The Ballard Canyon AVA is an interesting little spot in the middle of Santa Barbara County wine.
There’s a long history of farming here, a few miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, but warm enough to grow pretty much anything-grapes first came in the 1970’s and then didn’t come in force until the 1990’s. The 90’s is when most of the significant names in Ballard Canyon AVA grape farming came to the region. If you like California Syrah, Stolpman, Beckmen, Larner and Saarloos should be household names.
The defining trait of the Ballard Canyon AVA comes largely from two opposing influences. First and foremost, this is the California Central Coast and you can’t turn off the sun. It can be hot, damn hot during the summer. Secondly, though a unique geographical quirk, keeps things cool at night. Santa Barbara is California’s (and really the entire west coast of North, Central and South America’s) longest stretch of east-west coastline. In the late afternoon’s, a strong breeze comes in from the Pacific Ocean. The locals laugh that someone just turned on the AC and an hour or so later, inevitably, the fog shows up.
That cooling effect does two things for Syrah grown in Ballard Canyon. First, it helps the grapes keep their acidity. Second, it makes it a challenge to get completely ripe. There’s an old adage in the wine industry that the best spot to grow a grape is the coldest and most challenging spot, where it’ll get ripe during most years. In many ways that’s what they’ve found in Ballard Canyon.
Sitting to the east Happy Canyon is well known as the Bordeaux varietals center of the Santa Ynez Valley and there are a few regions to the west that specialize in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and other cooler climate offerings.
How Ballard Canyon AVA wines fit with Uncorked Ventures: This is one of my favorite growing regions in California and not only because I went to school in Santa Barbara. The people are nice and the Ballard Canyon AVA fits much of what we’re looking for when sourcing wine for our three online wine clubs and for our high end wine gift baskets. These are still family owned estate’s and quality is the absolute first concern. Really, what’s not to like?