Discoveries: Napa Valley Wine Train

A Taste of Mystery Along the Rail

A nice glass of Napa red enhances just about any experience, including the twists, turns and whodunits you’ll find aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train’s exclusive murder mystery dining experiences. These stunningly preserved antique rail cars have plenty of stories to tell, with a cast of characters fueled by deadly secrets, and plenty of intrigue — in addition to a sumptuously prepared three-course meal!

The 2020 playbill features an intriguing new series of immersive, themed murder mystery experiences on board the dinner train. Thrilling themes such as Crime and Punishment; Death of a Gangster; Dance with Death; Totally 80’s; Midnight at the Masquerade; Wizards and Witches; Now You See It, Now You Don’t; Till Death Do Us Part and The Most Wonderful Crime of the Year take center stage, and guests are encouraged to dress up accordingly for each incredible evening.

This unforgettable, three-hour journey evokes the romance and adventurous spirit of opulent rail travel at the beginning of the 20th century. The Wine Train is also an incredible way to experience the beauty of Napa Valley Wine Country.

The Murder Mystery adventures are not the only way to enjoy a Napa Valley Wine Train journey aboard this elegant train. You can choose from a variety of lunch, dinner, romance, mystery and exclusive private tours — all of which feature fresh, gourmet California cuisine as the lush vineyards of the Napa Valley landscape pass you by. The leisurely pace of the train evokes a more relaxed and reflective era, and allows you to really take in the vineyards and majestic mountain views.

The Napa Valley Wine Train truly is the ride of a lifetime.

For info., visit winetrain.com

Originally published in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting. Click here to read this story and more! TT-SP20.digital

When the Sun Goes Down, Paso Comes Alive With Light

When the Sun Goes Down, Paso Comes Alive With Light, originally published in Touring & Tasting, Spring/Summer 2020.

PASO ROBLES HAS ITS VERY OWN FIELD OF DREAMS

Strolling along the stunning, 15-acre outdoor art exhibit “Bruce Munro: Field of Light at Sensorio” is a mesmerizing experience that defies description.

Designed to enhance the natural topography of the rolling hills with a colorful array of almost 60,000 stemmed spheres lit by fiber optics that gently illuminate the landscape, guests stroll through property accompanied by live music and surrounded by blooms of morphing color.

A nighttime-only attraction, which comes alive when the sun goes down, visitors from 41 countries have come to experience Field of Light, says Sensorio Executive Director Tracy Strann of the installation, which has attracted worldwide press and acclaim, and significantly exceeded attendance expectations. Because of the high demand, the immersive exhibit’s run has been extended through June 30.

This solar powered artwork has attracted more than 110,000 visitors to date, according to Strann.

Munro, a London-born artist, is best known for large-scale light-based artworks that have been exhibited around the world.

Along with its beauty, the Paso Robles, California spot has also become known as a romantic setting for popping the question, with Sensorio staff reporting at least six marriage proposals on the grounds to date. Guests can toast their good wishes with a glass of wine, as on-site amenities include food and alcoholic beverages, as well as a special VIP terrace option offering a more extensive dining experience with a breathtaking seated view of the exhibit.

Tickets are available for Bruce Munro: Field of Light at Sensorio Thursdays through Sundays through June 30. For more information, visit SensorioPaso.com or call 805/226-4287.

Originally published in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting. Click here to read this story and more! TT-SP20.digital

The Future of Wine

The Future of Wine, originally published in Touring & Tasting, spring/summer 2020.

When Touring & Tasting launched 25 years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine fine wine bottles with screw tops, let alone quality wine being served in a can! But stranger things are still on the way. Looking at our crystal ball to visualize the future, here are some of the most captivating trends.

Bringing the Story of the Bottle to Life  As storytelling specialists, we’re particularly intrigued by the use of augmented reality and artificial intelligence technology to cleverly connect wine labels with wine lovers. More than 500 wineries around the world are using an app called Winerytale, which connects drinkers to the stories behind their bottle via smartphone.

Wine Vending Machines  Alcohol vending machines are on the rise, especially in bars. Now that wine in a can is so readily available, why not pair the self-serve vending machines with a biometric scanning device (like a retina scanner) that checks your ID and lets you wave a smartphone to pay for your purchase.

Attack of the Drones It’s a multipronged attack of the drones, and they’re becoming less cost prohibitive all the time. Wineries currently use them for beautiful aerial photography and marketing purposes, security, surveying and crop analysis, including what specialists call “vine vigor” maps using multispectral cameras. There are even drones that make hawk squawk projections to scare the birds away from eating the grapes. On the consumer side, drone deliveries for wine are next on the horizon — Amazon Prime Air has 30 minutes or less service in development already.

