This Hidden AVA Is Making French Wine In California


The best part of my job, hands down, is getting to discover new things and tell people about them. In this case, the new thing – at least to me – is Happy Canyon, which is a tiny winemaking AVA on the easternmost border of the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County, California.

Crown Point Vineyards

While that region at large is best known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Happy Canyon is different. Its microclimate and its soil composition are perfect for growing Bordeaux varietals, and the handful of vineyards there are turning them into what might possibly be the best Bordeaux blends in California.

Happy Canyon Vineyards

The trick is, you can’t go to the vineyards and try them. Happy Canyon Vineyards, Star Lane/Dierberg and Grassini Vineyards all have tasting rooms closer to the coast, but the others require special appointments, or just to find their wines at local wine shops. But the hunt is worth it: Crown Point’s 2015 Cabernet just got 97 points from Wine Enthusiast, and was named one of the 10 must-try California Cabernets of 2019.

Grassini Family Winery

I wrote about Happy Canyon in this article for Vinepair. In it, I went wine tasting at four of the AVA’s eight wineries, and interviewed the winemakers about what makes the area so special. The answer is: a lot. The best part of Happy Canyon, besides the surprise discovery of their incredible wines, is that it’s a quiet, gorgeous place filled with winemakers that have nothing but praise for the other wine houses they share the area with. It’s a little hard to find, but you should definitely try to find it.

The wine caves at Star Lane/Dierberg Vineyards

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