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The History of Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country

The Mission system was the backbone of Spain’s institutional power in Alta California. The Spanish and the Indian inhabitants of the Mission raised livestock and agricultural crops. The establishment of vineyards and production of wine was a high priority. Although many of the Mission’s buildings were damaged by the earthquake of 1812, they were quickly re-built. The new Church was completed in 1817.

The early, secular economy revolved around raising cattle, but began to shift more towards agriculture in the late 19th century. The Danish town of Solvang was established in 1911, and quickly became a significant tourist attraction.

Prior to Prohibition, there were several wineries and approximately 5,000 acres of vineyards in the region. From 1919 to the early 1960s, very little was invested in Santa Ynez viticulture, and the region’s wine industry was decimated. It was generally regarded as too cold to produce large quantities of grapes for the jug and fortified wines of the day.

Pierre Lafond ushered in the modern industry in 1962. His tiny Santa Barbara Winery also functioned as a general store. It was the first Post-Prohibition winery built in Santa Barbara County.

It was not until the renaissance of the 1960s that experimentation with cooler-weather varietals like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were conducted successfully near the coast. Fuller bodied varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah also began to be planted in warmer, inland locations.

Many Santa Ynez Wineries were established during the 1970s. Zaca Mesa Winery began planting vineyards in 1972. They were one of the first to realize the potential of Syrah in the eastern hills. The Santa Ynez Valley AVA was established in 1983.

> Santa Ynez Valley Wineries

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