SANTA BARBARA WINES
Santa Barbara is in a beautiful chapter of evolution.
We live and breathe the Pacific. We are inspired by the wine pioneers who charted an untouched landscape to call their own. It’s a landscape full of character and infinite possibility. In a rare topographic twist shaped millennia ago, our distinctive valleys open directly toward the ocean. Each morning these valleys swallow cool ocean breezes, and each afternoon they inhale vibrant sunshine.
From lean and piercing to opulent and precise, this is Santa Barbara - harnessing the unbridled opportunity we have by virtue of our landscape.
These winemakers all found their path to Santa Barbara County one way or another, whether by intrigue or by childhood roots, and pursue their passion for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with a keen respect for the land and a love of sharing great wine.
Santa Barbara Wine Country
From vines initially being planted in the late 1700s to wine pioneers staking a claim in the region’s potential in the mid-20th century to the film that shook the wine industry, Santa Barbara County’s history is a captivating tale of renegades on a mission to craft some of the best wine in the world.
From seasoned winemakers to young pioneers, Santa Barbara County’s diverse landscape continues to encourage innovation, trial and carving new paths.
Topography & Climate
A tectonic shift occurring over 15 million years ago is the reason California’s southern coast starts with a heel pointing to the west before continuing in a proper south pointing trajectory. The then north-south running mountain ranges found in the area shifted to run east-west, opening the broader land mass to the sedimentation from the oceanic crust of the Pacific Plate.
And while Santa Barbara County’s southern latitude would typically be indicative of a warmer climate, because of the orientation of the east-west running ranges, the mouth to the ocean funnels cool winds and fog straight through to the valleys where many vineyards are found.
Throughout the year, the climate is mild and predictable. Winters aren’t subject to extreme drops in temperature, nor is there a lot of precipitation. This leads to early budbreak that is slowed and steadied by the marine influence. Throughout the summer months, when the valleys start to warm, the coastal winds arrive in the afternoons to cool the vines and clusters, allowing sugar development to remain consistent and slow. By harvest, winemakers enjoy a larger picking window, allowing them to highlight varying levels of ripeness for various considerations in the final blends and bottlings.
Due to the tectonic shifts, the Pacific Ocean deposited marine soils onto the region’s landscape, resulting in an amalgam of oceanic soils, left behind as sediment from the receding Pacific waters and the Santa Maria and Santa Ynez Rivers.
As a result, many vineyards are rooted in pure sand and sandy loams mixed with clay, gravel, chert, alluvial deposits and other materials or gravelly soils dotted with river rocks and granulated sand. In Sta. Rita Hills, calcareous soils including chalk, diatomaceous earth and limestone dominate.
In the AVAs closest to the coast, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay prevail, though plantings of Rhône varieties, including Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Marsanne and Roussane can be found, along with Chenin Blanc and Riesling. Further east into the warmer parts of the Santa Ynez Valley and Happy Canyon, Bordeaux varietals, Sauvignon Blanc and Rhône varieties thrive.
Here Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noirs will typically have fine tannins and showcase notes of red fruits, earth, Chinese five spice, and baking spice. In Sta. Rita Hills, the wines have firmer tannins and express blue and black fruits and notes of tea.
Chardonnays from Santa Maria Valley have a fleshy texture, but elegant framework with notes of tropical fruits like mango and pineapple, orange and lime with a savory quality. In Sta. Rita Hills, expect bold, high acidity and powerful Chardonnays with distinct notes of citrus and saline.
Greg Brewer | Brewer-Clifton
Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay
Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay is neutral, precise and deliberate. Greg characterizes wines from this region as deconstructed margaritas where they show vibrant notes of lemon, lime and salt.
Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir is corseted, big and well-intentioned with a savory underpinning to the beautifully vibrant red fruit flavors.
“Brewer-Clifton is more discipline than it is winery. And, by that, I mean everything we do is reliant upon a state of neutrality. Our priority set at work is to minimize my voice, lesson my thumbprint and impact on the wine, so as to bolden the site – enable our site to become larger, the appellation to become grander.”
Greg Brewer’s career started as a French instructor at UC Santa Barbara before being trained in wine production in 1991 at Santa Barbara Winery, located in Sta. Rita Hills. From there, Greg became enthralled with the repetitive and monastic nature of the winemaking craft. He has always followed a distinct and deliberate arc in his work, where the priority is service, subtracting extraneous elements and minimizing the insertion of self. He was one of the twelve people to map the Sta. Rita Hills AVA in 1997, which would later be officially established in 2001. His dedication to site and place and focusing on humility versus ego has not waivered for his past 25 years in the industry.
