Santa Barbara County Notables


Winegrowing in Santa Barbara County

Santa Barbara County has a history of winemaking and winegrape growing stretching back more than 200 years to before California was a state. From the Mission Era of early California through the Ranchero and Pueblo Era, struggling through Prohibition to the beginning of the modern era of viniculuture that started in the 60's, Santa Barbara County continues to combine traditional, hand-made techniques, with the latest cutting-edge innovations in grape-growing and winemaking.

Father Junipero Serra brought grapevine cuttings from Mexico in 1782 to be planted in the fertile bottoms of Sycamore Creek (in what is now known as the Milpas district of Santa Barbara). The largest mission vineyard, about 25 acres, was located in the San Jose Creek area, and an adobe winery, built nearby in 1804, is now Goleta's oldest landmark. In 1884, Justinian Caire imported grape slips from France and planted a 150-acre vineyard on Santa Cruz Island. His prize-winning wines were shipped to San Francisco for bottling. A grapevine planted in 1842 on a farm in Carpinteria grew to monstrous proportions. In fifty years, it had a trunk measuring nine feet around, an arbor covering two acres and an annual yield of ten tons of grapes!

The wine industry has enjoyed a renaissance in Santa Barbara County in the last 25 years. Early studies by researchers from U.C. Davis found that Santa Barbara County was cooler than most wine regions of Northern California and that it had an excellent balance of geology, climate, soil and water, giving it great potential as a viticultural area. The first modern vineyards were planted in the Tepusquet area of the Santa Maria Valley in the early 1960s. Shortly thereafter, vineyards were planted in several parts of the Santa Ynez Valley.

There are now almost 100 wineries in Santa Barbara County, located primarily in the Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Maria Valley and Sta Rita Hills appellations. Most of the wineries are small businesses, run by individuals or families. The wine industry in Santa Barbara County grew from virtually nothing in 1970 to a $360 million business 32 years later. More than a million cases of wine are produced annually.

The wines of this region have earned great respect among knowledgeable wine drinkers and have won an impressive array of medals in regional, national and international competitions. The wines frequently receive overall sweepstakes, double golds and platinums, and best-of-class awards, as well as excellent reviews. Santa Barbara County is well-known for fine Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah, as well as Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling and other varietals.


This page was last updated August 2, 2009.