Take a drive through Santa Barbara County, and you’ll be rendered speechless by its lovely rolling hills, lush Mediterranean vegetation, pleasant summer breezes … and the dozens of wineries that dot the hills and valleys of the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains.
The area is one of the most beautiful in all of California, if not the United States. Santa Barbara even outshines many countries around the globe for its climate and geographical beauty. But the region is truly renowned for its wines, producing some of the best in the world, particularly the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah and Rhône varietals. Author Anthony Dias Blue, in his book Under the Boardwalk, perhaps best describes the wines of Santa Barbara County:
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.
But why? What is it about this area that creates such distinctive wines?
In a nutshell, it’s the geography.
Most mountain ranges in the U.S. “run” in a north-south direction. Think of the Sierra Nevada in California/Nevada, the Rockies in Colorado, the Appalachian Mountains on the east coast, etc. Yet the Santa Ynez Mountains that run behind Santa Barbara County have an entirely east-west traverse.
This makes the county an exceptional grape producer because those mountains create what the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association calls a “dramatic effect on the climate,” due to the fact that the mountain range’s “valleys open directly to the Pacific Ocean. This unique topography allows the flow of fog and ocean breezes to shape distinct microclimates, perfect for the cultivation of classic grape varietals and world-class wines.”
Varietal grapes have been grown here ever since Father Junipero Serra brought grapevine cuttings from Mexico in 1782 during the era of the creation of the Spanish mission system (21 missions were established along California’s coast from San Diego to San Francisco).
More than 100 wineries now operate in Santa Barbara County, planting more than 20,000 acres of grapes that produce upwards of 65 varieties of wine.
Most vintners focus on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah grape varieties. Yet more growers now produce Cabernet, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris, with some exploring Rhône, Italian and Spanish varietals.
Facts are all well and good, of course, but there’s more to wine than just climate, geography and the way Pacific Ocean fog cools a grapevine after a day under California’s storied sunshine.
There’s also the sumptuous experience of tasting the vintner’s results, and opportunities to do just that abound. Escape your work-a-day life and enjoy – even if it’s just for one afternoon – the slow pace and exquisite tastes found in a Santa Barbara County winery. We’ve partnered with a few of the vintners we believe offer exceptional wines as well as an outstanding wine tasting experience. We recommend:
- Artiste: www.artiste.com
- Gainey Vineyard & Winery: www.gaineyvineyard.com
- Sunstone Vineyards & Winery: www.sunstonewinery.com
- Conscilience: www.consciliencewines.com
- Rideau Winery & Vineyard: www.rideauvineyard.com
- Cambria: www.cambriawines.com
- Fiddlehead Cellars: www.fiddleheadcellars.com
- Kenneth Volk Vineyards: www.volkwines.com
Each vintner offers wine tasting and, as a special gift to guests of the Santa Ynez Inn, provides you with either a complimentary glass or two-for-one passes.
If you’d like to enjoy a day or afternoon of wine tasting, just let our concierge know and we’ll make all the arrangements. All you’ll have to do is get ready for an extraordinary oenophilic experience.