This week, vintner Fred Brander’s decade-old dream came true: the federal government granted his widely supported request to create a brand new wine-growing appellation called the Los Olivos District.
That was made official on Thursday, when the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau released its rule establishing the 22,820-acre Los Olivos District American Viticultrual Area, or AVA. It covers essentially all of the land between the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara and Ballard Canyon AVAs, including the towns of Solvang, Los Olivos, Ballard, and Santa Ynez, affecting more than 1,200 planted acres across 47 vineyards and more than a dozen wineries. It extends south to the Santa Ynez River and north to 1,000 feet in elevation.
Morgen McLauglin, head of the Santa Barbara Vintners, said the countywide organization was “thrilled” to add Los Olivos as the sixth official appellation in the county. “Fred Brander of The Brander Vineyard, along with the other growers in the area, have worked incredibly hard to make this happen,” she said. ” Further delineation of wine growing areas in Santa Barbara County will help us tell the story about our region’s wines in an even more interesting way moving forward.”
Brander, whose family started growing wine along Highway 154 in the 1970s, first conceived of the idea more than 10 years ago. According to social media posts, he left on a cruise yesterday, so could not yet be reached for comment. But when interviewed in March 2015 about the district, which was submitted around that time, he described the area as such: “It is fairly flat, with rolling hills. It’s an alluvial plain, pretty much what you find in Napa around Oakville or Yountville, where, at the base of the mountains, the slopes go flat toward the river. We have that same type of thing.” Thanks to consistent soils and moderate warmth, Brander believes the district allows for many types of Mediterranean grapes to thrive, particularly syrah, cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, sangiovese, and “maybe even some of the Spanish varietals.”
He was also very proud that there seemed to be very little if any opposition to the new Los Olivos District. “There hasn’t been really any opposition,” said Brander, who believes that’s because the region is already bordered by appellations. “We really don’t have much to argue about.”
The approval, in addition to existing appellations in Ballard Canyon, Happy Canyon, and the Sta. Rita Hills on the far west between Buellton and Lompoc, means there are only small pockets of the original Santa Ynez Valley AVA that are not covered by one of the four sub-appellations.