As a chilly fall wind whipped around tall oaks and rows of vines at Rusack Vineyards Friday afternoon, a festive group of winemakers, vineyard owners or managers and wine journalists raised a glass to celebrate the new Ballard Canyon American Viticultural Area. A table laden with wines from many of the winemakers/growers included in the AVA — Beckmen, Harrison Clarke, Jorian HIlls, Larner and Rusack among them — accompanied fresh tacos prepared by a team led by Ruben Solorzano, Coastal Vineyard Care Associates' viticulturist extraordinaire and vineyard manager at nearby Stolpman Vineyards.

Michael Larner, owner with his family of Larner Vineyards and the Larner Winery label, is the president of the new Ballard Canyon Wine Growers' Alliance (www.ballardcanyonava.com; website in the works). Larner and  Wes Hagen, winemaker and vineyard manager at Clos Pepe Vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills, are the voice and the researcher, respectively, behind the new AVA.

Ballard Canyon is the third effort led by Hagen to distinguish the the varied climates and soils that comprise Santa Barbara County. The Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara and Sta. Rita Hills were his previous two AVA successes, approved after months of research on Hagen's part.

The winemakers and wine growers included in Ballard Canyon are Purisima Mountain (Beckmen), Boa Vista, Brownell's Viejo Vineyard, Capazzo Vineyard, Daly, Dohlmeyer, Finkle Family Vineyards, Harrison Clarke, Hinnrichs, Jorian Hill, Kimsey, Jonata, Larner, Rusack, Saarloos and Sons' Windmill Ranch, Stolpman, Tierra Alta and Willingham Vineyard, according to a prior news release from the Santa Barbara County Vintners' Association, led by Morgen McLaughlin.