Santa Barbara wine country offers the wine-curious traveler an authentic experience all its own.
Diversity is what defines the authentic vibe of the Santa Barbara wine experience. Amidst a buzzing downtown scene, the urban wine scene is electric, with dozens of tasting rooms and working wineries peppering the city. An easy 45-minute drive over the hill, though, reveals rolling vineyards as far as the eye can see, and a quintessential wine country experience marked by world-class wine, cuisine and hospitality.
However, much of the magic that makes Santa Barbara a world-class winemaking region is Mother Nature’s handiwork. The Santa Ynez Mountains that anchor this area, and the fertile valleys that they create, represent the only traverse along the entire Pacific Coast — from Alaska all the way down to Chile — that runs east-west. The weather conditions that this creates, driven by a steady influence of ocean air and marked by distinct weather swings from morning until night, translate into prime grape-growing conditions. The 30-mile drive from the western stretches of Lompoc to the eastern pockets of Los Olivos paints the picture: the air temperature will often climb one degree for every mile you travel.
These very special weather conditions, combined with an unbeatable variety of soils, have defined Santa Barbara wine country in exciting ways. For one, diversity is the calling card here. Unlike other regions that are known for the handful of grapes they grow well, all varieties thrive in Santa Barbara County: Burgundian grapes like pinot noir and chardonnay in the Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley; Rhone grapes like syrah and grenache in Ballard Canyon; and Bordeaux heavyweights like cabernet sauvignon and merlot in Happy Canyon. Toss in projects that feature Italian and Spanish varieties, late harvest wines and a surging focus on bubbly, and the options are limitless.