The Chumash Indians once numbered in the tens of thousands and lived along the coast of California. At one time, the Chumash territory encompassed 7,000 square miles that spanned from the beaches of Malibu to Paso Robles. The Santa Ynez band of Chumash Indians, also known as the Ineseno Chumash, occupied villages in the Santa Ynez Valley, where the present-day towns of Solvang, Santa Ynez, and Los Olivos were established.
The Chumash were able to enjoy a more prosperous environment than most other tribes in California because of the region's rich resources from both land and sea. The Chumash were highly skilled hunters and fishermen. Their thriving culture is best known for the tomol or plank canoe, fine basketry and colorful cave paintings.
The viticultural history of the area began with the Spanish Franciscans who came to the Santa Ynez Valley in 1804 and founded Mission Santa Ines, on the western edge of Solvang, where grapevines were planted and small quantities of wine were produced for the Church. The Mission became the focal social and political center of the area, lending its name to the river, city, and valley.
Compared to other areas of California, grape growing and winemaking were limited in Santa Barbara County prior to Prohibition, and mainly found on the South Coast by the City of Santa Barbara. The first commercial vineyards in the Valley came much later with the planting of Vina de Santa Ynez, by the Bettencourt and Davidge families on Refugio Road in 1969.
The Los Olivos District's boundaries coincide with the boundaries of the true geographic Santa Ynez Valley, as well as the historic ( pre-automobile ) Santa Ynez Valley, where the townships of Ballard (1880), Santa Ynez (1882), Los Olivos (1887), and Solvang (1896) are located. The District derives its name not from the town of Los Olivos, but from Rancho Los Olivos (next to the town of Ballard ), site of an olive orchard and the first significant agricultural plantation in the area.