ANZA Vineyard Estates occupies one of the most historical pieces of land in San Luis Obispo. Beginning with the Chumash Indians who inhabited the area for at least 9,000 years, the land has been a chosen home of Native Americans due to its natural diversity and proximity to the Pacific Ocean and riparian habitats along the Pismo and Cuevitas Creeks. During their habitation they lived off the bounty of the land and ocean, and large mammals such as elk and grizzly bears still roamed the hills.
Early explorers of the 1770s spent time on the lands amidst Price Canyon as they traveled, likely in the area of the historic barn at ANZA Vineyard Estates. Notes from their diaries describe the landscape as such:
“Making one’s way over hills and high peaks not far from the sea, the road being rough and difficult, with frequent declivities and slopes, yet pleasant and wooded with white oaks and live oaks…”
“The mountains were neither very high nor rough, and had fine soil and dry grasses…”
Many years later in 1839, the property become a part of Corral de Piedra rancho for just a few short years before being granted to Jose Maria Villavicencio by the Mexican government. Used as grazing land for horses and cattle for many years, it was eventually sold to the Steele Brothers in 1864 who turned the land into a very successful dairy operation. Home to 750 milk cows, the Steele’s produced only cheese from their cows, each cow producing 500-600 lbs of cheese annually.
Beginning around 1880, two parcels were spilt from the Steels Brothers’ ranch and sold to the McNee family of San Francisco, then rented to the Avila family. At this stage the land become known as the Avila Ranch and over the period of several decades many of the historic buildings were built. The property was operated as a ranch and dairy by many generations of the Avila family, although it was still owned by the McNee family until sold in the early 2000s.