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A Sustainability Leader, Santa Barbara County Is the Wine Region of the Year | Wine Enthusiast’s 2021 Wine Star Awards

Saarloos and Sons Vineyard, Ballard Canyon / Photo by George Rose

With a stunning diversity of microclimates, a thriving culinary scene and a small yet cosmopolitan seaside city as its cultural core, Santa Barbara County is a wine lover’s paradise.

Whether you prefer Chardonnay from the Santa Maria Valley, Pinot Noir from the Sta. Rita Hills, Syrah from Ballard Canyon, Sauvignon Blanc from the Los Olivos District, Cabernet Sauvignon from Happy Canyon or even Gamay Noir from Alisos Canyon, there’s an appellation and grape variety for every palate, thanks to a unique geography of valleys that open directly onto the cold Pacific Ocean.

The same diversity exists for tasting experiences—lavish estates, cozy cottages, urban warehouses and waterfront tables are all within a short drive of each other. 

Santa Barbara County is also a leader in sustainability, as it is home to some of the country’s first organic, biodynamic and regenerative vineyards.

But people count here, too. There’s a higher proportion of female winemakers in this region than anywhere else in California. Additionally, an increasing number of wineries elevate visibility of and opportunities for farm workers through special bottlings and scholarships.

For these reasons and more, Santa Barbara County is the 2021 Wine Star Award winner for Wine Region of the Year.