Santa Barbara Wine Country

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Santa Barbara Wine Country is a great place to experience California wine tasting. There are more than 21,000 acres of vineyards and more than 100 wineries to explore. Whether you prefer white, red or rosé, you're sure to find a new favorite wine here.

Wine has been a part of Santa Barbara County since the 1780s when Father Junipero Serra brought grapevine cuttings from Mexico. This area proved itself to be a perfect grape-growing environment.

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The east/west orientation of the mountains allows the cool ocean fog to flow inland at night. Hot days/cool nights and the diverse soil composition of this region are ideal for growing a wide variety of grapes.

Seventy Five percent of the grapes grown in Santa Barbara are cool-weather grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. The remaining 25% of grapes include almost 70 other varietals.

Only about half of these grapes are used by the Santa Barbara County wineries. The remainder are exported to other wineries.

What is an AVA?

An American Viticultural Area (AVA) is an officially designated grape-growing region. It's differentiated from others by geographic features, micro-climates, and soil characteristics, or terroir.

Did you know...

On a wine label, AVA identifies the location of the wine's vineyards, not the winery. What AVA means is that the 85% of the grapes used to make a particular wine came from a specific region.

Santa Barbara Wine Country AVAs

All wine produced by Santa Barbara wineries could be generally categorized as Central Coast wines. Santa Barbara County AVAs are sub-divisions of California's larger Central Coast AVA. More specifically, there are currently 4 official AVAs here.

Santa Maria Valley

The Santa Maria Valley was the first officially approved AVA in Santa Barbara County. It's the northernmost wine region, extending into San Luis Obispo County.

Santa Maria Valley is bound on the east by the Los Padres National Forest and San Rafael Mountains. Its western boundaries are the Solomon Hills and the city of Santa Maria.

Santa Maria Valley is celebrated for its Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and cool climate Syrah wines. This viticultural area includes the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail wineries between Santa Maria and Los Olivos.

There are 10-20 wineries in the Santa Maria, Orcutt and Los Alamos area. Download the Santa Maria Wine Trail map and service directory for more information.

Santa Ynez Valley

Santa Ynez Valley AVA is the Heart of Santa Barbara Wine Country. Surrounding Santa Ynez, Ballard, Los Olivos, and Solvang is the highest concentration of wineries in the County.

The Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country Association is a group of family-owned boutique wineries. Each is unique. This is not a complete map of Santa Ynez wineries. But there are enough wineries on this map for at least four days of wine tasting.

The Santa Ynez Valley is a long east-west corridor between La Purisima Hills and San Rafael Mountains to the north and the Santa Ynez Mountains to the south.

The warmer east end is better for Cabernet and Merlot grapes. Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay and Rhône varietals prefer the cooler, western end of the valley.

Consequently, each of these distinct areas have formed their own AVAs...

Sta. Rita Hills

Santa Rita Hills is the extremely cool sub-region on the far western end of the Santa Ynez Valley AVA. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes love the ocean fog and limestone soil here.

This area of the Santa Barbara Wine Country is located between Lompoc and Buellton. Its boundries are La Purisima Hills to the north and the Santa Rosa Hills to the south. Click here for the schedule of Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance events.

Santa Rita Hills AVA was created in 2001. The owners of Vina Santa Rita, a Chilean winery, protested the use of a duplicate brand name. So the official name of this AVA was changed to Sta. Rita Hills in 2006.

Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Wine Country's newest AVA is at the far eastern end of the Santa Ynez Valley. This warm micro-climate is perfect for top-quality Bordeaux varietals.

Created in 2009, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA is home to six vineyards and three wineries. There are no tasting rooms in this rural region yet.

During Prohibition, bootleggers distilled moonshine in this canyon. Legend has it that customers would say they "took a trip up Happy Canyon," and the name stuck.

Santa Barbara Wine Country continues to split into new AVAs. Los Alamos Valley AVA and Ballard Canyon AVA are in the application process now.

Wine Tasting Around The World

There are lots of great wineries around the world. The best vineyards grow in temperate coastal regions, between 30° - 50° latitude. Learn more about other wine tasting regions from around the world.

British Columbia has the largest concentration of wineries in Canada. Okanagan wineries and vineyards produce some of the best wines in BC.

California wine tasting happens in four major regions: North Coast, Central Coast, Central Valley and South Coast. All of the Santa Barbara Wine Country AVAs are subsets of the California Central Coast AVA.

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