Cocktail Corner: The Wine Shepherd

The Wine Shepherd, photo courtesy Anna Ferguson-Sparks, Stiletto Marketing.

The Wine Shepherd, photo courtesy Anna Ferguson-Sparks, Stiletto Marketing.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

Two of Santa Barbara County’s hottest restaurant teams—PICO in Los Alamos and The Black Sheep in Downtown Santa Barbara—have joined forces to create The Wine Shepherd, a new wine bar, tasting room and wine shop located next to The Black Sheep at 30 E. Ortega St., Santa Barbara (at the corner of Ortega and Anacapa Streets, across from Paradise Cafe).

PICO co-owners Will Henry and Kali Kopley have an excellent selection of wine in the retail section of the restaurant and The Wine Shepherd extends those offerings into Santa Barbara’s buzzy Presidio Neighborhood. It also offers an additional tasting room for the well-regarded Lumen Wines, which Henry co-owns with pioneering Santa Barbara County winemaker Lane Tanner.

The Wine Shepherd, photo courtesy Anna Ferguson-Sparks, Stiletto Marketing.

The Wine Shepherd, photo courtesy Anna Ferguson-Sparks, Stiletto Marketing.

“We have a 2,000-bottle wine inventory at PICO, available to enjoy at the bar, in the restaurant, or for purchase to take with you…with The Wine Shepherd, we’re simply sharing PICO’s unparalleled wine selection with a greater portion of Santa Barbara County,” states Henry, whose father, Warner Henry, founded The Henry Wine Group import, wholesale and broker empire.

The Wine Shepherd, whose name is a play on words referencing The Black Sheep, offers a wide array of local, domestic and international wines for sale, as well as a carefully-curated list of beer and cider. Housed in the former Seagrass Restaurant space, The Wine Shepherd’s “upcycled chic” ambiance features a tasting bar built by Henry himself, where a selection of 14 or more wines by the glass—plus beer and cider—are available, as well as Lumen Wines tasting flights and excellent cheeses and charcuterie from PICO Chef and Partner Drew Terp. The Wine Shepherd also offers competitive pricing on bottles to go.

The Wine Shepherd, photo courtesy Anna Ferguson-Sparks, Stiletto Marketing.

The Wine Shepherd, photo courtesy Anna Ferguson-Sparks, Stiletto Marketing.

With a string of hits in the food and wine world, Kopley is owner-founder of five different establishments in North Lake Tahoe, California: three Uncorked wine bar locations, Soupa restaurant, and Petra, a wine-inspired restaurant in Northstar. As a restaurateur, Kopley was a customer of The Henry Wine Group, which led to her introduction to Will Henry. The two are now married are parents to an adorable little girl. 

“The Wine Shepherd marks the seventh wine-related business in which I’ve recently had a hand in launching, and is modeled after some of my Tahoe-area businesses,” says Kopley. “We have such a loyal PICO following…and many of our friends and fans make the drive from Santa Barbara to Los Alamos. The Wine Shepherd will give them just a taste of what PICO has to offer, but closer to home.”

“We will offer a large selection of wines from around the world, as well as a healthy representation of local heroes. As we do at PICO, we will focus on small production, family-owned producers and obscure, hard-to-get wines, plus old vintage rarities and gems,” says Henry.

The Wine Shepherd, photo courtesy Anna Ferguson-Sparks, Stiletto Marketing.

The Wine Shepherd, photo courtesy Anna Ferguson-Sparks, Stiletto Marketing.

Henry and Kopley chose The Wine Shepherd’s location after becoming friends with The Black Sheep’s family of owners, Chef Robert Perez and his son, Ruben.

“We have always loved what the Perez family has done with The Black Sheep. Kali was also a patron and huge fan of their former Nevada City restaurant, Citronée,” says Henry. “We intend this to be a partnership with them that will both enhance the wine experience that we’ll offer, and augment The Black Sheep’s existing wine program.”

The Wine Shepherd is open Tuesday through Friday from 3-10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m., with special happy hour prices from 4-6 p.m. daily. For more information, visit WineShepherdSB.com.

