Santa Barbara County is not an AVA, but a region just south of San Luis Obispo that includes the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Maria Valley appellations. Wine has been produced in the area since the 18th century when Spanish missionaries planted vineyards. It wasn’t until the 1990s, however, that producers focused on growing premier grapes for fine wines. During the 1990s more than 10,000 acres of vineyards were planted, and today there are nearly 20,000 acres of vineyards. The region received a big bump in recognition and prestige when the popular film “Sideways” was shot there in 2004. Because the region is affected by maritime weather, it is relatively cool climate makes it ideal for Chardonnay. Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and an increasingly adventuresome number of varietals are also grown successfully in Santa Barbara County.
On the Iberian peninsula, one grape belongs to two different countries and is called by two different names: Albarino in Spain, Alvarhino in Portugal. Either way, it makes an underrated white wine that is akin to Riesling and fabulous with seafood and shellfish.