The 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference is being held in the heart of Santa Barbara wine country in the hamlet of Buellton, CA this July 11-13. Nestled on Highway 101 and just 45 minutes northwest of Santa Barbara, 2 hours from Los Angeles, and an hour and a half south of Paso Robles (home of the 2014 Wine Tourism Conference in November), WBC14 conference organizers look forward to 3 days of awesome program content, sponsor events and presentations, and introducing (or reintroducing!) hundreds of wine bloggers to this outstanding California wine region.
The hub for all events and program content at WBC14, the Santa Ynez Marriott, is just a 15 minute walk from the Hitching Post II BBQ joint featured in the wildly popular wine-centric movie, “Sideways.” One of many cool restaurants in the area with a distinct wine theme, the Hitching Post has many similarities to the wine world of Santa Barbara County: it’s been around for many years and was well known before the movie came out; but is even now more popular and considered a household name among oenophiles and foodies alike.
Miles’ rejection of Merlot and lustful infatuation of Pinot Noir in the movie caused an uptick in the popularity of Pinot Noir wines from this region. Known as the “Sideways Effect”, more national and international eyes looked to Santa Barbara County as a premium producer of Pinot Noir. The Santa Rita Hills AVA, one of five federally sanctioned AVAs within Santa Barbara County, is known in particular for the superior production of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Lying within the Santa Ynez Valley AVA and on the western edge of the bigger appellation, just a few miles from the ocean, the Santa Rita Hills is influenced greatly by a marine layer of fog that frequently covers the area until mid-morning. The area typically experiences a period of calm midday before ocean breezes pick up in the afternoon and cool the vineyards off. The maritime influences plus the sedimentary soils with limestone deposits are key factors in this AVAs ability to produce the particularly well-suited Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines that are heralded from this AVA. The Santa Maria Valley AVA, north of Buellton, is also a fog swept and windy AVA that produces top-notch Chard and Pinot Noir. These grape varieties are considered flagship to the AVA; the high quality fruit from this AVA is high in demand – hundreds of producers from outside Santa Barbara County contract fruit from this appellation for their own wine production.
But Miles’ hatred of Merlot in the movie was really a reflection of his emotional state and dissatisfaction with his failed marriage. In fact, Merlot grows really well in Santa Barbara County! The Santa Ynez Valley AVA houses the biggest concentration of wineries in the County. With cooler temperatures and a marine influence on the western side and warmer temps on the eastern slopes, the Santa Ynez Valley AVA is home to many different varietals including Merlot, Cabernet, and several red and white Rhone varietals. Contained within the Santa Ynez Valley AVA is the Ballard Canyon AVA. Wine Enthusiast writer, Steve Heimoff, writes that growers in Ballard Canyon “have a solid track record for Rhône-inspired varieties, both red and white.”
Last but certainly not least, The Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA, located on the eastern edge of the Santa Ynez Valley AVA, is located much more inland than it’s coastal counterparts and is significantly warmer. Later ripening varieties do well, here, and the rolling hills and varied soil types make for rich, concentrated Bordeaux varieties and some Syrah. The Happy Canyon name has been around since American Prohibition – during these dry times in America’s history with wine, beer, and liquor, a “simple alcohol” was produced in Happy Canyon. Legend has it that residents in the area would “take a trip up Happy Canyon” to purchase this beverage.
The unique east-west orientation of the coastal mountains in Santa Barbara County allows the maritime influencers of fog and ocean breezes to flow over much of the wine region. The many microclimates and even-keeled maturation, even in the warmer eastern slopes within Santa Barbara County, make for a varied production of world-class wines. There are over 100 wineries in Santa Barbara County, producing over 55 different grape varieties – something for everyone in this awesome wine region.
The Wine Bloggers Conference Agenda is looking tip top and registration is open for WBC14. Please use the Registration Form to register for this great wine and wine blogging experience in the heart of Santa Barbara County. We look forward to seeing you in Buellton July 11-13, 2014!