Cheers!  Click here for more Cocktail Corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie believes variety is the spice of life. Send your suggestions to Leslie@sbseasons.com. 

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on July 6, 2018.

Local Lowdown: Mizza Artisan Pizza and Italian Cuisine Opens in La Arcada

Buratta + Heirloom Tomato at Mizza Artisan Pizza and Italian Cuisine, courtesy photo.

Buratta + Heirloom Tomato at Mizza Artisan Pizza and Italian Cuisine, courtesy photo.

“Our goal is to be an Italian pub, no white linen, but a white linen level Italian dining experience without the white linen,” is how owner Brendan Searls (of Viva!, Dargan’s Irish Pub and Restaurant, and Pizza Mizza fame) describes his newest restaurant venture. He and his wife Kourtney decided to open Mizza Artisan Pizza and Italian Cuisine (“Mizza”) when a prime location with a State Street front patio became available in the historic La Arcada Plaza, which is also home to their Mexican restaurant Viva!

“This part of town is going through a renaissance, and this was a unique opportunity that doesn’t come up very often,” says Searls. The newly renovated restaurant space—formerly home to La Arcada Bistro and Barcliff and Bair before that—features handmade artisan pizzas, handmade pastas, salads and a selection of carefully selected house specialties using local fresh produce, locally caught fresh fish, free-range chicken and Harris Ranch CAB meats.

Tagliatelle + Mussels at Mizza Artisan Pizza and Italian Cuisine, courtesy photo.

Tagliatelle + Mussels at Mizza Artisan Pizza and Italian Cuisine, courtesy photo.

Mizza is “ideally situated in the 1100 block of State Street, with beautiful patios on both sides of the restaurant,” says Searls. “We will be striving to provide Santa Barbara with a reasonably priced but a casually excellent dining experience.”

With 80 outdoor patio seats and full bar service available, Mizza is sure to be a popular spot on warm summer afternoons and evenings. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner service daily, with brunch service on Saturdays and Sundays. Mizza Artisan Pizza and Italian Cuisine opened on June 1, and plans for a wine bar are also in the works for later in the summer.

Arugula + Prosciutto Pizza at Mizza Artisan Pizza and Italian Cuisine, courtesy photo.

Arugula + Prosciutto Pizza at Mizza Artisan Pizza and Italian Cuisine, courtesy photo.

Mizza Artisan Pizza and Italian Cuisine, 1112 State St., Santa Barbara, at the entrance to the beautiful La Arcada Plaza.

Leslie Dinaberg

This story was originally published in the 2018 summer issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

Local Lowdown: Rock N Roll Tequila

Courtesy Rock N Roll Tequila.

Courtesy Rock N Roll Tequila.

The handcrafted glass guitar bottles are eye-catching, but it’s the crisp distinct taste of Rock N Roll’s three premium tequilas that will really knock your socks off.

The company was founded by Santa Barbara local Andy Herbst, an entrepreneur, surfer and soccer player, who came to the U.S. in the 1960s from South Africa and went to Santa Barbara High School and Santa Barbara City College, where he says he majored in surfing. After a successful career as a music promoter, Herbst traveled to the highlands of Mexico, where he was introduced to the smoothest, purest blue agave and soon turned his passion for tequila into creating his own label. His partners in the venture, which launched in 2017, include businessman Scott Woolley and NFL great Dan Marino, who played quarter­back for the Miami Dolphins and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“After tasting Rock N Roll Tequila, I knew it was a quality spirit, and I wanted to be a member of the team,” says Marino. “It is great to be associated with a high-quality prod­uct at a reasonable price, and it doesn’t hurt to have an iconic name like Rock N Roll!”

Amped Mojito with Cristalino, courtesy Rock N Roll Tequila.

Amped Mojito with Cristalino, courtesy Rock N Roll Tequila.

Crafted by Master Distiller Jose Aceves, a third-generation tequila producer, Rock N Roll’s 100% pure blue agave comes from deep in the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico. The bottles, which feature a unique patented top known as the “roadie,” provide the consumer a complimentary two shots of Platinum Te­quila that come in three varieties:

Platinum: Hand crafted, triple distilled, made with 100% pure highlands blue agave, giving it a delicious, smooth taste.