I Can’t Believe I Drank the Whole Thing  Fully edible or compostable wine bottles already exist, it’s just a matter of time before they become more practical and affordable. Edible bottles made from isomalt (a sugar substitute) are available to order in kits and compostable, nonelastic glass made from cornstarch are also becoming a viable, eco-friendly option.

Watch Out Jetsons  With artificial intelligence algorithms becoming more and more, well … intelligent, perhaps it won’t be long until we’re querying robot sommeliers to help with food and wine pairings, then augmenting our experience with holographic entertainment from our favorite bands (dead or alive). While this all sounds like a sci-fi movie, there is a new grocery store point-of-sale product in development called Tastry, which uses a blend of machine learning, sensory science and chemistry to match your wine flavor preferences to the bottles available for purchase. Using an in-store kiosk and smartphone app, the company even has plans to develop an automated food pairing functionality, based on your shopping list.

Originally published in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting. Click here to read this story and more! TT-SP20.digital

Chef Ink

Chef Ink Cover, SB Independent January 2, 2020

Chef Ink Cover, SB Independent January 2, 2020

Talking Tattoos With Decorated Chefs From Los Alamos to Coast Village Road

It was so much fun to interview local culinary wizards and talk tats. Check out this week’s cover story in the Santa Barbara Independent, or click below to see the PDF.

Chef Ink

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on January 2, 2020.

Faces in the Crowd: Michael Christie

Faces In the Crowd: Michael Christie, photo by Gary Moss. This story appeared in 805 Living, December 2019.

Faces In the Crowd: Michael Christie, photo by Gary Moss. This story appeared in 805 Living, December 2019.

THE NEW MUSIC DIRECTOR OF NEW WEST SYMPHONY BRINGS HIS GRAMMY AWARD–WINNING TALENT TO THE VENTURA COUNTY ENSEMBLE’S 25TH SEASON.

After winning the 2019 Best Opera Recording Grammy Award for The (R)evolution of Steve JobsNew West Symphony’s (newwestsymphony.org) new music director Michael Christie is bringing his own kind of (r)evolution to the West Coast.

“We threw a lot at the audience,” Christie says of his first concerts in his new role with the Thousand Oaks–based symphony this past October. “Our concert format is slightly tweaked,” he says, “and we had our new venue [Rancho Campana Performing Arts Center in Camarillo], so people had a fair amount to take in.”

Patrons were treated to a Gershwin concerto, Corigliano’s “Salute” with kazoos, and a “Scheherazade” performance that Los Angeles Times critic Mark Swed praised as, “supplying far and away the most spectacular playing from what should no longer be considered a regional symphony.”

“The biggest difference,” says Christie, “is that we are using intermission as an opportunity for people to experience some new things if they choose.” This includes a question-and-answer session with the guest artist and an entr’acte. Up next is the global celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday on January 25 and 26, featuring the Eroica Trio, whom Christie calls, “three very vibrant, genius women who are just amazing [with] the energy that they bring.”

Christie has led top orchestras all over the world and served as music director for Minnesota Opera, The Phoenix Symphony, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic (now defunct). He now lives part-time in Ventura County, while his wife, Alexis, who is a physician, and their two children are in Minneapolis.

Much of the life of a musician-conductor is spent on the road, says Christie, a trumpeter, who first conducted when his middle school band director let him give it a try back in Buffalo, New York. “I was never sure how one became a conductor,” he says. “I just knew I wanted to know more about it. People were very generous with their time and always willing to answer questions.”

In February he’ll pay it forward with a one-month teaching and conducting stint at Indiana University. Christie is eager to communicate with students about the duties of an American music director, which he says, “are very specific to our particular situation of creating artistic vision and raising lots of money. It’s very particular to our country. I feel a great sense of responsibility for helping to convey that information, having lived it for the last 25 years. It’s fun to be asked to help the next generation start to figure that out.

“We [music directors] are the face of the organization in many ways,” Christie says. “We should be viewed by our audience as open, friendly, fun, and adventurous but also sensible, engaging, and concerned for our community, what it’s going through, and what it’s aspiring to be. And none of those words really say Mozart or Gershwin,” he says, laughing. “It’s all kind of wrapped together.”

Leslie Dinaberg

805 Living cover Dec. 2019Click here to read this story as it appeared in 805 Living magazine, December 2019 805 Living Faces in the Crowd Dec 2019

2019 Best of Santa Barbara

SB Independent Best of

From the Santa Barbara Independent, October 17, 2019.

So, I had the honor of writing up the Santa Barbara Independent‘s Best of Santa winners this year. It was a huge, fun project. People were so happy to hear from me and so excited to have won! You can read the whole thing (203 winners at last count) by clicking here, or on the PDF below.

