Ballard Canyon AVA
Santa Barbara County
Ballard Canyon is the newest of the AVA’s in Santa Barbara County, established in October of 2013. This relatively small AVA encompassing only 7,800 acres sits at the center of the Santa Ynez Valley with Los Olivos to the North East and Solvang to the South. It produces Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Roussanne, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Viognier. Syrah accounts for almost half of the planting. Ballard Canyon runs North-South, which protects it from the winds coming through the transverse valley than runs through the Santa Ynez Valley. Happy Canyon is thought of as the warmest part of the region with daytime temperatures of 102, but it also drops to 48 overnight. Ballard canyons highs are a little lower, but their nighttime lows are also a little higher, this allows the grapes to stay warmer over night and warm up more quickly in the morning. The first vines were planted in this area in 1974 at the Ballard Canyon Winery. Today this property is Rusack Vineyards.
This relatively small AVA encompassing only 7,800 acres sits at the center of the Santa Ynez Valley with Los Olivos to the North East and Solvang to the South. Soil ranges from Sand, a limestone subsoil, Clay and Clay loam soils comparable to the French Rhone Regions. The rolling hills make for a variety of micro climates.
Ballard Canyon produces Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Roussanne, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Viognier, Mouvedre. Syrah accounts for almost half of the planting.
Tom Beckmen purchased a 365 acre hillside property in 1996 that is now Beckmen Vineyards. With elevations of up to 1250 feet, this property would become the Purisima Mountain Vineyard. Tom & his son Steve farm this property and they are certified biodynamic. They vineyard is planted with seven clones of Syrah that fill 18 blocks, five clones of Grenache that fill 8 blocks and smaller plantings of Counoise, Grenache Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rousanne, Marsanne, Mourvedre and Sauvignon Blanc. The soils here are clay and clay loam with a limestone subsoil, which while typical of the soil in Rhone, is a rarity in California.
Their tasting room is at the winery and is south of Los Olivos. Take a picnic and enjoy the views from one of the three gazebos at the duck pond after your tasting!
Jonata (pronounced Ho-na-ta, which is the Chumash word for “live oak”)has an 84 acre vineyard with sandy soil planted in Syrah, Sangiovese, and Sauvignon Blanc.
When they originally bought the property the French vineyard expert they brought in found only 5 acres of land on the 600 acre property that he felt were suitable to growing grapes. Matt Dees joined them in 2004 as their winemaker and Ruben Solorzano is their vineyard manager.
Here there is extreme detail in the growing. Each shoot and cluster is individually manicured. Lots are separately pulled from each distinct part of the vineyard and put into different barrels or tanks before blending. Well known French wine expert Michel Rolland comes in to check aging potential before bottling. As a result of all of this extra attention and the fact that if a vintage doesn’t live up to their standards, they simply won’t produce a wine from it, these bottles can run up to $125 per bottle. Their 2010 La Sangre de Jonata Syrah was given 97 points by Wine Advocate.
A little back story. This winery is owned by Stanley Kroenke, a real estate developer who owns the Dever Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche. He is also one of the leaders of the consortium that purchased Screaming Eagle.
Wines here are only sold through the mailing list. http://jonata.com
Jorian Hill Vineyards can be found nestled in the foothills of Santa Barbara County, a small family-owned winery with big ideas.
Jorian Hill Vineyards produces a small-lot, estate-grown wines.
Owners Gary and Jeanne Newman are producing premium Rhône varietals including a 2010 Syrah and 2010 BEEspoke (Rhône blend.
For more on their Story
Harrison Clarke Vineyard is located in the Purisima Hills, in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley that is now the Ballard Canyon AVA. Like Beckmen Vineyard the soil is a limestone subsoil compareable to the French Rhone Regions. Clay and Clay loam soils and rolling hills make for a variety of micro climates suited well for their Rhone Varietals. They Farm 12 acres of Syrah, Grenache, Voignier and Mourvedre
Under the direction of famed vineyard manager Ruben Solórzano (AKA ‘The Grape Whisperer’), Kimsey is densely planted, meticulously farmed, and is quickly proving to be an optimal Syrah growing site.
