Santa Barbara

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Santa Barbara, southern california city and county which gives its name to the southernmost in a string of three heavily planted wine counties on California’s central coast (see also monterey and san luis obispo). Its southernmost vines grow hardly more than 100 miles/160 km from downtown Los Angeles. The city of Santa Barbara has one of the dreamiest climates one could hope to find, almost rain free, and so mild that semi-tropical plants grow in lush profusion. And yet Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are prized varieties in the county because many of its vineyards hug the Pacific shore north of Point Concepcion, where nearly eternal sea fogs create conditions cooler and cloudier than either carneros or much of sonoma county’s Russian River. missionaries brought vines to the region in the 1770s (see california, history), and a few commercial wineries dotted the landscape during the later 19th century, but it was not until the wine boom of the 1970s that Santa Barbara began to assert any serious claims as a wine-producing area. Its potential seems particularly bright, in no small part because of its proximity to the trend-setting megalopolis of Los Angeles, and the 2004 movie sideways set here that created an instantaneous American fascination with the district (and Pinot Noir). It has five avas, and they do not encompass all of its 17,000 acres/6,900 ha of vineyard, but its reliance on fog as a cooling agent gives it remarkably complex shadings. Ballard Canyon, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, Santa Maria Valley, Sta. Rita Hills, and Santa Ynez Valley are the current AVAs (see below); the Los Alamos, Los Olivos District, and the Santa Maria Bench may one day achieve AVA status.