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.

Cocktail Corner: Local Restaurants Earn Wine Spectator’s Top Honors

The Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch, courtesy photo.

The Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch, courtesy photo.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

As if there were any doubt that Santa Barbara County is Wine Country, Wine Spectator recently honored 20 local restaurants with their highest honors for excellence.

“Wine Spectator‘s Restaurant Awards recognize restaurants whose wine lists offer interesting selections, are appropriate to their cuisine and appeal to a wide range of wine lovers,” according to the guidelines.

The Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch earned The Grand Award, which is Wine Spectator‘s highest honor, given to only 89 restaurants around the world. According to Wine Spectator, this honor is “given to restaurants that show an uncompromising, passionate devotion to the quality of their wine programs. These wine lists typically feature 1,000 or more selections, and deliver serious breadth of top producers, outstanding depth in mature vintages, a selection of large-format bottles, excellent harmony with the menu, and superior presentation. These restaurants offer the highest level of wine service.”

Angel Oak at the Bacara Resort & Spa, Los Olivos Wine Merchant & CafeOpal Restaurant & Bar and Wine Cask all earned The Best of Award of Excellence. “These wine lists display excellent breadth across multiple winegrowing regions and/or significant vertical depth of top producers, along with superior presentation. Typically offering 350 or more selections, these restaurants are destinations for serious wine lovers, showing a deep commitment to wine, both in the cellar and through their service team,” according to Wine Spectator.

“We are thrilled for the honor in our first year of opening,” says Anne Elcon, Director of Marketing & Communications at Bacara Resort & Spa.

Angel Oak Wine Cellar, LaFemme Photography, courtesy photo.

Angel Oak Wine Cellar, LaFemme Photography, courtesy photo.

Also receiving The Award of Excellence, for “wine lists, which typically offer at least 90 selections, feature a well-chosen assortment of quality producers, along with a thematic match to the menu in both price and style,” were several other local restaurants: BarbareñoBella Vista at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, Bouchon Santa Barbara, Chuck’s Steak House Of Hawaii, Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant, Olio Pizzeria, Olio e Limone Ristorante, S.Y. Kitchen, Sly’s, The Harbor Restaurant, The Hitching Post II, The Lark, Tre Lune and Willows at Chumash Casino Resort.

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 14, 2017.

Local Lowdown: Strolling Santa Claus Lane

A-Frame Surf Shop, photo by Mercedes Lowe.

A-Frame Surf Shop, photo by Mercedes Lowe.

A beachside street dubbed Santa Claus Lane—named after the iconic statue of St. Nick that greeted visitors for more than 50 years, until it was moved in 2002—boasts epicurean delights and local wines, plus a tranquil garden to while away the hours at Garden Market, while Padaro Beach Grill is a great spot for kids and dogs to play while you sit outside, enjoy the ocean view and peruse a tasty menu of burgers, salads, sandwiches and fish specialties.

ZeBird Design, photo by Mercedes Lowe.

ZeBird Design, photo by Mercedes Lowe.

Shopping in the area includes surf-inspired fashions—along with surf lessons and boards for the intrepid consumer—at A-Frame Surf Shop. Original artwork plus a design and consign business make ZeBird Design an ever-evolving treasure trove for the fashionable home, while interior design enthusiasts flock to the contemporary-rustic home furnishings at Porch, “where shelter and nature converge” into distinct art, as well as home accessories and furniture.

Hummingbird, photo by Mercedes Lowe.

Hummingbird, photo by Mercedes Lowe.

Thoughtful gifts, eclectic accessories and bohemian jewelry await lucky treasure seekers a few shops down at Hummingbird, while Rowan Boutique embodies the casual elegance of the Santa Barbara lifestyle with clothing and accessories.

Santa may be gone, but the shopping scene is alive and well on his namesake street in Carpinteria. Tucked just south of Montecito, amid the soothing sounds of the sea—and occasional toots from the train—the eclectic Santa Claus Lane is home to an impressive variety of charming storefronts.

All stores are located between 3765 and 3825 Santa Claus Lane, Carpinteria.

Leslie Dinaberg

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

Local Dish: Angel Oak Celebrates its One-Year Anniversary

Angel Oak at Bacara, courtesy photo.

Angel Oak at Bacara, courtesy photo.

Believe it or not, it was about a year that Angel Oak first opened its doors, offering a unique twist on the traditional steak and seafood concept—not to mention that killer ocean view! 

The signature restaurant of Bacara Resort & Spa celebrates its one-year anniversary with a community party on June 25. To showcase Angel Oak’s appreciation to the local community, the restaurant hosts a “One Under the Sun” party on Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. The leisurely afternoon includes chef bites, lawn games, live music and dozens of local wine and craft beer tastings. All of the festivities take place on Angel Oak’s expansive outdoor patio and bluff overlooking captivating ocean views.

