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Happy Canyon: An American Viticultural Area and Home to Crown Point Vineyards

According to folklore, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara County originally got its name during prohibition when moonshiners set up shop to produce a simple bootleg alcohol that locals were eager to acquire. Little did those moonshiners know, they were in an area that would later produce the quality of fruit and wines that are now garnering the attention of respected winemakers and collectors alike.

The area was given its official AVA (American Viticultural Area) status in 2009. Distinct conditions and characteristics set it apart from neighboring AVAs Santa Rita Hills, Ballard Canyon, and the greater Santa Ynez Valley.

One of the defining characteristics of the area is that the soil is distinctly different from the surrounding region. The gravelly loam is studded with mineral-laden rocks that provide a calcium-to-magnesium ratio that is rarely seen in vineyard soils. This restricts vigor to help shrink the vine, the cluster, and the berry to limit yields and produce intensely unique wines.

Crown Point Vineyards Aerial

Happy Canyon sits far inland, protected by the San Rafael Mountains from the Pacific Coast chill that adjacent AVAs are exposed to. Because of this, it sees higher daytime temperatures that ensure complete maturation for those later ripening Bordeaux varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Malbec), which vineyards closer to the ocean don’t have the ability to grow as successfully.

Thanks to its position within the anomaly of Santa Ynez Valley, the longest transverse valley (running East to West) along the Pacific Coast, it still has the benefit of afternoon breezes and cooler evening temperatures. Cool air is funneled inland and helps retain acidity & freshness, resulting in beautifully balanced flavors in the grapes.

This is exactly why proprietor Roger Bower decided to establish Crown Point here, in Happy Canyon. His team is focused on growing Bordeaux varietals that create Cabernet-based wines of pronounced character. His pursuit has been to produce a wine that expresses the unique characteristics and individuality of the region. As winemaker Adam Henkel so succinctly says it, “The quality of Cabernet has really blown me away, and it keeps getting better every year.”

Adamandroger
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