Santa Barbara Wineries, Wine Tours, and Tasting Rooms
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Wine Santa Barbara



The oldest known wine production dates to about 5500 BC in Iran. About 4500 BC is the first evidence of wine production in Europe. 

Later evidence points to domesticated grapevines in Egypt and the Near East about 3000 BC. Evidence of wild wine dating to 2000 BC has been found in China.

In Rome and Greece during Classical times wine was common. During the Roman Empire wine barrels were used for storing wine, new grape cultivation techniques were developed, and a significant number of new grape varietals were developed.

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Grapes have been cultivated in the Santa Barbara region for more than two centuries, and during this time winemaking as been a vital craft. Long before statehood there were many vinters producing wine.

The modern reputation of the Santa Barbara region is a world class wine producing area began in the 1960s when high quality, fine wines began to be produced, including some world class vintages. 

The modern era has brought innovations and improvements to the art and science of growing grapes as well as making wine. The proud traditions of Santa Barbara’s pioneering wine producers continue today as the Santa Barbara region continues to give rise to new vineyards and wineries while the many in existence already continue to evolve and create their fine wines.

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1782 - Cuttings of grapevines are brought to Santa Barbara from Mexico by Father Junipero Serra. These cuttings were first cultivated in what is now the Milpas district, which sits in the lower reaches of Sycamore Creek. Later another vineyard, the mission’s largest, was planted over a 25 acre area near San Jose Creek further north.

1804 - An adobe winery is constructed near the mission’s large vineyard in the San Jose Creek area. Today this is the oldest landmark in Goleta.

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1800s - The “Mission” grape variety, a hardy and productive variety of uncertain origin, is used to produce sacramental wine for California Missions built by the Franciscan Brothers. Only one other California mission produced more wine than Santa Barbara. Spanish rancheros also grew grapes and produced significant quantities of wine, mostly brandy, for pleasure.

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Late 1800s - About 260 acres of land in the Santa Barbara region are cultivated in grapes. These grape producing areas consisted of 45 separate vineyards. The Mission grape variety was still the predominant species grown, and 17 different winemakers converted the region’s grapes into wine.

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1884 - On Santa Cruz Island off the coast of Santa Barbara a Frenchman named Justinian Caire plants a vineyard on 150 acres using grape slips brought from France. The plants included Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon of the European vinifera varieties. The wine was bottled in San Francisco and was quite distinguished until the Prohibition halted the operation in 1918 when the Caire’s last vintage was produced.

1933 - The wine industry begins to make a comeback due to the repealing of Prohibition. Though the Great Depression was in its fourth year, the wine industry was one of the few types of businesses that saw growth.

1960s - In the early years of this decade Bill De Mattei and Uriel Nielsen planted the Santa Barbara region’s first modern vineyards. The vines were Chardonnay, Sylvaner, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Sylvaner, and Sauvignon Blanc, and they were planted in Santa Maria Valley in the Tepusquet region. The effort was encouraged by Napa Valley’s Christian Brothers and the first harvest took place in 1968. Christian Brothers paid $325 per ton for the grapes on a five year contract. Soon grapes were planted in other areas of Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Maria Valley.

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1962 - Pierre Lafond opens Santa Barbara’s first winery since the days of Prohibition. It would take another decade for the second winery in the region to appear.

1964 - Santa Barbara Winery relocates to Anacapa and Yanonali Streets in downtown Santa Barbara.

1965 - Demattei and Nielson plant Santa Barbara County’s first vineyard since the days of Prohibition. The vineyard covers about 100 acres.

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1971 - Lafond Vineyards plants 65 acres on the western tip of Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Rita Hills.

1972 - Zaca Mesa Winery purchases property, and the following year begins planting Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Grenache, and Syrah. In 1978 Zaca Mesa plants the first Syrah in Santa Barbara County, and also constructs a winery which is expanded in 1981.

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1975 - Firestone produces their first vintage using local grapes making them the first estate winery to do so in the region.

Early 1980s - 13 wineries exist in Santa Barbara County.

Late 1980s - 29 wineries in Santa Barbara County are growing more than 9,600 acres of grapes, about one-third of which are being made into wine locally. Vinters and viticulturists continue to experiment with different grape varietals and farming techniques, and learn about the microclimates of the various growing areas and which varietals they are suitable for growing. The federally approved appellations of Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Maria Valley are established.

1995 - Zaca Mesa Winery becomes the first of the Central Coast wineries to be listed among the Wine Spectator’s Top 10.

1996 - The Syrah of Zaca Mesa is served to French President Jacque Chirac by President Clinton at a White House State Dinner. Later Zaca Mesa wines are also served at the 80th birthday party of President Reagan.

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2001 - The Santa Rita Hills region located on the westernmost portion of Santa Ynez Valley earns recognition as a separate and distinct American Viticultural Area (AVA) by the BATF, which is the division of the Treasury Department that controls appellations.

2005 - The movie Sideways is released, bringing new recognition to the Pinot Noir wines produced in Santa Ynez Valley.

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