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How softly Santa Ynez Valley eclipsed California's prestigious wine regions in the spotlight

Stretching across a large portion of Santa Barbara County, the Santa Ynez Valley has transformed from a sleepy ranching and wine-growing region into a premier dining and accommodation destination that's challenging Sonoma and Napa. Over the past fifteen years, I have been there several times, usually to investigate the exceptional wine scene and see how ancillary wine tourism services, such as restaurants, boutique stores, and hotels, have caught up with its bottled offering. Such rural gentrification typically results in the erosion of a region's traditional cultural heritage and character in favor of glitter and flash—the transformation of Napa Valley by Silicon Valley is a frequently cited example of this phenomenon. Currently, Santa Ynez Valley is firmly rooted in its history because the region's economy is still fueled by agriculture and ranching, the equine industry.

During many years, residents of Los Angeles preferred weekend trips to the interior towns of Santa Ynez Valley due to Santa Barbara's seaside Spanish Colonial feel. Despite being situated between the Santa Ynez and San Rafael mountains, Santa Ynez Valley is easily accessible by road, being just 30 minutes from Santa Barbara's beaches, two hours from Los Angeles, and four hours from San Francisco. The Santa Ynez Valley has six distinct towns each with their own culture and roster of experiences, though many feature an old frontier vibe that helps define the region’s charm.

The seven AVAs in Santa Barbara County would occupy even the most avid wine enthusiast for several months. The most discriminating wine connoisseurs can locate their favorite bottles in Alisos Canyon, Ballard Canyon, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, Los Olivos District, Santa Maria Hills, Santa Ynez Valley, and Sta. Rita Hills due to the region's diverse temperature, varietals, and styles.

 Santa Ynez Valley has everything you could want: charming small towns, a nod to the classic California western scene, and cutting-edge eateries, pubs, and wineries. If at all possible, just try to keep it a secret. Visit the Santa Ynez Valley Artisan Excursion Wine Tours website to get ideas for your vacation,


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