More Information on Kimsey Vineyard Coming Soon
Larner Vineyard & Winery
Larner is on the southern end of Ballard Canyon. When Michael and Christine Larner purchased the land in 1997 it was nothing but sage and chaparral with Texas Longhorns on the property. Now the 34 acres of vineyard include 23 acres of Syrah, 6 acres of Grenache and smaller plots of Viognier, Malvasia Blanca and Mourvedre. For a number of years they sold fruit to wineries, but in 2009 they began making their own.
Michael Larner is also the instigator behind the Ballad Canyon AVA. In 2010 the vintners in Ballad Canyon gathered to coordinate an event on Syrah. Michael got them together again after the event and recruited Wes Hagen of Clos Pepe to help them develop plans for creating the AVA.
You can visit the Larner Tasting room is located in Los Olivos. They hope eventually to have a beautiful tasting room on their property in the old Ballard General Store.
The first vines were planted in this area in 1974 at the Ballard Canyon Winery. Today this property is Rusack Vineyards.
The 17 acre estate was replanted in 2003 with varieties of grape that would capture the character of Ballard Canyon. It is now planted in Sangiovese and Syrah primarily with bits of Savignon Blanc, Semillon and Petite Sirah. Everything is farmed in small lots.
The Rusack’s bought this property in 1995 and in 2013 hired Steven Gerbac to be their winemaker. In addition to their Ballard Canyon property, the Rusack’s have a newly planted vineyard on Santa Catalina Island (but that story is for another day).
The winery is set back in on the property and you follow the winding drive through the old oaks to their tasting room. They have a lovely redwood deck on the front of the tasting room with tables and great vineyard views. It is shaded by the oaks so it makes the perfect spot for a picnic.
Saarloos & Sons
Saarloos & Sons is a family business that is 4 generations in the making. Each of their releases is unique and is never duplicated. Their goal is to capture the year in a bottle and bring you a high quality wine that they name in honor of a family member. They have a 250 year plan, thinking not just for the next generation but for the next 50. Their goal is “Honoring + Preparing” and their wines are heartfelt and unique. Their winemaker and resident chronicler is Keith Saarloos. Check out the blog for amazing vineyard videos and for philosophic posts on life, family and farming (amongst other things).
And head to their tasting room in Los Olivos. If you are lucky, Brad will be there and will fill your glass and your spirit as he passionately talks about the wines and his family that made them.
Their Windmill Ranch Vineyard lies within this AVA.
And…have to mention, if you are there on the weekend, try the cupcake pairings!
Stolpman was founded in 1990 by Tom & Marilyn Stolpman. This vineyard in the limestone hills was turning out fruit for cult wines like Sine Qua Non & Ojai Vineyards, until in 1997 they started producing their own wines. Their winemaker Sashi Moorman (who also works with Sandhi & Evening Land) joined them in 2001 and works closely with the Vineyard Manager Ruben Solorzano. They have experimented with high density plantings and dry farming. They produce Syrah, Roussane, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc with limited plantings of Grenache, Viognier, Petite Sirah and Chardonnay which they mostly use for blending. Today Tom’s son Peter manages the vineyards and winery.
You can find their tasting room in Los Olivos on Alamo Pintado, in their little red cottage. The cottage has fables. One says it was moved here from Arroyo Grande in the early 1900’s. Another claims it was built from scrap lumber from an old military barracks. Regardless the Stolpman’s have filled it with a great staff and designed a Tuscan inspired bar. Plus they have a picnic area under the persimmon tree out front. In the summer they even have a farm stand with local produce.
