Oh Hi, Santa Barbara (and Ojai!)
It was a clear black night, a clear white moon... No, wait --
It was a clear blue sky, a bright yellow sun -- and Winelala was in Santa Barbara, trying to consume. So... pretty much the opposite of Nate Dog and Warren G's circumstances. But the energy was the same, because we were about to hit the city's Urban Wine Trail!!
(Perhaps you've noticed Winelala's Current Favorite is Jamie Slone's 2014 Pinot Noir. If you haven't, you should really visit the Recommendations page. Jamie Slone's wine was found deep in the tasting rooms of said trail at the end of a long, great, day.)
Most of the downtown tasting rooms' corresponding wineries are located about 45 minutes away in the Central Coast area, so having everything consolidated in a one-right-after-the-other pattern versus having to trek (drive) out into the country was super helpful. You leave one tasting room and land right in the next, bar crawl style.
Let's first draw lines though guys, because the number one response to my advice to drink more from this area has been, "I don't like California wines." Wine is nothing without geography, and California is one of the most, if not the MOST, diverse wine regions on earth, so stop painting with a big, fat, unfair brush. (For those of you who didn't immediately click over to a post on France or Italy, keep being cool!!)
Santa Barbara County is located an hour northwest of LA along the coast and is made up of the Santa Maria and Saint Ynez Valley AVAs. Santa Ynez is then broken down into four sub-AVAs. Running east to west, those are Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, Los Olivos District, Ballard Canyon, and Sta. Rita Hills. Santa Barbara is a cool climate area - Region 1b if you're into the Winkler Scale - cooler even than some of California's more northern regions, such as Napa Valley. The really cool geographic feature (one of them) that bears talking about is the east-west orientation of the Santa Ynez Mountain range and the more inland San Rafael range. Pacific breezes and fogs are funneled right into the valleys, rather than slamming into the mountains like they would if the mountains ran north-south.
The ocean's temperatures are cooler than would be expected given the latitude because of the Ekman Spiral, where warm surface water is swept away from the coast and is replaced by cold subsurface water. This cooling Pacific gorgessity allows the vineyards close to the coast to enjoy a nice, maritime climate and gives vineyards further east warm days and cool nights; ideal conditions for long growing season and hang time and thus, perfectly ripened grapes. An interesting fact (which can help deduce which AVA your wine is from in a blind tasting) is that the inland temperature goes up one degree per mile as you travel east from the coast. (So relatively speaking, Happy Canyon is a warm-climate AVA suited really well for Cab and Merlot, while Sta. Rita Hills is cool-climate and really caters to Pinot Noir, although of course, both grow both and more.)
There is a lot more technical data that we could delve into like fog and soil, but let's get back to what matters - the area is known mostly for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah, even though it grows lots of varieties - but the Pinot Noir scene is sick!!! (In the amazing, good way, that is). We visited lots of wineries over those few days, and the standouts (to me, and I'll be back to confirm) were Foley Wines, Au Bon Climat, Grassini Family Vineyards, Dragonette Cellars, and Jamie Slone.
You needed to know why, it makes every glass even more awesome when you think about how the mountains directed the cool winds, which affected fogs and sun and helped made your wine. The area is known most specifically for Chardonnay Pinot Noir, and Syrah, and lots of others but those are the stars.