The Wandering Wino Blog

Stolpman Vineyard

Windmill Ranch

For the '805' there has been some big news in the wine world within the past couple of weeks. Ballard Canyon is the newest recognized wine region inside of Santa Barbara County. 


What does this mean? 


Ballard Canyon AVA


A couple of things, starting with wine labels likely will show off the new AVA name, Ballard Canyon. In my view, on some level there is a science to this, and on the other hand, it becomes marketing.


Stolpman Vineyard


(Above Single Photo - Taken by Lee Tomkow with my camera)



As Ballard Canyon is noted for producing stellar Rhones (like Viognier,Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, among others), it can become a platform for the wine market. Just like the Oakville AVA of the Napa Valley has showcased itself as being a premiere Cabernet region, Ballard Canyon will have the same opportunity. I had a chance to discuss the new AVA with Keith Saarloos of Saarloos and Sons. Keith says, "It's like a dot on the map or a zip code. Every sommelier has to know Ballard Canyon now." With the new AVA recognized officially, I asked Keith how he will label his wines that have been labeled Santa Ynez Valley. He said, "Ballard Canyon AVA."



Keith Saarloos 

Windmill Ranch


Another destinction and purpose for the new AVA is being different in aspects such as climate, soil, rain, wind, and temperture variance. Each grape requires different conditions of climate, weather, leafing, trellising, and farming, to shine in the best possible light.


In a previous article I wrote about 'How To Buy Wine Like A Champion,'  I suggested buying very specific wines from regions that are best suited for their respective grapes. It is kind of supporting the similar concept of ordering a steak at a steak house, and fish at a fish house. So do not drink Chardonnay from Mexico or buy Cabernet from Alaska. It would, however, be wise to consider Rhones from Ballard Canyon. 


A part of the marketing idea is that this specific region of Ballard Canyon that sits inside of Santa Ynez Valley, has specific conditions to produce very high quality Rhones, some Bordeaux varietals, and a little Sangiovese. As consumers get out, taste the wines, see the labeling, they will begin to identify high quality wines from this region.



Ballard Canyon

Ballard Canyon Saarloos & Sons


Many Santa Barbara wine industry professionals and residents have been clear in their interest to stay on the smaller side in Santa Barbara County, with a smaller community,and simply produce stellar wines. So far, Santa Barbara has done an excellent job of maintaining more of a community vibe, less build-up, and less big brand business which is often seen in other wine regions. That'old-school' vibe is a big piece of the romance to Santa Barbara wine country in my view.



Ballard Canyon



No hotels, restaurants, water parks, bungy jumps or bouncy castles can be found inside of Ballard Canyon, just beautiful vineyards, country roads, ranches, and a few wineries. I have often shared with many others that Ballard Canyon is one of the most beautiful drives in wine country.





From my years of consuming great wines from Ballard Canyon, the high quality resonates an excitement for me each time I simply look at a bottle. So if it is tasting the wine, or simply being there in Ballard Canyon, it is no doubt an exciting place. Get out and explore for yourself if you haven't already!


Ballard Canyon Details:

Location: Middle of Santa Ynez Valley between of Hwys 101, 154, and 246. 

Rusack Vineyard sits almost in the very middle of Ballard Canyon.

Acres: 7,794

Climate - Hills protect from wind and maintain more heat. Cooler nights help the acidity and the fruit to have a longer growing season that can produce more complex wines.

Soil - Sand mixed with some clay, limestone, chalk, and chert. 

Ballard Canyon is the smallest AVA in Santa Barbara County with less than 600 acres planted. Ballard Canyon is in a special and unique place as it sits between one of the coolest regions of Sta Rita Hills and the hottest AVA in Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara. 

Vineyards and some varietals include:


Larner -Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre

Rusack - Syrah, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Cab Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot 


Windmill Ranck (AKA Saarloos & sons) - Grenache, Syrah, Grenache Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon


Stolpman - Sangiovese, Syrah, Roussanne, Grenache

Tiera Alta - Grenache, Syrah, Viognier 

Jorian Hill

Harrison Clarke