Santa Barbara wine country is home to several dynamic AVA’s. This wine country in California’s central coast gained more notary after the movie “Sideways”. Many of its iconic producers, vendors, and landmarks were part of the scenery in this famous film. Within this dynamic region and varying micro- climates sits the Santa Ynez Valley AVA. This Ava includes over 70 total vineyards and 4,190 acres of planted vineyards. The region grows over 20 different varieties including impressive wines from Rhone varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
The history of this region dates back to the Spanish “Mission System” in the early 1800’s. Spanish Missionaries placed establishment of vineyards and production of wine a high priority. Before Prohibition, there were approximately 5,000 acres of vineyards in the region. Prior to the 1960’s, very little was invested in Santa Ynez viticulture. The region was best known for production of large quantities of grapes for the jug and fortified wines of the day. However, the region started experiencing a renaissance after 1962. Many growers started experimenting with cooler-weather varietals like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay near the coast. They also experienced success with fuller bodied varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah in warmer, inland locations. This new wave of wineries continued to grow throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s. The Santa Ynez Valley was finally established as an AVA in 1983.
The Climate of Santa Ynez Valley varies across the expansive 30 miles of the AVA. Home to its own microclimates the west side of the climate is chilly and foggy where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive. The coastal influence can also attribute to some Botrytis cinerea affected vineyards that produce Gewurztraminer and Riesling. Soils in the coastal parts of the AVA are reminiscent of an ancient ocean floor and fossilized sea-life in the soils. The Yields in these regions are relatively low, but high in quality.
As you move inland through the region, summer temperatures increase by about one-degree Fahrenheit per mile. The elevation gradually rises to 800 feet above sea level. The distance from the ocean and the terrain of hills and canyons help block wind and fog, creating warmer temperatures and a drier climate. These warmer eastern hills are perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Rhone varietals. The most exciting wines come from Syrah in this part of the region. Long hot days help the fruit characteristics develop to maturity. Longer cooler nights help to retain acidity and balance.
All together this AVA incapsulates the incredibly diverse climates of California. It showcases the history and unique terroir that is quintessential to the central coast appellation.