What makes Santa Ynez Valley a premier wine grape growing region?

What makes Santa Ynez Valley a premier wine grape growing region?
Jon Flores

Written by Jon Flores

Education and Experience Lead

The Santa Ynez Valley is a prime region for growing wine grapes thanks to the transverse Santa Ynez Mountain range and the valley’s south-facing orientation. These exceptional environmental features cause the valley to experience warm days and cool nights, which helps to preserve the grape’s natural acidity and allows the fruit to ripen slowly and evenly. This gradual ripening process leads to more intense flavors and better overall balance in the wine.

The subtle elevation and soil composition changes seen throughout the valley, caused by the transverse Santa Ynez Mountains, create numerous and greatly diverse meso-climates. Over time these meso-climates have been named, had their borders defined and appropriate varietals to grow have been identified. Below are the three main Sta. Rita Hills is home to the most premier Pinot Noir vineyards in the county. This region, established in 2001, is at the western end of the Santa Ynez Valley connecting Lompoc to Buellton and is the coolest of our growing regions.

Ballard Canyon is where Syrah makes up over half of all planted acreage and Rhone grapes account for more than 70%. This region, established in 2005, is nestled in a small canyon connecting Los Olivos and Solvang.

Los Olivos District is an all-encompassing region in the center of the valley that includes many of the area’s heritage vineyard sites. This is the newest sub-AVA of the Santa Ynez Valley, established in 2016.

Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, established in 2009, is a warm and arid grape-growing region near lake Cachuma known for producing full-bodied Bordeaux-style wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

By sourcing grapes from these growing regions as well as others Sunstone is able to represent a larger area while still paying homage to the sites where the grapes are grown. We work closely with our growers from pruning to picking to ensure that only the highest quality fruit available makes it into a bottle of Sunstone wine.