Before we dive right into the wines and wineries it’s worth spending a moment talking about Santa Barbara in more general terms. This is a fascinating region that really is just begin to find it’s footing. With a tremendous variety of soils , expositions, and altitudes working in their favor, the winemakers here have been able to produce some very impressive wines that range from Nebbiolo to Pinot Noir, the Rhone varieties to Chardonnay. I believe that the region will eventually be known mostly for the Rhone varieties, not because their Pinots don’t measure up, but rather because I’m not sure there are many better places to grow Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre in California than in the eastern portions of the county, regions like Ballard Canyon and the Santa Ynez Valley.
Of course there are obstacles in the way, chief among them may be water which could stop any agricultural industry dead in its tracks; and to be sure water looms as a big problem in the region, but assuming the best the wines of the region are poised to become more widely distributed and that can only be good for consumers. Granted the sample size of wineries visited during my time in the region is modest, but I tried to select a representative selection that included the old guard as well as the new school. I believe to a large extent I succeeded on that front. The mere ability to find such a broad cross section of winemaking styles in such a small and modest region is heartening in and of itself. This is a wine region that has yet to completely find itself, yet to stake out it’s turf, and yet to take itself too seriously. In short it’s a fun and exciting region to visit.
And about visiting, they could use a few more restaurants perhaps, or I just missed the good ones, and the same may hold for accommodations, though on that account I am fairly easy to satisfy, but what they do seem to have is spectacular weather and beautiful scenery. It’s absolutely worth visiting the region. The wineries all seem genuinely happy to see visitors, you are uniformly greeted with a smile, and the weather is as ideal for vacationing as it is for growing grapes! I visited in late July and enjoyed brisk evening temperatures and daytime highs in the low 80s, which I have been told is pretty typical though it gets notably cooler as you make your way to the coast.
Now on to the wineries!