After six years of research, work and waiting, Alisos Canyon is an official American Viticultural Area, or AVA. Today, the federal government approved the creation of this small appellation in Santa Barbara County, California.\r\n\r\nLocated near the tiny town of Los Alamos, between the Santa Maria and Santa Ynez Valleys, Alisos Canyon stretches into the sandy hills on both sides of Alisos Canyon Road. It runs roughly from Highway 101 to Foxen Canyon Road.\r\n\r\nAt nearly 5,800 acres, the appellation is home to about 240 acres of wine grapes planted on nine ranches. That includes vineyards known for Syrah, Grenache and other Rh\u00f4ne grapes.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nNoah Rowles, owner of Thompson Vineyards, spearheaded the campaign to recognize the area soon after he bought the property in 2014.\r\n\r\nOne of his first moves was to ask veteran vineyard consultant Jeff Newton of Coastal Vineyard Care Associates what could be done to help the region, whose wines had to be classified by the generic \u201cSanta Barbara County\u201d appellation. Newton advised creating an AVA for Alisos Canyon.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe more I experienced the area, the more I believed that the wines here shared a common soul, aromatically and texturally,\u201d says Rowles.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nHe began to mine climatic, geologic and historical data to support the area\u2019s application. Rowles learned that the area was slightly warmer than the Sta. Rita Hills, home to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and a bit cooler than Ballard Canyon, a hotbed for Rh\u00f4ne grapes.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThe sandy soils were also critical, as they allowed vineyards to be grown on their own roots.\r\n\r\n\u201cFrom the top of the hills to the canyon floor, you can pick up beach sand and let it slide through your fingers, like an hourglass,\u201d says Rowles, who was also excited by the region\u2019s chalky soils and flint rocks.\r\n\r\nRowles then enlisted the help of AVA wizard and winemaker Wes Hagen. He\u2019s created three other Santa Barbara County appellations: the Sta. Rita Hills, Happy Canyon and Ballard Canyon.\r\n\r\nOne of Hagen\u2019s first experiences in the county was to watch a presentation of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream at Thompson Vineyard.\r\n\r\n\u201cI sipped a bottle of Cab Franc over three hours and fell in love,\u201d he says. \u201cThe area was immediately special to me, and the Thompson Syrah has always been one of my favorites in the county.\u201d\r\n\r\nHagen finished work on the federal petition in 2016.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nKen Brown, who\u2019s made wine in the region since 1977, is happy about the news.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt will be positive for vineyards, wineries and consumers,\u201d he says. \u201cThe only option at this time is to label the wines from this area as Santa Barbara County, which is too general and does not give any sense of where the wine comes from in this very diverse county.\u201d\r\n\r\nJoey Tensley will soon be in the midst of his 27th harvest of Thompson Vineyard Syrah. \u201cWhat sets it aside is the rolling hills and cool afternoon winds,\u201d he says. \u201cI hope it will lead to a little more recognition. Los Alamos has always been lost between Santa Ynez and Santa Maria.\u201d\r\n\r\nBut it\u2019s not just Rh\u00f4ne grapes in Alisos Canyon. Martian Ranch grows biodynamic Tempranillo, Albari\u00f1o, Gamay and Cabernet Franc. Meanwhile, Alisos Vineyard grows Barbera, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo.\r\n\r\nAlison Thomson features Nebbiolo in wines for her brand, L.A. Lepiane Wines. She\u2019s worked in the region for 15 years. Its once more affordable, off-the-radar status has started to change as accolades mount and grape prices rise.\r\n\r\n\u201cAchieving ripeness in flavor and tannin, without pushing sugars too high, makes growing Nebbiolo notoriously challenging,\u201d she says. \u201cThe moderated temperatures as well as the soils help to preserve the beautiful, complex and energetic aromatics for which Nebbiolo is known.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe new AVA continues to evolve. A wider array of grapes were planted recently at Nolan Ranch. Cult winemaker Manfred Krankl of Sine Qua Non is also part of the scene. He established The Third Twin Vineyard in the hills above Thompson back in 2010.\r\n\r\n\u201cMy greatest hope is that, in 100 years, when these boundaries are under the microscope of future generations with tools and data sets I can't even imagine, that we did a competent job of describing something special,\u201d says Hagen. \u201cAnd by giving it a name, we have given the world of wine a new niche to taste and explore.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\nWines from Alisos Canyon AVA\r\nLepiane 2016 Alisos Vineyard Nebbiolo (Santa Barbara County); $49, 94 points. Aromas of dried cherries, leather and turned earthy are pleasantly rustic on the nose of this bottling by Alison Thomson. The palate is wrapped in a leathery tannins that grab hold of the tongue and don't let go, delivering rust and dried cherry flavors. Drink now\u20132036. Cellar Selection.\r\n\r\nEpiphany 2017 Thompson Vineyard G-S-M (Santa Barbara County); $40, 93 points. It's not often that a GSM exhibits cool-climate character, but this bottling from a coveted vineyard in the Alisos Canyon area does just that. Aromas of muddled mulberry and cherry meet with green peppercorn and garam masala on the nose. The palate is herbal and peppery, showing orange peel and dried ginger against the roasted berry core. Editors\u2019 Choice.\r\n\r\nKen Brown 2015 Thompson Vineyard Syrah (Santa Barbara County); $65, 92 points. Mulberry and dark cranberry aromas meet with earthy forest floor and dark star anise spice on the nose of this single-vineyard expression. The palate shows strong baking-spice aromas, with gingerbread and wild thyme flavors decorating the tangy raspberry and cherry core. Cellar Selection.\r\n\r\nZinke 2016 Thompson Vineyard Syrah (Santa Barbara County); $45, 92 points. Crisp and bright aromas of light boysenberry and lavender make for a fresh entry to the nose of this bottling. The wine is taut in texture and loaded with acidity, delivering tight berry, charred wood, green-sage, wild thyme and peppercorn flavors.