Santa Barbara Independent Best Of Oct. 17 2019_Part1

Santa Barbara Independent Best Of Oct. 17 2019_Part2

Santa Barbara Independent Best Of Oct. 17 2019_Part3

Best of Independent Cover

PIECE OFFERING

Piecework story, 805 Living Magazine, October 2019.

The humble jigsaw puzzle has been given a modern makeover thanks to Piecework (pieceworkpuzzles.com) co-founders Rachel Hochhauser and Jena Wolfe. Hochhauser, who was born and raised in Santa Barbara, discovered her love of the meditative qualities of puzzles when she was rained in during a visit to Yosemite. Soon the pair, who are partners at Major, a creative agency specializing in brand strategy and design, began working on puzzles as a way to unplug and unwind, but they were dissatisfied with the selection available.

“We decided to start Piecework because we wanted to bring thoughtful curation and design to an activity we really loved doing and to show people how much pleasure can be found in a puzzle,” says Hochhauser.  —Leslie Dinaberg

805 Living Magazine, October 2019.

Click here to read this story as it appeared in 805 Living magazine, October 2019 805 Living Pulse Oct 2019

LEVI GILBERT | Art Meets Action

Levi Gilbert interview from 805 Living Magazine, October 2019.

Falling down stairs, crashing motorcycles, and taking death-defying leaps off the sides of cliffs are all in a day’s work for Levi Gilbert, a 2017 Santa Barbara High School graduate who got his first Hollywood stunt job as soon as he turned 18 and was legally allowed to perform. This might seem like a crazy career choice to some, but stunt performing is in Gilbert’s blood. His grandfather Mickey Gilbert’s career dates back to the 1969 classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and his father, Lance Gilbert, was Mel Gibson’s personal stuntman.

“I got started doing stunt work with the guidance of my dad,” says the 20-year-old Gilbert, who has already appeared in TV series such as 9-1-1, 13 Reasons Why, Ballers, Daybreak, Silicon Valley, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as the upcoming Ford v Ferrari film, which is generating Oscar buzz. “He has always helped me by giving me every opportunity to learn something new and expand my skill sets.

“Directors know exactly what they want from the stunt performers, but it’s up to you to make it happen safely,” says the youngest of the Gilbert family stunt artists. “The most dangerous stunts I have done so far in my career would probably be stair falls.” He starred as a young naval lieutenant who fell to a dramatic death in an NCIS: New Orleans episode this year.

“Difficulty and danger often go hand in hand,” he says. “But for me the hardest stunt isn’t a stunt at all—it’s acting—which is something I am working on and trying to understand the art of.”

Leslie Dinaberg

805 Living Magazine, October 2019.

Click here to read this story as it appeared in 805 Living magazine, October 2019. 805 Living Oct 2019 The 805’s Got Talent

Art on Deck

Click here to see the story:

805 Living Pulse Jun 2019

Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Inga Guzyte, courtesy photo.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Inga Guzyte, courtesy photo.

Using recycled skateboard decks as her medium, Inga Guzyte (ingaguzyte.com) transforms her passion for skateboarding into sculptural art. Her new #RebelWomen series spotlights women from around the globe—Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Malala Yousafzai, Frida Kahlo—emphasizing their strength, courage, fearlessness and wit.

“I am hoping to share rebellious and empowering stories,” says the 34-year-old artist, who lines her Santa Barbara studio with floor-to-ceiling stacks of skateboard decks (recycled from the nearby Lighthouse Skateshop) and waits for the right colors to show up before creating her sculptures. Born in Lithuania, and raised in Germany, she came to Santa Barbara at age 21 to learn English and immerse herself in the California skateboarding culture. Making her way into the male-dominated sport influenced her work.

Inga Guzyte self portrait, courtesy photo.

Inga Guzyte self portrait, courtesy photo.

“Inga’s work is an exciting combination of vision, originality and high craft,” says Nathan Vonk, owner of Sullivan Goss Gallery (sullivangoss.com) in Santa Barbara, where a solo show of Guzyte’s work appears from June 1 through July 23. “While her pieces are made from brutal, broken materials, the finished products are both sophisticated and delicate,” he says. “With her #RebelWomen series, she has added to that appeal by including a message that is powerful, important and uplifting.”  

Originally published in the June 2019 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

 

Dance Drives Dialogue

International colloquium in dance and performance studies addresses issues of race and racism in American classical ballet

The beauty and artistry of ballet can belie the sometimes painful truths that exist behind the dance.

Calvin Royal III and Unity Phelan in George Balanchine’s “Agon” (1957), Vail International Dance Festival 2018. Restaged by Heather Watts. Photo by Eric Baiano.

Calvin Royal III and Unity Phelan in George Balanchine’s “Agon” (1957), Vail International Dance Festival 2018. Restaged by Heather Watts. Photo by Eric Baiano.

