The Sandoval Ranch is one of the most magical places we’ve ever visited. Everyone we know who has stepped foot onto the land is immediately in awe of its beauty, rustic comfort and the people who make it such a memorable place. The Sandovals themselves are an incredibly kind, inviting and mulit-talented family with a deep rooted history in Santa Ynez. The services and products they offer range from Michael Sandoval’s Spanish varietals of grapes that are sold to local wine makers, Lea Sandovals healing aromatherapy and medicinal herb products grown right on the ranch, and one-of-a-kind cowboy spurs, belts and jewelry hand crafted by the legendary Ray Sandoval, Michael’s father.
Unsurprisingly, the ranch has also become a popular destination for events such as weddings, concerts and photoshoots. The sprawling oak trees, gardens and surrounding vineyard paired with the old, central barn create a scene of rustic elegance and charm truly unique yet quintessentially California.
We had the pleasure of spending a couple days at the ranch and experienced its magic first hand as we sipped delicious wine and pampered ourselves with a variety of aromatherapy products. We were flies on the wall as Ray Sandoval worked in his shop creating stunning belts and pieces of jewelry before our eyes that we had the pleasure of wearing in our shoot. In our interview below, we learned more about the deep rooted history of the ranch, their sustainable process of growing grapes, and the intricacies of herbal healing. Whether you are looking for the perfect wedding location, or in the market for a classic cowboy belt as you make your way through California’s vibrant wine country, the Sandoval Ranch is not to be missed.
For event and other inquiries, please reach out to Michael Sandoval directly via their website: http://sandovalranch.com/events
1.) A & A: You have a strong, rooted history in Santa Ynez. Tell us about your connection to the area and a little history about the ranch.
Michael: We purchased the ranch 40 years ago, at that time this area was mostly horses and cattle, and our place was a working cutting horse operation focused on training cutting horses and teaching kids the do’s and dont’s around horses. 13 years ago, in 2004 my father at the age of 80 asked what I would like to do with the ranch. And my reply was, “lets plant grape vines!” And he replied, “that is a terrible idea,” though he reluctantly agreed to let me plant a small area with 187 vines. Over the last 13 years, he has fallen in love with the process of growing grapes and making small batches of homemade wines. We now have over 3000 vines and sell grapes to winemakers in the area. Santa Ynez Valley has Transformed into a destination for wine lovers with somewhere around 150 plus wineries/vineyards in a 30 mile radius with several AVA’s (Santa Rita Hills, Santa Maria, Santa Ynez, Los Olivos and Happy Canyon) all growing different types of grape varietals based on micro climate and soils.
2.) A & A: What attracted to you to specifically making Spanish varietals of wine? Can elaborate on the types you specialize in and your sustainable, eco-friendly process?
Michael: I consulted with a company (Coastal Vineyard Care) who said we should consider growing something unique. There was plenty of rhone varietals in our Santa Ynez area, plant something that was cohesive to our climate but pick a grape that was not yet over planted. We now grow Tempranillo, Alban Garnacha and Garnacha Blanca. We are dedicated to practicing sustainable farming, we call it harmony on the ranch. For example, instead of using herbicides or insecticides we create a balanced environment by planting various types of plants that attract insects that feed on other insects that are harmful to the vines.
3.) A & A: The Sandoval Ranch is a unique and multifaceted location catering perfectly to weddings, photo shoots, and other events. What is that makes the Sandoval Ranch a special space some for such gatherings?
Lea: Energetically, I think the large open spaces within borders provide a sense of freedom and protection from the outside world.The 100+ oak trees also ground a gathering of people with their timeless beauty and serenity. A diamond in the rough, the property’s rugged terroir leaves a blank pallet of sorts for an event to create its own look and feel.
4.) A & A: Ray Sandoval is a legend in the cowboy world, and now makes stunning one-of-a-kind spurs, jewelry and belts. Can you give us any insight on how and where her garnered this skill, and what makes his process stand out from other artisans?
Michael: He was inspired by old California and bit and spur makers from the mid 1800s Garcia, Figaroa and Morrales. My father was fascinated with the craftsmanship these artisans achieved by forging iron by hand and then engraving with silver to create works of beauty that was being used 7 days a week for cowboys who drove cattle up and down the coast of California. My father says these early California cowboys would earn 24 dollars a month and one of these bits would coast twelve dollars! These same bits are collector items now selling $2000 – $3000 a piece. At the age of 93, his hands bare the pain, but everyday he is still in his shop, always working on something!
5.) A & A: What attracted you to using aromatherapy and natural herbs for medicinal healing? What specifically do you grow at the ranch that you use in your products?
Lea:A book first published by Jeanne Rose in 1972 that I first read when I was 13. I had been sickly a lot as a kid, and was interested in natural health and beauty products. I felt excited by the idea of healing the heart and body with plants within my own reach. I experimented with recipes I tried in the book, and continued to experiment and read other books on the subject throughout my life. Later I would always have an herbal garden at my home, and once we moved to the ranch, the space there became a dream to continue growing in larger quantities. As synchronicity sometimes leads the way, I ended up contacting Jeanne Rose almost 10 years ago, who had written 22 books since then, and had pioneered the idea of growing plants for distillation in vineyards. It was herself who actually coined the phrase “Hydrosols.”
I have several distillation gardens growing Bulgarian roses, geraniums, lavender, lemon grass, rosemary, lemon verbena, peppermint, sage, lemon balm and other plants and flowers for distillation of Hydrosols, and a small amount of essential oils in my copper still. We grow other medicinal and culinary herbs as well, for use in teas, formulas, and salves. An elderberry tree also provides us with both flowers and fruit, and our Meyer lemon tree gets used for a variety of things. I even used the grape leaves last year, and I am experimenting with the grape pulp for skin care.
A & A: What are some of your favorite products you offer and why?
What specifically do you grow at the ranch that you use in your products?
Lea: I am partial to hydrosols. Containing vital components, it is safe to use in such a variety of ways. For example, my rose water makes a wonderful hydrating facial spray, but can also be added directly to other beauty and hair products. It is calming on the psyche, aids in sleeping and relaxation. Orally it can be taken as a safe and natural laxative. And is safe for pets and children.
I also like to make small essential oil snifters blends, pocket size for immediate use. For example, to wake me up, help me sleep or remember. I find them to be effective when used regularly. A simple wave back and forth under the nose can set off a chain reaction of relief or inspiration.