Wine regions are rare. Grapes are fickle. We do not choose where they grow, they choose. People have tried – unsuccessfully – to grow grapes where they want them to be. The grapes always win and vintners are pressed into their service. Santa Barbara County is no exception. The unique, transverse nature of the valleys of Santa Barbara Wine Country provides a patchwork quilt of micro-climates and terrains, resulting in one of the most diverse grape growing regions in the world. The valleys run an unusual east-west rather than north-south, and both the coastal Santa Ynez Mountain range and the interior San Rafael range are transverse as well.
Six federally-sanctioned American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) lie within the greater AVA of Santa Barbara County: Santa Ynez Valley is an overlying AVA which is then broken down into four sub-AVAs (West to East): Sta. Rita Hills, Ballard Canyon, Los Olivos District, and Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara. As grape growers continue to advance their understanding of the best places to plant particular grape varieties, the Los Alamos Valley and the Santa Maria Bench are also showing distinct characteristics that may one day lead to AVA status.