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Santa Rita Hills
The Sta. Rita Hills AVA is situated in the western reaches of the Santa Barbara County wine zone; it is entirely within the Santa Ynez Valley AVA. The Sta. Rita Hills AVA is about a 30 minute drive north of the city of Santa Barbara, and about a 90 minute drive north of Los Angeles. Sta. Rita Hills is an east-west valley, where breezes and fog from the nearby Pacific Ocean pass through the vineyards, creating a moderating effect and keeping this area cool even on hot summer days. 2700 acres are planted here, with 2100 being Pinot Noir, about 500 dedicated to Chardonnay, with the remainder being Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Viognier. In a little more than fifteen years. Sta. Rita Hills has become one of the most sought after appellations for California Pinot Noir, as the wines combine bright strawberry and dark cherry fruit, very good acidity and firm structure; the entry level Pinot Noirs are delicious, while the single vineyard and special selection offerings have the depth of fruit and the grip to age gracefully for a decade or more. Prices range from $20-$65 a bottle.

(One note: While the name of the AVA is pronounced Santa Rita Hills, just as it is written, it must be written as Sta. Rita Hills. This, the result of a court decision after Santa Rita Winery of Chile sued, claiming that the name "Santa Rita" for this AVA could cause confusion.) (Wine/Appellations)