Wine Growing History in Santa Barbara County

Santa Barbara County has a history of wine making and wine grape growing stretching back more than 200 years to before California was a state. From the Mission Era of early California through the Ranchero and Pueblo Era, struggling through Prohibition to the beginning of the modern era of wine making that started in the 60’s, Santa Barbara County continues to combine traditional, hand-made techniques, with the latest cutting-edge innovations in grape growing and wine making.

  • 1782: Father Junipero Serra planted Mission vine cuttings in what is now the Milpas District of Santa Barbara

  • 1804: Adobe winery constructed in Goleta

  • By the late 1800’s: 45 separate vineyards encompassing 260 acres of land are cultivated to wine grapes

  • 1884: Justinian Caire imported grape slips (vitis vinifera) from France and planted a 150-acre vineyard on Santa Cruz Island

  • 1933: Prohibition repealed

  • 1960’s: First commercial vineyard planted by Uriel Nielsen and Bill De Mattei in the Tepusquet region of Santa Maria Valley

  • 1962: Pierre Lafond opens Santa Barbara Winery, the first winery since Prohibition

  • 1970’s: Vineyard expansion by viticultural pioneers

  • 1980’s: Local wineries developed, both large premium commercial wineries and smaller artisan operations

  • 1981, 1983: Santa Maria Valley and Santa Ynez Valley recognized as official AVAs

  • 1983: Santa Barbara County Vintners Association formed

  • 1990’s: Explosive growth to +10,000 acres of premium winegrapes

  • 1992-1996: Grape and wine sales increased, making the wine industry Santa Barbara County’s largest agricultural sector

  • 1999: 39,200 tons of winegrapes crushed from 16,500 acres of vineyards. Locally, 50+ wineries produced 71,000 cases of wine

  • 2001: Sta. Rita Hills AVA status granted

  • 2004: Sideways movie brings attention and increased tourism

  • 2009: Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara granted AVA status

  • 2013:  Ballard Canyon granted official AVA status

  • 2015: Los Olivos District granted official AVA status