Santa Barbara County
In most of California, the mountains along the coast run north to south. Santa Barbara County is unique with mountains running east to west. This opens up valleys to the Pacific Ocean. Fog and ocean breezes flow into the county forming unique microclimates that influence grape growing. As a result, several microclimates are some of the coolest areas in California, perfect for Burgundian grape varieties. Further inland, the microclimates are appropriate for Bordeaux and Rhone varietal grapes. More than 60 grape varieties are grown in the county.
The beginning of wine growing and winemaking is traced back to the late 1700s with the arrival of the Missions. Father Junipero Serra planted Mission vine cuttings. A century later, there were 45 vineyards totalling 250 acres of wine grapes. Justinian Caire introduced vitis vinifera varieties to the area in 1884. Prohibition put a halt to wine growing and production. The modern era of winemaking started in the 1960s. Vineyards were planted and wineries built. By the early 1980s two AVAs were established, Santa Maria Valley and Santa Ynez Valley. In 2004, the movie Sideways brought attention and increased wine tourism to the area.
Today, there are a number of appellations with others under consideration. Towards the west in the coolest microclimates Chardonnay and Pinot Noir lead the grape varieties planted. In the east where the microclimates are warmer, there are many Syrah vineyards along with Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne. Cabernet Sauvignon poses challenges to grow to full phenolic ripeness even in the warmest area Happy Canyon. The Happy Canyon AVA has about the same temperatures as the Los Carneros AVA in Napa Valley and Sonoma County.
Santa Barbara County AVAs
Santa Maria Valley
Santa Rita Hills
Santa Ynez Valley
Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara County
When visiting wineries, you will generally have two different experiences. Several wineries have tasting rooms in different towns and cities. You can visit several wineries in the city of Santa Barbera as well as the town of Lompoc. Los Olivos is a small town that has 50 tasting rooms. Generally the tasting rooms are so close together that you can walk from one to another. Your other wine travel experience is to visit wineries/vineyards outside of the city and towns. Often you will need to set up an appointment.
Visit these California organizations and wineries that partner with Wine Trail Traveler.