Santa Rita Hills AVA

Santa Rita Hills AVA

34°38′03″ N


120°17′17″ W




about this subregion

Situated between the Purisima and Santa Rosa mountain ranges, at the western edge of the Santa Ynez AVA, you'll discover the Santa Rita Hills AVA. This Californian wine region possesses an ideal environment for grape cultivation and is the best place to taste wines from the finest wineries in Santa Rosa. Its distinctive terroir is marked by the influence of cool coastal conditions, making it a prime location for vineyards specializing in Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Chardonnay.

The maritime climate in Santa Rita Hills, shaped by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, introduces refreshing breezes and morning fog. These natural elements provide a nurturing backdrop for Pinot Noir grapes, enabling them to thrive and develop their unique characteristics. Additionally, Syrah and Chardonnay vines flourish in this region, benefiting from the cool climate and well-draining soils.

The terroir of the Santa Rita Hills AVA plays a pivotal role in shaping both grapes and wines, establishing a reputation for exceptional Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Chardonnay varietals. This distinctive blend of environmental factors solidifies Santa Rita Hills as a respected and notable wine-producing region in California.


vinerra illustration

Vineyard Hectares



2200 - 2300


Discover Terroir

The Santa Rita Hills AVA, situated in California's Central Coast AVA, is a picturesque and unique viticultural area. Nestled within the larger Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County, this region is characterized by its distinctive and varied landscape. Rolling hills dominate the terrain, offering a patchwork of vineyards that sprawl across the undulating topography. These hills provide a range of exposures and microclimates, ideal for viticulture.

Enclosed between the Purisima Hills to the north and the Santa Rosa Hills to the south, the AVA presents a diverse and scenic landscape. The region's proximity to the Pacific Ocean is a defining feature, contributing to the fog and cool ocean breezes that shape its climate and, in turn, the character of its wines. Vineyards are often found on slopes with varying aspects, benefiting from the optimal sun exposure and the well-drained soils that are characteristic of the area.

The beauty of the Santa Rita Hills AVA is not just in its natural landscape but also in its cultivated vineyards, which are meticulously managed to harness the region's unique terroir. The Santa Rita Hills Wine Alliance, a group of local winegrowers and winemakers, is instrumental in promoting and preserving the distinct qualities of this region. Their dedication to sustainable and innovative viticulture practices is evident in the quality of the wines produced here, making the Santa Rita Hills AVA a cherished gem in California's wine country.

The Santa Rita Hills AVA, renowned for its distinctive climate, is a prime example of how geography influences viticulture. This region benefits from a cool, maritime climate, largely shaped by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The ocean's influence is pivotal, bringing in a persistent marine layer and regular ocean breezes that play a crucial role in moderating the area's temperatures.

This AVA is characterized by its long, dry growing seasons, marked by ample sunlight during the day and significantly cooler temperatures at night. This diurnal temperature variation is crucial for grape development, allowing for a slow and even ripening process. The cool nights help maintain the grapes' natural acidity, a key factor in producing wines with a balanced and complex profile.

Rainfall in the Santa Rita Hills is relatively minimal and mostly concentrated during the winter months. This limited rainfall, combined with the AVA's well-drained soils, creates a growing environment where vines can thrive under stress, concentrating flavors and characteristics in the grapes.

Overall, the climate of the Santa Rita Hills AVA is a delicate interplay of oceanic influence and regional topography, creating a unique microclimate that is ideally suited for growing high-quality wine grapes. This distinct climate, marked by cool, foggy mornings and sunny, breezy afternoons, is a defining feature of the region and a key contributor to the character and quality of its wines.

The Santa Rita Hills AVA in California is distinguished by its varied soil composition, which has a profound influence on its viticulture:

  1. Sandy Soils: Extensive areas of loose, deep sandy soils, sometimes purely sandy, are a characteristic feature, especially around the central areas like the Melville Winery.
  2. Clay Soils: The western section of the AVA is known for its clay soils, valued for their ability to hold water and nutrients, aiding in the growth of specific grape types.
  3. Loam Soils: Dominating the eastern part, these soils, including both loam and sandy variants, offer a blend of drainage and nutrient retention, facilitating the cultivation of diverse grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Riesling.
  4. Silt and Clay Loams: These loam types further add to the soil diversity, being prevalent throughout the region.
  5. Marine Deposits: These deposits, spread across the area, impart a unique mineral and saline quality to the wines, a result of the AVA's closeness to the sea.
  6. Diatomaceous Earth: Particularly found near the AVA's western boundary, near Lompoc, this soil type is known for its high silica content and is conducive to growing notable Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

The distinct soil types of the Santa Rita Hills AVA are central to the unique character and taste profiles of the wines produced in this renowned wine-growing area of California.


