About Us


John Stanley - Founder and Editor of SBC Wine

What we do:

Quite simply, we are your everyman’s guide to all that’s good in Santa Barbara County wine country. We explore the people, places, food and most of all – wine – of this gorgeous corner of the wine world. We sift through the wineries and tasting rooms of SBC, and only bring you information about what we consider to be the best of the best. Unless it truly excites and inspires, you won’t read about it here. We aim to provide a connection – to the places, the people, and the wines of this amazing region. It goes without saying that we have no financial stake in any of the wineries or businesses that we review, and that if it ever becomes the case, that we will fully disclose that relationship so you can be confident of our impartiality (or potential lack thereof).

What we don’t do:

We don’t do wine ratings – period. No stars, no 100 point system, nothing. There’s been plenty written about this, but let’s summarize by saying that whatever value was introduced by systematically rating wines has taken on an importance that vastly overstates the quality and enjoyment factor of a select few wines – some of which are not deserving of such stature – while casting into the morass a much larger population which are at a minimum very enjoyable, and are often exceptional wines. We’ll gladly filter out the merely average from the great and exceptional, giving you the advantage of narrowing your drinking pleasure to wine makers who are producing some high quality wines. But after that, it’s ultimately up to you to explore your own sensibilities and figure out what you really appreciate in wines.

We don’t have a corner on the market of good taste. There’s plenty of room for a variety of voices, styles and sensibilities about what makes a good wine. The diversity of wine is what makes it so fantastic. At its core, wine is anti-formulaic, anti-homogeneous, even a bit anti-social. It wants to stand on its own, and be proud of its own personality. That’s something to be celebrated, not dissected and thrown aside just because it’s different. Having said that, it’s also equally clear that some fairly bright lines can be drawn between wines that are at least attempting to be respectable representatives of their varietal, and those that are carelessly grown, carelessly constructed, or just executed poorly. Flat or flabby wines that lack varietal character simply won’t make the cut with us.

We don’t bash. I’m at least attempting to be a good representative of my upper-midwestern upbringing, where I was raised with the ethic of “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. I’m hoping that silence about some of our less impressive experiences will say enough. But please realize that there are well over 200 wine producers in Santa Barbara county, and that mix is changing every year. Have we tasted all of them? Absolutely and definitively – NO. Are we trying? Yes. We’ll get there eventually, but in the mean time we hope that what we have reviewed provides plenty of opportunities for wine exploration, and that we can provide enough guidance to make wine traveling or purchasing choices more knowledgeable, more enjoyable, and more fun!

More about John:

I’ll admit it. I was a beer man for the entirety of my first thirty years on this planet, and not necessarily good beer, either. Let’s put it this way – I’ve probably consumed more Old Milwaukee than I have water.

But about ten years ago I started getting into wine, and it wasn’t long before I realized that there’s something very magical about wine. My passion grew, and soon I was exploring some of the local wine regions, and instantly fell in love with Santa Barbara County. As an Angeleno, I was absolutely amazed to find this drop dead gorgeous piece of country right up the road from Los Angeles (by LA driving standards, anyways). And to top it all off, there were some absolutely killer wines to boot. Probably the best thing about it was how laid back and rustic it all felt. With every stop at a tasting room or winery, I really felt like I was discovering something new with a personal friend. I was in love.

But the world of wine is vast and diverse. Any self-respecting wine lover needs to explore the breadth and beauty of wines from around the world. My own exploration actually took me away from California wines for several years. Eventually, however, I began to come back to California and Santa Barbara County wines. My firm belief is that Santa Barbara County produces wines that can stand on their own as beautiful, often restrained, sometimes bold and brash, but most of all enjoyable wines that merit more attention that they are currently receiving. It’s literally a hidden gem in the often over-hyped and over-concentrated world of wine appreciation. It’s certainly not unknown, and the trajectory is on the right path, but in my book, the high quality and relatively modest pricing of SBC wines makes many of the offerings from this region bargains.

Since I am fortunate enough to live nearby, I decided to explore it more deeply, to better understand who’s behind these great wines, and what are the underlying currents in the style and vector of vineyard management and wine making. How will Santa Barbara County distinguish itself? Who are the leaders? The innovators? The more I learned, the more I realized that there was a dearth of information readily available to the wine consumer. After much personal convincing that I may have a deep enough wine knowledge to actually assert my own opinions into the public forum, I’ve decided to take on this challenge in the hopes that the information provided within is valued, appreciated, and most of all, helpful to the cause of understanding the wines, and the people behind the wines, of Santa Barbara County.

John Stanley is a Junior Wine Executive graduate from the L.A.W. school in Los Angeles, holds a B.S. degree in Natural Science from Loyola Marymount University, and an M.B.A. from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. He lives with his wife and two Labrador Retrievers at his home in Venice, California.