While heavy rains late in the harvest season have raised eyebrows and concern about the outcome of the 2011 vintage in some of Northern California’s wine regions, the Golden State’s southernmost AVAs are celebrating.

“I’ve got friends up north facing some really difficult winemaking decisions right now,” says Winemaker Andrew Levi, who this summer took the helm at Happy Canyon’s Grassini Family Vineyards after many years of winemaking in Napa Valley, Sonoma County, and Bordeaux. “But the near-perfect weather conditions here in Happy Canyon have made for one of the smoothest, most consistent harvests I’ve ever worked.”

Winemakers in Happy Canyon, Santa Barbara County’s newest AVA, are not only pleased with their fruit quality, but also see the 2011 vintage as a potential chance to make a significant mark on the California wine industry.

“We certainly sympathize with what’s happening in Napa right now, but hopefully the 2011 vintage will be a chance for people to discover the superb Cabs, Merlots and Sauvignon Blancs coming out of Happy Canyon,” says Katie Grassini, manager of Grassini Family Vineyards in Happy Canyon. “Our AVA is also uniquely suited to growing Bordeaux grape varieties – and the wines represent a better value for the consumer, because we’re still making a name for ourselves.”

Located in the far eastern edge of the Santa Ynez Valley AVA, Happy Canyon delves into the San Rafael Mountains just northwest of Lake Cachuma. Its inland position means a significantly warmer climate than neighboring regions in Santa Barbara County, which ensures complete maturation for later ripening varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, as well as other Bordeaux and Rhône varieties.

“In addition to some dynamite Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, we’ve brought in some of the most beautifully-ripe Petit Verdot I’ve ever seen,” says Levi. “My buddies in Bordeaux are envious, to say the least.”


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