Mango: Double distilled with 100% pure highlands blue agave and the highest-quality natural mango flavor, giving it sweet citrus notes and a super smooth finish.

Cristalino: This Añejo Tequila is barrel-aged for two–three years and filtered to perfection, making it cleaner and healthier. Cristalino is also made with 100% pure highlands blue agave, featuring classic notes of French oak and vanilla.

At press time, Rock N Roll Tequila is served in Santa Barbara at Viva Modern Mexican (1114 State St., 805/965-4770), Foxtail Kitchen & Bar (14 E. Cota St., 805/845-6226) and O’Malley’s (523 State St., 805/564-8904) and sold at Santa Barbara Liquor and Crafts (501 Anacapa St., 805/966-6716), as well as additional venues throughout the Central Coast.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, visit rocknrolltequila.com.

Rock N Roll Recipes:

FOR WEB EXCLUSIVE COCKTAIL RECIPES, CLICK HERE.

Leslie Dinaberg

This story was originally published in the spring 2018 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

Local Dish: Bibi Ji

Bibi Ji interior, photo by Collin Dewell.

Bibi Ji interior, photo by Collin Dewell.

By Leslie Dinaberg

An innovative take on Indian food paired with locally made wines and locally sourced seafood with Australian influences all adds up to what is easily one of the most exciting new restaurants to hit downtown Santa Barbara in a long, long time!  

Bibi Ji, the new restaurant from James Beard Award-winning sommelier Rajat Parr (who also makes his own wine labels—Domaine de la Cote and Sandhi—nearby in Lompoc) and acclaimed Chef Jessi Singh (who’s been lauded for his inventive “unauthentic” Indian cooking at the popular Babu Ji restaurants in San Francisco, Manhattan and Melbourne) opened this month at 734 State St., a beautiful location across from Paseo Nuevo with an outdoor courtyard overlooking De La Guerra Plaza.

Bibi Ji Coconut Curry with Shrimp, courtesy photo.

Bibi Ji Coconut Curry with Shrimp, courtesy photo.

The name Bibi Ji—an Indian term of endearment for women in the family—pays tribute to the formative women in both Singh and Parr’s lives who cultivated their love for food and hospitality. 

Drawing from his Australian and Indian roots, Chef Singh (who now lives in Santa Barbara) has created a menu featuring his self-proclaimed “unauthentic take” on many traditional American seafood dishes, with a strong focus on using local Santa Barbara purveyors. With the Santa Barbara Farmers Market just steps away, Singh is excited to change his menu regularly depending on what’s available in the market that week.

Currently on the menu are SB UNI Biryani, made with local sea urchin and fried rice—a dish so beautiful plated it looks like a mythical sea creature; Local Oysters with green mango pickle butter (from famed Santa Barbara fish monger Stephanie Mutz); delicious Hope Ranch Black Mussels in a curry broth; and melt-in-your-mouth Aussie Lamb Chops with mint and dill raita and apricot chutney.

Bibi Ji interior, photo by Collin Dewell.

Bibi Ji interior, photo by Collin Dewell.

We also enjoyed a zesty array of “unauthentic curries,” such as Beef Korma with beef short rib, curry leaves, cashew and hearty shiitake mushrooms; Unauthentic CTM, Chef Singh’s delicious riff on chicken tikka masala; Coconut Curry with turmeric and mustard seeds and pink shrimp, a dish I’m still dreaming about, even though I normally am not a coconut lover; Chana Masala, with chickpea, dry pomegranate and green mango powder; Punjabi Kadhi, with fenugreek and turmeric yogurt curry; and Bibi Ji Daal, with ginger, garlic and tomatoes.

Bibi Ji's SB UNI Biryani, courtesy photo.

Bibi Ji’s SB UNI Biryani, courtesy photo.

Favorite dishes from Singh’s Babu Ji restaurants in New York and San Francisco are also on the menu, like Mr. Tso’s Cauliflower, Indo-Chinese style cauliflower in a tomato & chili sauce, and Gol Gappa, delicious tangy crispy stuffed shells.