“Those dances by George Balanchine and other 20th-century neoclassical choreographers reveal how the idiom of classical ballet has institutionalized and subverted American racism,” said Ninotchka D. Bennahum, a professor of dance and performance studies at UC Santa Barbara.

These ballets — such as the iconic, Civil Rights-era Balanchine ballet “Agon” from 1957 — reveal the complex relationship ballet and preeminent cultural institutions share with racial consciousness in the United States before and after World War II, she added. “Dance artists asked to undertake these roles have the capacity, the moral responsibility to shift our consciousness or to raise our consciousness. No work of art belongs solely to its time,” Bennahum said.

These topics and others will be considered when distinguished scholars and world-class performers gather Monday, April 29 in UC Santa Barbara’s ballet studio for the colloquium “Race, Ballet, American Dance,” a day of discussion and demonstration. Co-curated by Bennahum and Stephanie Batiste, an associate professor of English and of Black studies, the conference is the inaugural event of the International Colloquium for the Study of Dance and Performance Studies.

“We will pose the question, ‘What is the value of these actual works of ballet as historical archive?”

Combining elements of live performance and music, discussion and filmography, the multidisciplinary colloquium — which is free and open to the public — will explore the critical role of art in capturing and commenting on American history, specifically examining how racism has been institutionalized in American classical ballet.

“The history of the civil rights movement is written by ballet choreographers and modern choreographers,” said Bennahum. “Dancing bodies play a vital role in getting audiences, in raising public awareness to issues of injustice, to issues of joy and love and sexuality, and things that are not so easy to articulate with words.

“But these are not happenstance dances, these are dances that happened in very particular moments of time,” she added. “The relationship between African American vernacular dance, African American choreographed ballet and Russian, British, American ballet, really became a symbol of race relations in the United States.”

Participants will enter the event through a lobby exhibition featuring an archival collection of photographs curated by Bennahum from the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of The New York Public Library, the largest and most comprehensive archive in the world devoted to the documentation of dance.

“I really feel that it’s very important for students that we show them dancing bodies they cannot see in Santa Barbara,” Bennahum said. “The gravitational center of dance in the world is New York and I just felt we had to bring it to them, and we had to bring it in the form of performance and in the form of art exhibit, images on the walls, so they see that this is an intellectual, academic subject they can study. But it cannot happen without performance because without that the archive is missing. You have to have a sense of the geography of the stage. For these kids learning to dance, to know and feel their way through history, kinesthetic awareness is really significant.”

Further to that end, the colloquium’s featured guests include Heather Watts, former principal dancer of New York City Ballet and a distinguished lecturer, who will present and stage two seminal works: George Balanchine’s “Agon,” with music by Igor Stravinsky, and Jerome Robbins’ “Afternoon of a Faun,” with music by Claude Debussy. The pieces will be danced by Calvin Royal III (principal dancer, American Ballet Theatre) and Unity Phelan (soloist, New York City Ballet), accompanied by New York City Ballet Orchestra pianist Cameron Grant.

“In different ways, at their premieres both Balanchine’s “Agon” (1957) and Robbins’ “Afternoon of a Faun” (1953) addressed issues of race,” said Watts. “I’m looking forward to sharing and examining these works at the colloquium, focusing on their impact felt not only in the mid-century civil rights era in which they were created, but also today as they live on through new generations of dancers.”

Also performing is Alicia Graf Mack, chair of dance at The Juilliard School and former principal dancer with Dance Theatre of Harlem, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Alonzo King/LINES. Her piece will be followed by a conversation with Lynn Garafola, professor emerita of dance at Barnard College, Columbia University and “preeminent ballet scholar in the United States who, with her husband (American historian Eric Foner of Columbia University) is a really important race scholar,” noted Bennahum. Garafola also will lecture on the African American Presence in Postwar American Dance.

An artists’ roundtable early in the day will provide insight direct from dancers themselves, while a later artist-scholar discussion will offer a multi-pronged analysis of what has taken place during the conference.

“My research on Black dance often has a lot to do with analysis of form and in terms of movement and repertoire,” Batiste said. “Dancers often think about dance in ways that are really different from how scholars think about dance. Those two approaches to how the body makes meaning together in one space show the value of what scholars bring and what dancers bring to same work of art.”

Batiste gave much of the credit to Bennahum for putting together the colloquium, while Bennahum extended credit to Watts, to donors John and Jody Arnhold and to Majewski. “Dance is very expensive,” said Bennahum. “Classical ballet is very expensive and they have made this possible for the university, and believed that UC Santa Barbara, above every other place in the country, was the place to create a laboratory, a think tank, about race and ballet.

“We’re at a very tense moment in history,” she concluded. “Art plays a significant role in that conversation in these moments in time.”

Originally published in The Current (UCSB) on April 23, 2019.