Happy Canyon Vineyard and Piocho Ranch

Every summer, we scour the hills around Santa Ynez searching for vineyards off the beaten “Sideways” track.  One area high on our list has been Happy Canyon, one of the newest and smallest AVA’s (American Viticulture Area) in California, located in the easternmost part of the Santa Ynez Valley.  While the Santa Ynez Valley is famous for its pinot noir wines, Happy Canyon has the warmest micro-climate in the area, making it ideal for Bordeaux varietals, such as sauvignon blanc, merlot and cabernet sauvignon.  Local lore has it that the name, Happy Canyon, evolved during the era of Prohibition, as a place where alcohol was produced, and residents took trips “up into Happy Canyon” in order to buy their contraband.  The vineyards of the Happy Canyon AVA have tasting rooms in nearby Los Olivos and Santa Barbara, so our hopes of making our own trip up into the canyon weren’t realized until recently when we were scouting the area for a corporate retreat, and we had the opportunity to tour, and eventually book, Happy Canyon Vineyard for the occasion.


Happy Canyon Vineyard is located on the breath-taking grounds of Piocho Ranch, acquired by Thomas J. Barrack in 1992, and produces the five principal Bordeaux varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec), plus two white Bordeaux varieties (Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon), that are farmed by hand using organic and sustainable farming practices.  Piocho, a Native American word meaning the place “where the two rivers meet and go to heaven”, is aptly named, as you will feel as if you have gone to heaven the moment you step foot on the property.  Barrack, an avid polo player, maintains two regulation-sized polo fields on the ranch, as well as an impressive stable of polo ponies.  Members of the wine club, for which there is no cost to join, receive periodic shipments of limited production estate grown wines, plus the opportunity to purchase discounted tickets to the Santa Ynez Valley Polo Classic.  The 5th Annual Polo Classic is to be held this year on June 25 at Piocho Ranch, benefits People Helping People, and features world-class polo player and Ralph Lauren model, Nacho Figueras.  Good food, good wine and Argentinian polo players?  Twist my arm…xoM


The polo fields with a view of the main house in the background.



The main house, in front of which we enjoyed a beautiful lunch al fresco.



Happy Canyon Vineyard estate wines (left to right) Piocho, Barrack Brand, and Barrack Ten Goal.



A table for 40 from my Instagram. Salut!


Happy Canyon Vineyard




PS  I was not paid for this post…I like what I like.

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