Wine 101: Slow Wine Guide Wineries in Santa Barbara AVAs from Sta Rita Hills to Ballard Canyon and Beyond #WinePW

Santa Barbara County AVAs in order of addition: 1 = Santa Maria Valley; 2 = Sta Rita Hills; 3 = Ballard Canyon; 4 = Happy Canyon; 5 = Los Olivos District; 6 = Santa Ynez; 7 = Alisos Canyon; move your mouse onto the map to see the key

While most mountain ranges snake south to north paralleling the ocean, in California’s Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, the Transverse Range is exactly that — crosswise, or perpendicular to the Pacific and running west to east. This anomaly is what makes Santa Barbara AVAs special: air off the cold Pacific Ocean rushes east, cooling inland valleys to make them habitable for vines, and closer to the coast, to provide a cool climate terroir that produces stellar Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as well as spectacular Syrah, gorgeous Grenache, and captivating Cabernet.

AVA stands for American Viticultural Areas, and indicates an appellation of origin, a specific region that offers unique or special characteristics. The US has 260 AVAs with over half of them (142) in California. Within an AVA, sub-AVAs further differentiate, and often particular grapes prevail.  Obtaining an AVA is complicated, complex, time consuming; only the truly devoted will succeed in proving the uniqueness of the terroir: geography, topography, climate, geology and more factors go into proving the distinctness of an area.

Why learn about AVAs? Knowing more about an AVA can help you find the wines you will love! Santa Barbara has 7 officially recognized AVAs: Santa Maria Valley AVA, Santa Ynez Valley AVA, Sta. Rita Hills AVA, Ballard Canyon AVA, Los Olivos District AVA, Happy Canyon AVA, and Alisos Canyon AVA.

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