun things for Black Friday and that Thanksgiving weekend, so we figure we’ll have one last kind of full weekend hurrah.”
Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood usually eats fries on Fridays. Send wine and fries to [email protected].