What Is Santa Maria-Style BBQ?

While you may have heard of our Salinas winery thanks to our fine selection of local craft wines, we also serve a wide assortment of mouth-watering Santa Maria-style barbecue. If you are unfamiliar with this California culinary tradition, read on to learn the basics of what Santa Maria-style barbecue is, and why it might well become your new favorite food! Afterwards, be sure to visit 101 Wine Press and check out our selection of barbecue dishes for yourself!


The central coast of California is famous for its massive amounts of coast live oak, known locally as “red oak.” Red oak is perfect for wood-fire grilling because it does not burn too quickly or produce too much smoke, which is essential for the windy climate of   the Santa Maria Valley. A traditional Santa Maria barbecue pit features coals of red oak, along with an iron grill that is lifted and lowered via a hand crank. While Southern-style barbecue centers around a “low and slow” style of cooking — low heat and a slow cooking time — Santa Maria-style barbecue uses the exact opposite tactic, featuring quick-cooking cuts of beef and grilling them over a hot fire. Our classic Santa Maria-style pit at 101 Wine Press uses a combination of fruit wood and oak coals, to offer that classic flavor that you crave.

Along with this unique cooking method, Santa Maria-style barbecue also relies on a simple yet delicious spice rub of salt, pepper, and garlic. The central meat of Santa Maria-style barbecue is tri-tip beef, a triangular cut from the bottom of a sirloin roast. Tri-tip beef is the perfect mix of tender and chewy. At 101 Wine Press, you can try our Santa Maria-style tri-tip several different ways. We offer classic tri-tip meals, our signature smoked tri-tip sandwich, and a tri-tip salad featuring blue cheese and fresh seasonal berries. Check out our menu to learn more!


Santa Maria-style barbecue dates back to the mid-19th century when local vaqueros (cowboys) would hold Spanish-style feasts in the spring. In order to feed everyone, the vaqueros filled huge open pits with hot coals of red oak, which they then used to grill huge amounts of beef. The meal was always served with pinquito beans, which are pinto-like beans native to the Santa Maria area. All of our barbecue meals come with a choice of sides, so you can try this traditional dish for yourself!

It wasn’t until the 1930’s that Santa Maria-style barbecue really came into its own, thanks to the huge “Stag Barbecues” held each month by the Santa Maria Club. The original preferred beef cut was sirloin, but tri-tip gained its staple position starting in the 1950’s. By the 1980’s, Santa Maria-style barbecue had become such an integral part of California culture that President Ronald Reagan even threw several Santa Maria-style barbecues at the White House!

More Than Just Tri-Tip

Although tri-tip beef is rich with local tradition, it is not the only delicious option for Santa Maria-style barbecue meat that we offer at 101 Wine Press. Our hearty sausages come in one, two, or four piece varieties, each with an option of sides and garlic bread. We also offer a delicious sausage sandwich featuring sauteed onions and peppers. Our smoky Santa rib meals, available Friday through Sunday, are another great option for those looking for something other than tri-tip. If you’re a poultry person, our Santa Maria-style chicken comes in leg, thigh, breast, wing, or whole chicken varieties. We also offer a chicken sandwich, served on our homemade garlic bread. Overwhelmed by all the options? Our tasty combination meals offer whatever mix of meats you’re after!

If you’re looking to sample these indigenous California dishes for yourself, look no further than 101 Wine Press! We offer only the highest quality Santa Maria-style barbecue dishes for that smoky, succulent flavor that you crave. Visit us today!