Santa Barbara Video’s
Winemaker, Mark Horvath speaks about his Sta. Rita Hills Syrah
Central Coast Group Project
Scott Sampler on his White Hawk Syrah
Larry Schaffer – tercero on White Hawk Vineyard
Santa Barbara Stories
Michael Larner has helped to champion Syrah in Ballard Canyon. He got the ball rolling on the Ballard Canyon AVA in Santa Barbara. We spoke with Michael last year about the Syrah planted on Larner Vineyard. We had discussed the different rootstocks that they chose for the vineyard and then went deeper into the Syrah […]
Last year after the fabulous Larner Fête we had a chance to sit down with Michael Larner and talk about wine grape rootstock. Michael and his family did quite a bit of research before choosing what they would plant at Larner Vineyard. Luckily Michael’s background is in Geology, so that had some inside expertise on […]
In Santa Barbara, Mikael Sigouin is known as the “Grenache King”. This Island Boy has a winery called Kaena in Santa Barbara County where he makes some amazing Grenache as well as other wines. He sources his grapes from local vineyards, many of whom specially farm his blocks to his particular specs. One of these […]
Crushed Grapes & Open Minds an interactive experience Last August we held an event entitled “Crushed Grapes and Open Minds”. My friend RuBen with Act2Art by RuBen is an accomplished artist and created some works specifically for this event. The idea connected scent memory and art, both in the creation of the pieces and peoples […]
A few days before the “Crushed Grapes and Open Minds” event. The Artist RuBen Permel came by to install the art works. He brought the 5 paintings inspired by the wine, as well as a selection of other pieces. Including his Upland Flight series, “Three Angles Walking”, “Landscape Series 6” parts of the “Whispering Goliath […]
RuBen Permel of Act2Art is an accomplished artist. He’s actually quite the renaissance man, he is an actor and dancer, a puppeteer, a costumer, a painter, a writer, a film maker….and lucky for me, my friend. Last year we worked together on a project called “Crushed Grapes and Open Minds”. I had this idea of […]
Larner Fête 2016 A celebration with 7 Winemakers each making wine from fruit sourced from Larner Vineyard fête a celebration or festival from the Old French feste and the Middle English feast. Tables at the entrance to the yard held sparkling wine glasses for the guests You could smell the smoke from the grill and […]
I was asked recently about insights into visiting Santa Barbara. My brain goes a little crazy then, filled with all the wonderful options. It’s no secret that I love this area and it’s people. As I set out to jot down some notes, it occurred to me that I am asked this quite often. And […]
Syrah Panel Santa Barbara Vintners April 2016 Episode 7 The last of the winemakers to speak at the Syrah Seminar was Chad Melville of SAMsARA. He spoke on his 2012 SAMsARA Syrah from Donna’s Block at Melville Vineyards that Chad helped plant back in 1998. Melville to SAMsARA When you hear the name Melville you […]
Syrah Panel Santa Barbara Vintners April 2016 Episode 6 This Episode of the Seminar takes us West toward the coast to the chilly area of Sta. Rita Hills. Winemaker, Mark Horvath speaks about his Sta. Rita Hills Syrah from Zotovich Vineyard. Crawford Family Wines Crawford Family Wines produces small lots of Pinot, Chardonnay and Syrah […]
Syrah Seminar 2016 Santa Barbara Vintners Our Syrah Seminar Series continues with Scott Sampler of the Central Coast Group Project speaking on his “Names” 2012 White Hawk Syrah. This is another Syrah from the Los Alamos Valley in Santa Barbara County. This Valley lies at the mid point, North and South of the Santa Barbara […]
Syrah Panel Santa Barbara Vintners April 2016 Episode 4 Larry Schaffer – tercero on White Hawk Vineyard This episode of the Syrah Seminar in Santa Barbara includes the conversation with Larry Schaffer of tercero. He speaks on White Hawk Vineyard in the Los Alamos Valley and his 2011 White Hawk Vineyard Syrah. Larry is the […]