The Santa Ynez Valley has recently become a premier wine region and produces some of the best olive oil, grapefruit, strawberries, and avocados in the United States. More than 500 varieties of grapes can be found in this fertile valley.
The Santa Ynez Valley is home to some of California’s oldest and most storied wineries. While, nowadays, grapes are grown all over Southern California, back in 1836, it was one of California’s first significant farming areas. Legend has it that Franciscan priest Junipero Serra, who founded Missions throughout California, planted saplings from Mission trees and made wine for celebratory occasions.
The Santa Ynez appellation lies primarily within Santa Barbara County but includes a small portion of western Ventura County between Los Olivos and Solvang. It is home to over 50 wineries in charming farmhouse-style buildings with sweeping views of surrounding vineyards, olive groves, and shrubs.
Appellation regulations stipulate that 95 percent of grapes grown here must be designated as Santa Ynez Valley on wine labels. Fruit sourced from elsewhere may not be included in wines labeled as a Santa Ynez AVA.
The Santa Ynez Valley is well known for its breathtaking scenery and excellent weather, with cool mornings and warm afternoons. The area gets an average of over 300 days of sunshine a year and has an average annual rainfall of just 9 inches. The area has been continuously inhabited for 12,000 years by Native Americans.
Before Spanish explorers arrived in 1769, it was visited by Chumash tribes, people who lived in small villages along the coast between Point Conception and San Francisco Bay. When Europeans first arrived on what is now California’s Central Coast, they found a vast plain that had supported numerous Indian tribes of more than 100,000 people.
More Than 50 Wineries in The Area
Most outsiders know very little about this area, despite its high concentration of wineries. It isn’t surprising, considering these wineries are small, family-owned businesses; many are growing slowly because they don’t have to expand to remain profitable.
There are great wines for newbies and connoisseurs alike. If you live in Northern California, you have access to some of them through local wine stores, or if you happen to be traveling through, you can always purchase bottles directly from tasting rooms on site.
Reasons To Visit
For wine aficionados, Santa Ynez Valley is the place to be. The region has been home to vineyards since the 19th century, and the wineries are still going strong today. The area’s mild Mediterranean-like climate makes it ideal for grape growing, and winemakers have taken full advantage of this to craft award-winning wines.
If you’re considering visiting the area, here are a few reasons why you should start planning your trip as soon as possible:
Ample Sunshine: The Santa Ynez Valley is a hot spot for visitors. All year it’s sunny and 80-100 degrees F (26 to 38 degrees C). From April through November, however, you can expect an average of 350 days of sunshine per year—that’s as many as in Los Angeles and almost twice that of New York City.
Mild Winters: Much of California can experience hot, dry summers and mild winters, and Santa Ynez Valley’s climate is mild year-round. On average, temperatures don’t top 95 degrees or drop below 55 degrees. Be sure to visit in April to see wildflowers in bloom.
Excellent Wineries: The Santa Ynez Valley boasts over two dozen wineries just along Highway 154 (and many farther off the beaten path). The vast stretch of road from Los Olivos to Buellton is increasingly known as Wine Country. You can even follow Highway 154 north past Lompoc and Vandenberg Air Force Base to Solvang, which offers excellent tasting rooms. As far as wine country goes, there’s not much else that compares.
Great Winery Tours: A visit here provides an up-close look at both old and new winemaking methods in all price ranges. The three oldest wineries, Ravenswood, Roessler, and Rochioli, have been operating since before Prohibition. Today, they are joined by newcomers such as Saintsbury and Williams Selyem. Most tours offer a glimpse into how wines are made, from harvesting to fermentation to aging. Tours often take visitors into century-old caves that once served as wine cellars for early settlers; some include winery histories and overviews of grape growing and viniculture practices.
Wine Tasting: There are many opportunities to taste wine along California’s central coast. The Edna Valley is known for its chardonnay, and you can sip from various producers along Highway 154. Hearst Castle sits on an 800-acre estate, making it home to some of California’s finest vineyards. The wineries, including an award-winning chardonnay crafted by Robert Mondavi Winery. See more resources here
On This Day
May 16th, 1983: Santa Ynez Valley AVA was established.