Santa Ynez Valley AVA is home to more wineries than any other area in Santa Barbara County. The appellation was established in 1983 and it includes a total of 76,800 acres, of which 1,500 acres are vineyards. Chardonnay is the dominant grape in this appellation, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Merlot. The appellation runs east and west with temperatures and microclimates changing significantly from warmer in the east to cool by the time the district gets close to the Pacific Ocean. In recent years Rhone-style wines have been successfully made here, and vineyards now are also planted to Syrah, Viognier, Roussanne, Grenache, Mourvedre and Marsanne.
The Merlot grape is such a deep blue that it is named for the blackbird. It’s an early ripening grape and one of the primary varietals used In Bordeaux. Merlot is also grown in the "International style," which is harvested later to bring out more tannins and body.