The Chef’s Tasting Menu—offering a variety of favorite appetizers, curries, naan, rice and dessert for $50 per person—is an excellent way to savor a variety of these exciting flavors without having to make a lot of decisions.

Crudo from Bibi Ji, courtesy photo.

Crudo from Bibi Ji, courtesy photo.

In addition to a “serve yourself” assortment of beers which made my husband’s heart sing, Bibi Ji’s carefully curated wine offerings are designed to complement the playful menu. The wines focus on highlighting organic, biodynamic and natural wines from artisanal producers in Europe, Australia and Santa Barbara. At the moment, producers include Gonon, Jean Michel Stephane, Allemand, Metras, Laporte and Richard Leroy, with varietals ranging from Gamay and Syrah to Riesling and Chenin Blanc, which pair well with the spices in many of the dishes.

Nearly all of the wines at the restaurant will also be available at Bibi Ji’s bottle shop, which is located inside the restaurant and offers an esoteric collection of more than 100 bottles.

Bibi Ji patio, photo by Collin Dewell.

Bibi Ji patio, photo by Collin Dewell.

The inviting interior, designed by Chef Singh, features a 40-seat dining room with exposed brick, high ceilings adorned with hanging golden chandeliers and a skylight that brings natural light into the space. A brown leather banquette spans along one side of the restaurant, and on the other side is the 15-seat bar. Pops of color come from red-cushioned dining chairs and bar stools, as well as from the vibrant Indian artwork that decorates the walls. Empty wine bottles, sourced from Parr’s personal collection, are showcased throughout the restaurant.

Bibi Ji is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, visit bibijisb.com or call 805/560-6845.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 2, 2018.

Local Lowdown: Welcome to The House of Clues

Scene from the “Pirate Ghost Ship” at Santa Barbara's House of Clues escape room, courtesy photo.

Scene from the “Pirate Ghost Ship” at Santa Barbara’s House of Clues escape room, courtesy photo.

Escape room games are super-popular, and Santa Barbara finally has its own one-of-a-kind venue: The House of Clues.

Co-owners Assel Abdrakhmanova and Oscar Zevalos (the third partner is Whitman Heining) were designing props and sets for themed events and escape rooms for outside clients when they decided to create their own custom one-of-a-kind attraction. “We knew we could do a better job and make it even better and more challenging,” says Zevalos.

Their goal is eventually to franchise their concepts—Santa Barbara is the first location—and I think they’ve got a winner. Not only was our “Pirate Ghost Ship” game well designed and challenging, it truly was exciting and fun for our all-ages group. Escape rooms combine mental puzzles with physical challenges, and a beat-the-clock element keeps things moving along quickly. With 45 minutes to escape from a given room (which is actually a series of rooms), you are under constant video and audio surveillance and can communicate with the game master at any time, as well as receive clues when needed. Every move counts, and nothing is as it seems.

In addition to the “Pirate Ghost Ship,” The House of Clues also has “Psycho Dentist” and “Alien Spacecraft Invasion” themes on the menu.

For more information, visit TheHouseofClues.net, 629 N. Salsipuedes St., 805/229-9179

Leslie Dinaberg

This story was originally published in the Winter 2017-18 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

Some Thoughts on #GivingTuesday

 

By Leslie Dinaberg, Managing Editor

Tuesday, November 28 is designated as #GivingTuesday, when those who are able are urged to make donations to support local nonprofits. Now entering its sixth year, #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving—as a counterpoint to Black Friday and Cyber Monday buying—that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy and is fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.

Here’s something to consider when you make those donations: not only is art good for the soul, it’s good for the wallet.

Did you know that Santa Barbara County’s nonprofit arts and cultural organizations comprise a $200 million industry? According to a recent national study—Arts & Economic Prosperity 5, conducted by Americans for the Arts—which collected data from 250 regional partners, including Santa Barbara County, this number supports the equivalent of 5,857 local jobs and generates approximately generates $20 million in local and state tax revenue.

