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San Luis Obispo & Santa Barbara

San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties contains a number of highly regarded AVAs that have made their reputation on producing powerful and complex examples of Rhone varieties, especially Syrah and Grenache.  It's a large swarth of land stretching from Monterey in the north nearly as far as Los Angeles in the south, but the key areas for wine production here are Paso Robles, Arroyo Grande Valley and Edna Valley, Santa Maria Valley and Santa Rita Hills

Paso Robles is the largest and most important AVA, with perhaps 11,000 hectares of vines planted.  Arroyo Grande and Edna Valley are both much smaller, each with under 1,000 hectares planted.  The Edna Valley is noticeably cooler than Arroyo Grande, with Burgundian varieties doing reasonably well in both (alongside Syrah and Zinfandel) whilst Paso Robles, to the north and farther inland, is significantly warmer and from a quality perspective, recognised just for the Rhone varieties, Zinfandel and Petit Syrah.

The Santa Maria Valley, an AVA since 1981, has more than 8,000 hectares planted, most importantly Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah and Grenache, and has mostly sandy, well-drained soils.  Santa Rita Hills, which was recognised as an AVA of its own in 2001 (having been part of the larger Santa Ynez AVA previously) has 2,000 hectares of vines, mostly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Finally, the Santa Ynez AVA remains important, especially for its Rhone varietals.