Regions and Appellations USA California Central Coast Santa Barbara County

Santa Barbara County Wine

Santa Barbara County occupies a roughly rectangular area at the southern end of California's Central Coast region. The county is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to its south and west, with the region's topography consisting primarily of coastal hills and river valleys. This gives rise to a broad spectrum of terroirs reflected in Santa Barbara County's diversity of grape varieties. In the cooler Santa Maria Valley, the leaning is clearly towards cooler-climate varieties – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – while in the warmer Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, just to the south, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Grenache thrive.

Vineyards in Santa Barbara County
?Santa Barbara Country Vintners Association

From the Santa Ynez Mountains in the south and west to the San Rafael mountain range in the east, the landscape is truly varied. The many rivers which flow down from the mountains towards the Pacific Ocean have carved out valleys and coastal plains over the millennia. The coastal valleys are oriented east-west, channeling cool ocean breezes and sea fog eastwards through the valleys. These climatic factors keep the vineyards in the county's western reaches cool with a moderate climate, while the vineyards to the east experience larger diurnal temperature variations as these cooling effects gradually dissipate.

Overall Santa Barbara County has a coastal climate with a long growing season, allowing the grapes extended hang time to develop mature flavors and a much-valued balance of sugars and acids. This is something of a luxury at such low latitudes (34.5 degrees north) and allows the county's winemakers to make relatively balanced wines, unaffected by the high alcohol content associated with warmer climates. The cool climate also results in higher acidity, balancing the mature flavors of the grapes and increasing their aging potential. Low rainfall, too, reduces the risk of the fruit spoiling, allowing it to ripen fully.

Santa Barbara County's soils are just as diverse as its climate – from sandy, silt and clay loams, to diatomaceous earth, to patches of limestone and chert. This unique blend of climate and soils creates ideal growing conditions for a range of grape varieties, with Santa Barbara County producing some of the most sought-after (and most expensive) wine grapes in California.

Six of the county's wine sub-regions currently hold official AVA status: Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley, Sta. Rita Hills, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, Ballard Canyon and Los Olivos District.

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Most Popular Santa Barbara County Wine

Based on search frequency, updated monthly
Wine Name
Grape
Popularity
Score
Avg Price
Sea Smoke Southing Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills, USA Pinot Noir 624th 91 $107
Sea Smoke Ten Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills, USA Pinot Noir 943rd 92 $116
Domaine de la Cote 'Bloom's Field' Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills, USA Pinot Noir 1,134th 92 $85
Belle Glos 'Clark & Telephone' Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, USA Pinot Noir 1,351st 90 $49
Etude Fiddlestix Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills, USA Pinot Noir 2,042nd 90 $48
Andremily Wines Syrah, Santa Barbara County, USA Syrah 2,814th 94 $208
Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir, Central Coast, USA Pinot Noir 2,989th 89 $25
Domaine de la Cote 'Sta. Rita Hills' Pinot Noir, California, USA Pinot Noir 3,154th 92 $79
Au Bon Climat Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County, USA Chardonnay 3,302nd 89 $22
Tensley Colson Canyon Vineyard Syrah, Santa Barbara County, USA Syrah 3,474th 92 $42
Jonata Todos Red, Ballard Canyon, USA Bordeaux Blend Red 3,726th 91 $56
Melville Estate Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills, USA Pinot Noir 4,239th 91 $36
Sanford Winery Founders' Vines Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills, USA Pinot Noir 4,371st 91 $115
Cambria Estate Winery Julia's Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, USA Pinot Noir 6,021st 88 $19
Rusack Vineyards Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County, USA Chardonnay 6,337th 89 $29
The Hilt Estate Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills, USA Pinot Noir 6,642nd 91 $53
Jonata 'La Sangre de Jonata' Red, Ballard Canyon, USA Syrah 6,958th 93 $148
Coquelicot Estate Mon Amour, Santa Ynez Valley, USA Bordeaux Blend Red 6,974th 88 $45
Cambria Estate Winery Clone 4 Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, USA Pinot Noir 7,065th 89 $21
Sans Liege The Offering, Santa Barbara County, USA Grenache - Mourvedre - Syrah 7,119th 90 $30
Jonata 'El Desafio de Jonata' Red, Ballard Canyon, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 7,221st 93 $144
Cambria Estate Winery Katherine's Vineyard Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley, USA Chardonnay 7,487th 89 $16
Sine Qua Non The 17th Nail in My Cranium, Sta Rita Hills, USA Syrah 7,760th 95 $1,654
Andremily Wines Mourvedre, Santa Barbara County, USA Mourvedre (Monastrell) 7,920th 94 $188
Sea Smoke Chardonnay, Sta Rita Hills, USA Chardonnay 8,000th 91 $104
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To see how Wine-Searcher uses average pricing and professional wine critic scores on this page, please see Average Wine Prices and Wine Scores. To find out about popularity, please see Wine Ranks.
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