The Santa Rita Hills AVA (American Viticultural Area) is a region for California wines located in Santa Barbara County. It is found in the western part of the Santa Ynez Valley, near the Pacific Ocean. This area is known for its unique combination of cool marine air, rolling hills, and fertile soil, which creates ideal growing conditions for cool-climate wine grapes such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah.
The Santa Rita Hills AVA was officially recognized in 2001 and covers about 26,000 acres of land. The region is known for producing wines with high acidity, bright fruit flavors, and complex aromas. Many of the wineries in the Santa Rita Hills AVA are small, family-owned operations that focus on producing high-quality, artisanal wines.
The Santa Barbara County Vintners Association clarifies: “One of the smaller AVAs in California, the eastern edge of Sta. Rita Hills is about four miles west of Highway 101 in Buellton and continues to the western boundary, about two miles east of Highway 1 in Lompoc. The Sta. Rita Hills AVA is home to over 59 vineyards, totaling 2,700 hundred acres planted to the red wine Pinot Noir, the white wine Chardonnay and 18 other cool climate wine grape varieties.” Overall, the Santa Rita Hills AVA is considered one of the premier wine-growing regions in California and is highly regarded by wine connoisseurs and enthusiasts alike.
Unique Transverse Terroir
The unique climate of the Santa Rita Hills AVA is partly due to the transverse nature of the mountains that meet the ocean. The transverse range of the Santa Ynez Mountains runs perpendicular to the coast, creating a gap or pass that allows cool marine air to flow inland. This cool ocean air slows down the ripening process of the grapes, preserving their acidity and resulting in wines with bright fruit flavors and high acidity.
In addition to the transverse range, the rolling hills of the region provide excellent drainage and exposure to sunlight, which are important factors for growing high-quality grapes. The soils in the Santa Rita Hills AVA are also unique and contribute to the character of the wines produced there. The soils are largely composed of sandstone and shale, which are well-drained and provide good water retention, as well as a mineral character that can be tasted in the wines. All of these factors combine to create a unique microclimate in the Santa Rita Hills AVA that is ideal for growing high-quality wine grapes, and the wines produced in this region are highly sought after for their distinctive character and quality.
A History of Rapid Evolution Towards Quality Wine
The Santa Rita Hills AVA has evolved rapidly as a California wine producing region over the past several decades. The region was first planted with vineyards in the 1970s, and since then, it has become one of the most highly regarded wine-growing regions in the state. One of the key factors in the rapid evolution of the Santa Rita Hills AVA as a wine-producing region has been the quality of the wines produced there. Demand has helped to drive growth in the region, as more and more vineyards have been established and more wineries have opened to meet the demand. Another factor in the rapid evolution of the Santa Rita Hills AVA has been the increased focus on sustainable and environmentally responsible wine-growing practices. Many of the wineries in the region are family-owned operations that are deeply committed to preserving the unique character of the area, and they have embraced sustainable practices such as organic and biodynamic farming, water conservation, and wildlife habitat preservation.
Recommended Wines from Santa Rita Hills
Your favorite wine store USA has plenty of Santa Rita Hills wines to choose from, most from high-quality boutique producers.
Consider these voluptuous options, which showcase the AVA’s variety:
- 2021 Brewer-Clifton Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
- 2021 Arnot-Roberts Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Chardonnay
- 2018 Liquid Farm Golden Slope Chardonnay
- 2018 Camins 2 Dreams Spear Vineyards Syrah
- Racines Sta. Rita HIlls Grand Reserve Sparkling Wine
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