As Randy Cohen, Vice President of Americans for the Arts stated, in a recent presentation at the Santa Barbara County Arts Symposium, “When you invest in the arts you are not investing in a frill, you are investing in a healthier Santa Barbara.”

“Art is not the cherry on top of the split, it’s one of the bananas,” said Keynote Speaker and Mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu, sharing how the arts revitalized New Orleans post-Katrina.

According to the Americans for the Arts study section on Santa Barbara County:

  • Nonprofit arts and cultural event attendees spend an average of $28.25 per person (excluding the cost of admission).
  • Event-related spending by arts and cultural audiences totaled $72.3 million (excluding the cost of admission).

And if those numbers don’t grab you, there are some heartfelt stats that support the arts. According to another Americans for the Arts survey by Ipsos Public Affairs, an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that the arts improve the quality of our personal lives and our communities.

  • 63% believe the arts “lift me up beyond everyday experiences.”
  • 73% say the arts are a “positive experience in a troubled world.”
  • 64% feel “pure pleasure to experience and participate in the arts.”
  • 67% percent believe “the arts unify our communities regardless of age, race and ethnicity.”
  • 62% agree that the arts “help me understand other cultures better”

For more information about the Giving Tuesday initiative and to search participating nonprofits in the Santa Barbara area, visit www.givingtuesday.org.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on November 26, 2017.

House of Clues is a Great Escape From the Ordinary

The Escape Room's Pirate Ghost Ship, courtesy photo.

The Escape Room’s Pirate Ghost Ship, courtesy photo.

Escape room games are super popular and Santa Barbara finally has its own one-of-a-kind venue: the House of Clues, 629 N. Salsipuedes St., 805/229-9179, TheHouseofClues.net.

Co-owners Assel Abdrakhmanova and Oscar Zevalos (they also have a third partner, Whitman Heining) were designing props and sets for themed events and escape rooms for outside clients when they decided to create their own, custom, one-of-a-kind attraction.

“We knew we could do a better job and make it even better and more challenging,” says Zevalos.

Their goal is eventually to franchise their concepts, with Santa Barbara as the first location, and I think they’ve got a winner. Not only was our “Pirate Ghost Ship” game well designed and challenging, it truly was exciting and fun for our entire group—which included my college age niece and her boyfriend, as well as my husband and I, and my sister and brother-in-law.

The author and her family, having barely escaped the Pirate Ghost Ship, courtesy photo.

The author and her family, having barely escaped the Pirate Ghost Ship, courtesy photo.

The “fun for all ages” claim seems truly legit as evidenced by the enthusiastic group of 13-year-old boys who went before us. This would also be a great team building activity for companies, students, group of friends, date nights and other group events.

The way that escape rooms work is they combine mental puzzles with physical challenges and a beat-the-clock element keeps things moving along quickly. With 45 minutes to escape from a given room (which is actually a series of rooms), you are under constant video and audio surveillance and can communicate with the game master at any time, as well as receive clues when needed. Every move counts, and nothing is as it seems. The game was much more challenging than any of us were expecting and we needed a few helpful tips from Assel to move us along in places.

In addition to the “Pirate Ghost Ship,” the House of Clues also has a “Psycho Dentist” game on the menu with another theme on the way soon.

Currently operating Mon.-Thurs. from 5-10 p.m., Fri. from noon- 11.30 p.m. and Sat.-Sun. from 10a.m.-11:30 p.m., the House of Clues is a great new addition to the local scene. Cost is $35 per person, children must be at least eight years old to play, and an adult must accompany those under age 15. For more information, visit TheHouseofClues.net.

Leslie Dinaberg                

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on August 28, 2017.                                         

Cocktail Corner: August Ridge Vineyards Opens Tasting Room in La Arcada

Manager Elise Kimball (left) and Hope Riley welcome visitors to the new August Ridge Tasting Room in La Arcada. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Manager Elise Kimball (left) and Hope Riley welcome visitors to the new August Ridge Tasting Room in La Arcada. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

A little gem of a tasting room recently opened its doors in La Arcada.  August Ridge Vineyardsa family-owned winery ten miles outside of Paso Robles in Creston, specializes in Italian varietals (Sangiovese, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Pinot Grigio, Primitivo and more).

