5 Fun Facts About Santa Barbara Wine

This month, we’re celebrating the diverse wines of California on our virtual road trip! On this leg of the journey, we’ll be raising a glass to the wines of Santa Barbara! To help you learn more about these pleasant pours, we’ve compiled a list of essential facts and figures related to the Sideways region of Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara has an over 200 year long history of wine grape growing 

Father Junipero Serra is credited with introducing grape vines to the Santa Barbara area way back in 1782, when he brought vine cuttings from Mexico. Legend has it the imported vines were a direct descendant of the vines brought to Mexico by conquistador Hernán Cortés!

There are five official wine regions in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara can be divided distinct, federally approved AVA regions.

Santa Maria Valley was the first to be recognized in 1981 and is recognized as the first to plant Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the area. Santa Ynez Valley followed in 1983 and is the largest AVA in Santa Barbara. The new millennium saw a boom in Santa Barbara wines.  In 2001, Santa Rita Hills, where Pinot Noir dominates, was inducted as a Santa Barbara AVA. Happy Canyon and Ballard Canyon were recognized as AVA regions, in 2009 and 2013 respectively. Los Olivos District was granted AVA approval in 2016, while the most recent addition to the Santa Barbara AVA region is Alisos Canyon, approved in 2020.

Each of these regions has a unique and impactful terroir, altering the flavours and expressions of the grapes grown there. The best way to discover the differing palates? Through tasting trials, of course!

Map of Santa Barbara Wine Regions from Wine Folly

There are over 275 wineries in Santa Barbara

Only 40 years ago, there were a mere 13 wineries in Santa Barbara. Thanks to the increase in popularity of New World wines, and the inclusion of many AVA regions, there are now an estimated 275 Santa Barbara wineries! It only makes sense to try them all!

Wine is a major economic driver for the region

The wine industry boosts Santa Barbara’s economy in many ways. From providing over 9000 jobs to welcoming over 1 million wine-related tourists annually, it is estimated that the industry has a $1.75 billion annual economic impact. Not bad for the New World!

Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah reign supreme

According to the Santa Barbara Association, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah are the most planted grape varietals in the region. In 2019, there was approximately 5573 acres of Pinot Noir, 4479 acres of Chardonnay, and 1207 acres of Syrah planted in Santa Barbara. That being said, you can still find varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Grenache, and Cabernet Sauvignon in many vineyards.


Ready to learn more about this incredible region? Join us for our California Winery Virtual Road Trip Stop 3 with Trusted Expert Michael Bigattini on Thursday, April 15! This class will focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and features winemaker Greg Brewer of Brewer-Clifton and winemaker Jill Russell of Cambria Winery!

Want to sip on something Californian? Check out our entire California wine collection here