One of Greg’s bucket list items is to visit Maine and be a salty lobster fisherman wearing a yellow suit with a worn out cable knit sweater and enjoying stale clam chowder at a local restaurant.
Jill Russell | Cambria Estate
Julia's Vineyard Pinot Noir
Julia's Vineyard Pinot Noir is packed with notes of cherry, savory and spice-Santa Maria spice.
Katherine's Vineyard Chardonnay
Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay is exuberant, tropical and minerally.
“What inspires me about Santa Barbara is the spirit that we all have. I’ve had a lot of mentors down here, and everyone is willing to reach out and educate and I just know I want to spend the rest of my career here. Of course, there are times when you go run off to France or different countries to work and get inspired, but really, being home inspires me the most.”
A long time Santa Barbara wine enthusiast, Cambria Winemaker, Jill DelaRiva Russell has made wine from the region for the entirety of her career. Whilst growing up in Northern California’s Castro Valley, she took a high school job as a winery server, but followed her older brother to attend college at Cal Poly where she pursued the newly formed Wine and Viticulture degree. She studied abroad in Adelaide, Australia and took a summer internship in Menetou-Salon in France’s Loire Valley, but the Central Coast remained as her place of passion and always drew her back. Jill’s enthusiastic personality, upbeat energy, and “Jill of all trades” nature has made her an invaluable leader to the Cambria team.
Jill and her husband, Torrey, both Game of Thrones fans, recently welcomed Sansa the Goldendoodle to their family.
Adam Lee | Siduri Wines
Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir is rich, concentrated and edgy.
Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir is black, earthy and full-bodied.
“The greatest love of my life has ultimately proven in some weird way to be Pinot Noir. It’s the vehicle that’s taken me along this life’s journey. It’s what I’ve fallen in love with.”
Adam Lee’s path into the wine industry wasn’t a direct one. He was raised a Southern Baptist in Austin, Texas with the initial intention of becoming a minister. In college, his sights changed and graduated with a degree in history. While the market for history majors wasn’t necessarily large, he took a job as a wine clerk with Austin Wine & Spirits, the epicenter of the city’s wine scene. Here, his eyes and palate were opened to the magnificent wines of the world, and his passion and thirst for knowledge was only that much more amplified. A chance meeting of his now wife and fellow wine geek Dianna Novy while he was a wine buyer for Neiman Marcus led them down the path they’re on today. Both had a love of Pinot Noir and with Dianna’s more fruitful savings, they moved to California to pursue their dreams of becoming winemakers.
Since purchasing their first acre of Pinot Noir from Rose Vineyard in Anderson Valley, Adam has become synonymous with bold, luscious single-vineyard Pinot Noirs, earning accolades and a cult-following for his beautiful Siduri wines.
Adam’s personal attachment to Santa Barbara wine country extends his love for Pinot Noir. He proposed to his wife in Santa Barbara and they honeymooned in the area after their wedding. His personal affection for the area is complemented by his enthusiasm for the quality of wine, making Santa Barbara County a passion project for him.
Nielson Vineyard Pinot Noir
Nielson Vineyard Pinot Noir has earthy, graphite and complex qualities. Each wine is crafted with honesty and authenticity with the intent of expressing the site, with just a bit of an edge.
A good share of Byron winemaking takes place in the vineyard, where individual rows and blocks are selected for their potential to express both variety and site—focusing particularly on clones that best exemplify Byron’s balanced, textural and site expressive style.
Santa Barbara County Chardonnay
Santa Barbara County Chardonnay retains a bright, fresh tropical appeal underpinned by ripe fruit flavors, tart acidity and a bit of a savory quality in the final blend.
Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir benefits from the long growing season where the cool ocean influence tempers ripening and produces a bright, fresh wine with vibrant acidity, red fruit and a powerful undertone.
Coastal wind patterns, marine soils, morning fog and seaside sunsets make Santa Barbara the perfect setting for uncommon wines of stunning minerality, acidity and balance. At Nielson, we employ small lot winemaking techniques such as hand pruning, block-by-block harvesting, barrel fermentations and lees stirring to create wines that beg discovery.