The winery was started by John Backer and Jill Zamborelli Backer back in 2001, but their shared passions for food and wine have even deeper roots. John’s family has been growing grapes in California since the 1800’s, while Jill’s family brought their Italian food and wine traditions over from a small town just outside of Rome.

The charming new August Ridge Tasting Room in La Arcada. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

The charming new August Ridge Tasting Room in La Arcada. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

I tried both the regular and estate reserve tasting flights (with some assistance from my husband), and was pleased with the offerings from this small production winery. In particular, their flagship wines were delicious. Try the 2012 Jovial, an estate reserve super Tuscan blend with the tasty aromas of red cherry and plum, and the 2012 Ingenious, another estate reserve blend, primarily Nebbiolo-based, with a robust, earthy flavor.

These wines are all lovingly produced in very small quantities, so we are fortunate to be able to taste them right in our own backyard.

August Ridge Tasting Room hours are as follows: 

Charley is on hand to greet visitors at the August Ridge Tasting Room in La Arcada. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Charley is on hand to greet visitors at the August Ridge Tasting Room in La Arcada. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Wednesday-Thursday: 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Friday-Saturday: 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

Sunday-Monday: 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Tuesday: closed

The tasting room is located at 5 E. Figueroa St. in La Arcada. Stop by and say hello to Tasting Room Manager Elise Kimball and her adorable doodle dog, Charley. For more information visit augustridge.com.

Cheers! Click here for more Cocktail Corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

 Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on August 4, 2017.

Cocktail Corner: Brave & Maiden Tasting Room Breaks Ground

Brave & Maiden tasting room, courtesy image.

Brave & Maiden tasting room, courtesy image.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

Brave & Maiden Estate recently broke ground on its new winery and tasting room, which will be located on the winery’s 60-acre estate along Refugio Road in Santa Ynez. The sustainably farmed vineyard takes its name from the “Legend of Nojoqui” (pronounced Naw-ho-wee), an indigenous incarnation of Romeo & Juliet. Set at the nearby Nojoqui Falls, the legend recounts the story of star-crossed lovers who choose death over separation.

The new facility and tasting room has been in the works for many years. Brave & Maiden Estate was established in 2011 and occupies the land they purchased in 2010. Planted to 46 acres of vineyards—including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache, and Sauvignon Blanc—Brave & Maiden’s wine program, led by winemaker Paul Hobbs, has found success in both restaurants and bottle shops throughout Southern and Central California, earning accolades for their single-vineyard estate wines and red blends.

Entrance to Brave & Maiden tasting room, courtesy image.

Entrance to Brave & Maiden tasting room, courtesy image.

The new facility will offer an entirely new tasting experience, along with a production facility for up to 8,000 cases. “We are thrilled to see the project get underway,” says Jason Djang, Managing Director. “The plans have been in the works for some time, so we’re excited to finally see earth moving and our vision coming to fruition.”

The project is designed by renowned wine country architect group Backen, Gillam & Kroeger Architects, known for projects such as Harlan Estate Winery, Larkmead Winery and Meadowood Napa Valley, among others. The space is Backen, Gillam & Kroeger Architects’ first project on the Central Coast, and is designed to prominently showcase views of the picturesque vineyard overlooking the Santa Ynez Mountains.

Brave & Maiden winemaker Paul Hobbs, courtesy photo.

Brave & Maiden winemaker Paul Hobbs, courtesy photo.

 “At Brave & Maiden, our goal is to not only be great vintners, but gracious hosts as well,” states Djang. “Hospitality will be central to our DNA as we create a unique and unforgettable experience with our wines, and the estate.” 

The winery and tasting room will open its doors by appointment the second half of 2018—a milestone the Brave & Maiden team feels will expand their goals as a brand.

“Santa Barbara County truly is a world-class wine region and I welcome the opportunity to be involved as the area embraces growth,” says Hobbs.

