Sta. Rita Hills (AVA)
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The Sta. Rita Hills AVA in Santa Barbara County is one of California’s premier cool-climate viticultural regions. Sta. Rita is one of California’s smaller AVAs and 99% of its territory falls within the larger Santa Ynez Valley AVA. Currently the appellation has over 1700 acres planted to vineyard. The region’s leading varietals are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with increasing amounts of Syrah. The Santa Rita Hills are a series of rolling east-west elevations between Lompoc and Buellton benefiting from Pacific fog and coastal breezes.

When first granted AVA status in 2001, the appellation went under the moniker “Santa Rita Hills”, but shortly after, the powerful Chilean winery Vina Santa Rita contended that the new AVA’s name was diluting its international trademark. It was a strong demonstration of the fact that appellation matters in the new global world of wine. The Santa Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance invited officials from the Chilean winery to meet with them in the bucolic setting of Santa Barbara County. After some negotiations, presumably with SRH Pinot Noir in hand by all, an amicable solution was found. The SRHWA agreed to slightly alter its name, abbreviating its spelling to “Sta. Rita Hills.” The TTB agreed with the proposed change and as of January, 2006 the Sta. Rita Hills became the official name of this appellation.

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Dennis Schaefer
is the Regional Correspondent for Sta. Rita Hills.


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