Description 1 of 2
The Santa Barbara County AVA lies within the Central Coast territory of California. Like much of the state’s wine regions, grape planting began with the Catholic missionaries to make wine for ceremonial mass. Though Santa Barbara can boast some of the earliest plantings, beginning in the 1780s with Father Junipero Serra bringing Mission grape cuttings from Mexico and planting them in what is now the Milpas Creek district. From there, mission vineyards spread to San Jose, Santa Cruz, Carpinteria and Goleta (an adobe winery built there in 1804 has the distinction of being the area’s old landmark).
But also like most of California’s wine regions, production in Santa Barbara was hurt by the late 1800s Phylloxera crisis and further brought down by the Prohibition between 1921 to 1933. It wasn’t until the 1960s that a U.C. Davis study identified Santa Barbara County as a favorable wine-growing region due to its combination of soil types, geology, water and coastal climate conditions that favor long growing seasons and promote grape acid balance, low alcohol and less risk of grape rot on the vine. From the early 1970s, the virtually unknown region became one of the most sought after locations for wineries, many of them small production boutique operations.
The success of the 2004 film Sideways solidified Santa Barbara County’s star power, with many scenes filmed on location at regional wineries that have become tourist attractions since. That movie also had an unforeseen impact on varietal sales for a few years since its release, promoting Pinot Noir to top status and damaging sales of the tormented Merlot. (According to the film, think of Pinot Noir as the iPod and Merlot as the eight track tape of wine, regardless of whether they were even produced in the region). However, years later, Santa Barbara’s wines are still regarded as some of the finest in California. Yes, even for Merlot.
Santa Barbara County is divided into these subregions:
- Santa Maria Valley
- Santa Ynez Valley
Santa Rita Hills
Description 2 of 2
Viticulture in Santa Barbara County is traceable to missionary plantings in the Milpas Valley late in the 18th century. Since commercial viticulture rebounded in the 1960s, Santa Barbara County has been on the fast track to viticultural stardom. Its grapes now command among the highest prices anywhere in the state. Famous for ripe yet elegant Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the County is also gaining a reputation for Rhone varietals including Syrah and Viognier. Located on California’s South Central Coast, Santa Barbara County is an oasis of rolling hills, ancient oak trees and cattle ranches. The County now claims more than 60 wineries and 21,000 acres of vine, with the vast majority of the vineyards in the County’s three AVAs: Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez and Santa Rita Hills, each with its own distinct terroir. Santa Barbara’s fame hasn’t come without hurdles, as environmental issues and the social impact of big business are major issues for a region striving to maintain its identity. – Description from Appellation America (view original content)
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