The Santa Rita Hills AVA, nestled within California's Central Coast region, is renowned for its exceptional viticultural environment, particularly favorable for cultivating Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Chardonnay grapes. This area's unique climate and geographical features create an ideal setting for these specific varietals, each requiring distinct agricultural and climatic conditions to thrive.

  1. Pinot Noir: Pinot Noir, a grape known for its preference for cooler climates, finds a perfect home in the Santa Rita Hills AVA. The region's proximity to the Pacific Ocean ensures a consistent marine layer and cool ocean breezes, which are essential in moderating the overall temperature. This cooler climate, coupled with the area's rocky soil, provides an ideal environment for Pinot Noir vines. The grapes benefit from the long, dry growing seasons that promote slow, steady ripening - a key factor in developing the complexity for which Pinot Noir is celebrated. Furthermore, the AVA's varied topography allows vineyards to be planted on various slopes and orientations, offering diverse microclimates that Pinot Noir can exploit to its advantage.
  2. Syrah: Syrah, while also thriving in cool climates, exhibits a unique adaptability in the Santa Rita Hills. This varietal demands ample sunlight and heat to fully ripen, yet it also benefits from the cooler temperatures at night, a characteristic climate feature of this region. The diurnal temperature variation ensures the development of both ripe, robust flavors and maintained acidity in the grapes. The soils in Santa Rita Hills, often characterized by their rocky and well-drained nature, are conducive to the growth of Syrah vines, allowing for deep root penetration and sufficient water drainage. These soil conditions, combined with the region's microclimates, enable Syrah to express its varietal characteristics fully while maintaining a balance between sugar and acidity levels.
  3. Chardonnay: Chardonnay in the Santa Rita Hills AVA flourishes under the influence of the maritime climate. This varietal requires a balance of cooler temperatures to maintain its acidity and enough warmth for proper maturation. The fog and breezes from the nearby Pacific Ocean provide a cooling effect, which is crucial for Chardonnay, especially during the critical ripening period. The soils, ranging from sandy to loamy, contribute to the overall health of the Chardonnay vines, offering good drainage and the right nutrient balance. These soil types also play a pivotal role in the water retention capabilities, which is particularly important for Chardonnay to develop its unique characteristics. The long growing season in the Santa Rita Hills allows Chardonnay grapes to ripen slowly and steadily, ensuring the development of complexity and depth in the resulting wines.

The Santa Rita Hills AVA, located in California's Central Coast, is renowned for producing distinctive wines, notably from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah grapes. The region's unique environment lends exceptional aromatic and flavor characteristics to these varietals, distinguishing them in the world of wine.

  1. Pinot Noir Wines: Santa Rita Hills AVA’s Pinot Noir wines are celebrated for their intricate aromatic composition and depth. These wines commonly feature red fruit aromas like cherry and raspberry, mingled with earthy tones and delicate floral accents, such as violet. On tasting, they offer a balanced fusion of fruitiness and a smooth texture. The cooler regional climate contributes to their bright acidity and sophisticated complexity, culminating in a refined and persistent finish.
  2. Chardonnay Wines: The Chardonnay wines from this region are characterized by their lively and diverse aromatic and taste profiles. Aromatically, they often present citrus notes, including lemon and lime, alongside green apple and pear, with occasional mineral and subtle oak influences. Flavor-wise, these wines strike a balance with their crisp acidity and full-bodied nature. The maritime climate of the area ensures that the flavors are distinct and enduring.
  3. Syrah Wines: Known for their richness and aromatic complexity, the Syrah wines of the Santa Rita Hills exhibit dark fruit scents like blackberry and plum, along with spicy elements of black pepper and sometimes smoky or savory nuances. These full-bodied wines are velvety in texture, with a flavor profile that echoes the nose, adding layers of intensity. The cooler evening temperatures in the region aid in maintaining the acidity, enhancing the structure and length of the wines’ finish.