The Alisos Canyon area has long been revered for its high-quality fruit with its unique affinity towards Rhone-style varietals, and now the TTB has formally recognized Alisos Canyon as the region’s newest American Viticultural Area (AVA). Nestled between the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Maria Valley, Alisos Canyon is a tightly defined, stand-alone AVA that covers 5,774
acres distinguished by its unique geology, soil structure and climate pattern.
- The Alisos Canyon AVA exhibits a distinct viticultural influence of the San Antonio Creek Valley, which runs directly from the mouth of Alisos and Comasa Canyons to the Pacific Ocean 20 miles to the west.
- The ingress of cooling marine winds and fog along the San Antonio Creek Valley helps define the climate of the Alisos Canyon AVA. Due to some of the greatest diurnal shifts in the central coast, the mean temperature is one of the lowest of all AVAs, resulting in a degree-day average above Santa Rita Hills and significantly below Ballard Canyon.
- Soils are based on weathered sandstone and shale, the Paso Robles and Sisquoc formations with a rare limestone streak along the corridor of the AVA.
As a result of the distinct meso-climate and specific soil characteristics, Alisos Canyon produces amongst the finest Rhone style wines on the West Coast with elegant flavor, expressive aromatics and significant longevity. Syrah, Grenache, Grenache Blanc and Petite Sirah are among the standouts in Alisos Canyon.
In Northern Santa Barbara County, there are three primary “channels” that run from the Pacific Ocean to the interior coastal ranges: The Santa Ynez River channel to the south (feeds into Ballard Canyon), the Santa Maria River channel to the north (feeds into Foxen Canyon), and the San Antonio Creek channel in the middle (feeds into Alisos Canyon). Interestingly, there is a consistent distance of 24.5 miles from the Pacific down these channels where top Rhone varietals are grown. “Alisos Canyon falls perfectly within the Goldilocks Rhone Zone, a phenomenon that has proven itself true over three decades of winegrowing history in Santa Barbara,” said Wes Hagen, winemaker and author of the AVA petition.
Alisos Canyon joins six other AVAs in Santa Barbara County. Historically, the region has added only one AVA about every five years. Grape growers have carefully studied the data of each phase within the seasons throughout the three decades and have defined the areas that produce this distinct and diverse wine style throughout the county. The unique, transverse nature of the valleys of Santa Barbara Wine Country provides a patchwork quilt if microclimates and terrains, resulting in one of the most diversem grape growing regions in the world.
During the AVA petition process, researchers highlighted a geological phenomenon called “The Goldilocks Rhone Zone,” where the climate is perfectly suited for Rhone grapes.
The Goldilocks Rhone Zone
Alisos Canyon AVA falls within a geological phenomenon called “The Goldilocks Rhone Zone,” where the climate is perfectly suited for Rhone grapes. In Northern Santa Barbara County, there are three primary “channels” that run from the Pacific Ocean to the interior coastal ranges: the Santa Ynez River, Santa Maria River channel, and San Antonio Creek channel. There is a consistent distance of 24.5 miles from the Pacific down these channels where top Rhone varietals are grown.
More About the Region
The newly established Alisos Canyon joins six other AVAs in Santa Barbara County. The region started with the establishment of the second AVA in California and the third in the US: Santa Maria Valley (1981), known for Bien Nacido, cool winds, fog and sandy soils perfect for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
The Santa Ynez Valley (1983) was a massive collection of climates and soils, having the most diverse winegrape plantings in the world in the 30 miles from Lake Cachuma to Lompoc. Sta. Rita Hills (2000) carved out the perfect Region 1, cool-climate area between Lompoc and the Buellton Flats, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara (2009) provides a hot, arid location with large temperature swings, perfect for Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc. Ballard Canyon (2013) is a peripheral promontory with marginal climate perfect for mostly Rhone varietals. Los Olivos District (2016) was a necessary boundary that expresses the ‘core’ of the SYV AVA, containing many of the most venerable and important vineyard sources in Santa Ynez Valley (for Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Italian, French and Spanish wine varieties).
About Santa Barbara Vintners
Santa Barbara Vintners (Santa Barbara County Vintners Association) is a non-profit 501(c)6 organization founded in 1983 to support and promote Santa Barbara County as a world-class wine producing and wine grape growing region. The association includes winery members whose annual production is at least 75% Santa Barbara County (or sub-AVA) labeled, winery associates, vineyards, vineyard management companies, hospitality, and industry associate members. The association produces festivals and wine country weekends; educational seminars and tastings; provides information to consumers, trade, and media; and advocates for the Santa Barbara County wine and grape industry.