 “We were humbled by the market’s reception of the brand in 2014, selling out of our first two vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon,” says Djang. “Now, with construction of our new winery underway, we’re eager to open our own doors for guests to experience our wines first-hand. Obviously, we believe in the greatness of Santa Barbara County as a wine region and have invested accordingly.”

Brave & Maiden vineyard, courtesy photo.

Brave & Maiden vineyard, courtesy photo.

For more information, visit braveandmaiden.com.

Cheers! Click here for more Cocktail Corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

 Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on July 28, 2017.

First Person: Sullivan Goss Gallery’s Nathan Vonk

 New Sullivan Goss Gallery owner Nathan Vonk is flanked by his colleagues and fellow curators Jeremy Tessmer and Susan Bush.

New Sullivan Goss Gallery owner Nathan Vonk is flanked by his colleagues and fellow curators Jeremy Tessmer and Susan Bush. Courtesy photo.

Preserving the Legacy, Embracing the Future

By Leslie Dinaberg

The link between Burning Man’s annual bacchanal festivities and Sullivan Goss Gallery’s 30-plus-year legacy of celebrating important 19th-, 20th– and 21st-century American art may seem tenuous, but it was a visit to Burning Man that first sparked Nathan Vonk’s interest in art and the friends he made in the desert that first brought him to Santa Barbara.

Armed with a master’s degree in post-modern literature theory, Vonk taught night school at Ventura College and walked dogs during the day. He eventually bought out the owners of the dog business, ran it for a few years and then sold it for a profit, right before the market crashed in September of 2008.

Now fully enmeshed in the Santa Barbara scene, Vonk contemplated going back to school and getting a doctorate in art history or curatorial sciences and asked Sullivan Goss curator Jeremy Tessmer if he “could volunteer some hours at the gallery, so I could see if it was something that I wanted to do in graduate school.” Vonk laughs, “I came in and volunteered for the week, and on Friday, Frank [Goss] offered me a job. I never went back to school, and I’ve been there ever since.”

He continues, “I was the one guy in the whole country who got a new job in October of 2008. When everyone else was going on unemployment and Bear Stearns was crashing, I was one of the luckiest people in the country. I’ve been at Sullivan Goss ever since, and I couldn’t be happier.”

So happy, in fact, that when Goss told the team (which includes Tessmer and fellow curator Susan Bush) he planned to retire after 2016, Vonk bought the gallery because he wanted to make sure the legacy continued, with its staff intact.

If you think of arts in Santa Barbara as an ecosystem, the part that Sullivan Goss fulfills—if that goes away, the whole ecosystem suffers greatly and it’s not a part that someone is going to step in and fill that void. That was a large part of my motivation to take on the risk of running a commercial gallery,” says Vonk.

He and his wife, Erin Smith, have a son, Lowen, who, Vonk says, “has been to more art shows at age 2-1/2 than I think the average Santa Barbaran probably has.”

Part of what Vonk loves about Santa Barbara is its casual, egalitarian nature. “I think we all understand how lucky we are to work in a gallery like this, in a town like this. Shortly after working for Frank, I had the opportunity to go to New York and visit galleries…the whole vibe there is so different than it is in Santa Barbara. If you don’t look like you can afford it, they don’t give you the time of day.…It kind of left a bad taste in my mouth about the whole situation, and it made me all the more excited to come back and work for Frank, because we don’t operate that way. In part we can’t, because the man or woman who comes into our gallery in shorts and flip-flops could very easily be a billionaire, and I don’t know that. So I have to treat everyone like they are billionaires, and I like that.”

Vonk views part of his art-dealer role as acting like a sort of docent, saying, “What we sell are not just pretty pictures; they are pretty pictures that come with a history and a provenance and some other interesting part of them that, hopefully, people who are interested in buying them will understand that if they buy them, they are only going to be a small portion of that object’s history.”

He also clearly loves the work. “One of the great things about Sullivan Goss is that I was sort of an academic, and I loved studying and writing essays and we do all that.… We’ve written four or five books…all the things I wanted from going back to school I got. Plus I got to stay in Santa Barbara so it was even better.”

Originally published in the Summer 2017 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.