This stunning wine region on the southern end of California’s Central Coast is by far one of the more unique and dynamic in the state.

We have all heard of Napa Valley and Sonoma, two of the most renowned wine regions in California and all of the United States. But, have you heard of the Santa Ynez Valley? If not, you should, and our guide is the perfect place to get you started on understanding the Santa Ynez Valley wine country and planning your next grape escape. 


Only 40 minutes from Santa Barbara Municipal Airport, two hours north of Los Angeles and four-hours south of San Francisco, you’ll find the Santa Ynez Valley. What might be Hollywood’s closest wine region is the furthest thing like its star-studded neighbor.


The weather in this Central Coast wine region allows for year-round activities making it ideal for any season. The Santa Ynez Valley features more than 100 wineries, 50 unique accommodations for every price point, chef-driven cuisine, and festive events, all painted into atmospheric backdrops which colorfully mesh Old World, Old West, Victorian-era, and mid-century to modern Danish.

AVAs in the Santa Ynez Valley - wine regions of Santa Ynez Valley

The laid back, farming communities of the Santa Ynez Valley make up the largest of the six federally-sanctioned American Viticultural Areas AVAs within the Santa Barbara County AVA.

The Santa Maria Valley AVA is the second largest within the Santa Barbara County AVA. The other four AVAs are actually sub-AVAs of the Santa Ynez Valley – Sta. Rita Hills, Ballard Canyon, Los Olivos District and Happy Canyon.

The movie, Sideways, may have put the Santa Ynez Valley on the map. But its terroir has its own sideways effect as it’s home to the West Coast’s only east-west transverse mountain range. Which means the winds go from east to west, making them direct conduits for winds that carry the cool air and fog from the Pacific Ocean.

The Santa Ynez Valley is home to the West Coast’s only east-west transverse mountain range. What does this mean?

The two mountain ranges that make up the wine regions in Santa Barbara County run east to west, unlike the rest of the state’s mountains that run north to south. In fact, this is the only stretch of land from Alaska to Cape Horn constituting an east-west traverse.

This unique feature means that the winds go from east to west, making them direct conduits for winds that carry the cool air and fog from the Pacific Ocean.

The winds are so strong they literally make trees twist and turn, creating uniquely shaped trunks that sometimes hug the ground.

There are 100+ Santa Ynez Valley wineries, you’re bound to sip well no matter where you go. Our top favorites are…

Dierberg Star Lane

Brave & Maiden


Plan Your Santa Ynez Valley Wine Vacation

With more than 100 wineries, wine tasting is one of the top things to do in the Santa Ynez Valley, but you will miss out on a lot if you don’t go beyond the vines. The area is home to so many fun activities! If you’re in the area and looking for things to do in Santa Ynez Valley besides wine tasting, we’ve got some great picks for you.

There are plenty of trails ready for you to explore, but a hike up to the Nojoqui Falls is a must. Not only is it stunning but the story behind the falls is beautiful

While wine tastings might be one of the big things to do in Santa Ynez Valley, tasting olive oil isn’t too far behind. Global Gardens offers an amazing olive oil tasting at its wine country Farm Stand.

EAT! There are so many amazing local restaurants you can eat your way through you may consider extending your trip…and your belt. We have a few favorites here.


Elaine Schoch

Elaine N. Schoch

Elaine Schoch (pronounced the German way – Shock) is the editor and founder of Carpe Travel as well as an award-winning travel writer, wine judge, certified by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 and certified American Wine Expert. She is married to The Husband and has two kids, Princess One and Two – who’s interest and knowledge in wine is quite extensive. Not to mention the stamps in their passports.