Since missionaries planted the first grapes here in the early 19th century, through Prohibition to the "modern" era of viticulture that began in the 1960s, Santa Barbara County winemakers have combined traditional, handmade techniques with the latest cutting- edge innovations.
The region is known especially for its outstanding chardonnay, pinot noir and syrah, but also produces superior riesling, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, viognier and many other varietals in more than 80 vineyards. The majority are small operations run by individuals or families.
September is Wine Month
(check back here for more information about special wine events planned for September)
In Santa Barbara County, Santa Ynez Valley is one of three distinct American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), also known as wine appellations-the other two are Santa Maria Valley and Santa (Sta.) Rita Hills-together comprising more than 21,000 acres of vineyards producing more than a million cases of wine annually. The region's east-west orientation of the coastal mountains forms valleys opening directly to the Pacific Ocean. This unique topography allows the flow of fog and sea breezes to shape distinct microclimates, perfect for the cultivation of classic grape varietals resulting in world-class wines.
Area wineries welcome visitors year-round either at the winery or in tasting rooms located throughout the valley. It is easy and fun to do self-directed wine tours or enjoy guided tours in jeeps, vans, limousines or private sedans provided by local companies.
For maps and complete information on current vintners, events, winemaker dinners and festivals, contact Santa Barbara County Vintners Association 805-688-0881; Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country Association 800-563-3183; Foxen Canyon Wine Trail or Sta. Rita Hills Wine Growers Alliance.
SIDEWAYS filmed almost entirely on-location throughout Solvang and the Santa Ynez Valley, the Fox Searchlight feature film "Sideways" premiered in Fall 2004 and won numerous awards including an Oscar and two Golden Globes. The tale of two middle-aged men and the women they meet on a week-long wine tasting adventure brought world-wide recognition to the area. Visitors can personally experience real-life scenes from the movie with specialty maps and tour packages.
BON APPETIT - Anthony Dias Blue, Bon Appetit magazine's tasting panel director and one of the most influential food and wine critics in the US, had this to say about Santa Barbara County's wine valleys: "One of California's most beautiful and exciting viticultural regions lies just 90 minutes north of the seemingly endless urban sprawl of Los Angeles. Santa Barbara is making some of the most thrilling wines in America. From ocean cooled valleys to stark mountain vineyards; from racy syrah to velvety pinot noir to the prospect of great cabernet; from rustic ranchers to reclusive celebrities- if any wine region can have it all, it's Santa Barbara."