The bar at Bacara Resort & Spa's new fine dining restaurant, Angel Oak, courtesy photo.

The bar at Bacara Resort & Spa’s new fine dining restaurant, Angel Oak, courtesy photo.

“We’re thrilled to celebrate our first anniversary, which represents a significant milestone for our resort and destination,” says Vincent Lesage, executive chef of Bacara Resort & Spa. “Our goal was to build a restaurant that would stand the test of time. We are honored our local community has embraced us.”

Tickets for One Under the Sun are $50 per person, inclusive of tax and gratuity. A special guest room rate starting at $250 (normally $500) is also available. Space is limited. For tickets and more information, please visit AngelOakSB.com. Angel Oak at Bacara Resort & Spa is located at 8301 Hollister Ave.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on June 20, 2017.

Local Dish: The Gathering Table at Ballard Inn

The new interior of the Gathering Table at Ballard Inn, photo by Tenley Fohl Photography.

The new interior of the Gathering Table at Ballard Inn, photo by Tenley Fohl Photography.

The Gathering Table at Ballard Inn is the new restaurant concept from Chef Budi Kazali, who has owned the property with his wife Chris Kazali since 2004.

Ballard Inn has always been highly regarded for its romantic ambiance and award-winning cuisine, but the new restaurant and decor offers a much more fun, casual and inviting experience. Rather than a special occasion place, it feels like a more welcoming spot to gather over incredible food that’s meant to be shared.

“Modern farmhouse ambiance with Colonial influence” is how the team describes the new look—designed by local interior designer Heather Saarloos—and it’s pretty accurate.  As Budi explains, “We’re lucky that Ballard Inn has been a much-loved luxury destination over the years, but we felt it was time to introduce a new level of sophistication to our atmosphere.”

The Gathering Table at Ballard Inn by Tenley Fohl Photography.

The Gathering Table at Ballard Inn photo by Tenley Fohl Photography.

The Inn’s 15 guest rooms, which have undergone various updates throughout the years, will also receive a refresh to convey a sense of continuity throughout the entire space.

With a warm and inviting atmosphere, a long communal table and a menu featuring shared plates, The Gathering Table is “meant to be a gathering place for locals and visitors, a fun and inviting place to gather over incredible food,” says Chris.

Chef Budi Kazali, whose cuisine has been featured in such notable publications as Food and Wine and The Wine Spectator, and is also well known for his local TV show, The Inn Crowd, has created a menu that features a large variety of creative shared plates and signature dishes highlighting local, seasonal produce and seafood.

“Our new restaurant’s menu is much more comprehensive than before,” shares Chris. “The concept of The Gathering Table has allowed Budi to be more creative with his food.” Adds Budi, “The food is flavorful, seasonal and unique and there’s truly something for everyone.”  

The Gathering Table at Ballard Inn, photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

The Gathering Table at Ballard Inn, photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

 An artistic melding of Asian, French and California wine country cuisine, the new menu features a delicious selection of seasonal, locally sourced produce, seafood and meats. We sampled a wide array of dishes, all tasty. Particular favorites were Hamachi made with avocado and soy-yuzu vinaigrette; Sesame Caesar Salad; Hope Ranch Mussels with chorizo and garlic toast; Pork & Shrimp Shumai with ginger vinegar sauce and Marinated Hanger Steak with spicy charred Brussels sprouts.

“We look forward to sharing our space with our community in hopes we can offer a place for locals and visitors to gather and enjoy the bounty of the area. We’re happy that our renovations will further enhance Ballard Inn as an exceptional destination in Santa Barbara’s wine country,” says Budi.

Built in 1985, Ballard Inn is located t 2436 Baseline Ave. in the historic township of Ballard, just 35 minutes north of Santa Barbara near Solvang.  To learn more about Ballard Inn & The Gathering Table, please visit ballardinn.com.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on May 23, 2017. 

Local Lowdown: Happy 50th to Chuck’s of Hawaii

The bar at Chuck's opening night, courtesy Chuck's of Hawaii.

The bar at Chuck’s opening night, courtesy Chuck’s of Hawaii.

Surprisingly little has changed since owner Larry Stone opened Chuck’s of Hawaii in 1967. The staff still wears Hawaiian shirts, the menus are still painted on Lancers wine bottles (Stone did the originals himself), the steaks and seafood are still solidly good, the Tiki Torches still burn brightly on upper State Street and the Mai-Tais are still the best in town.

As an avid young surfer, Stone worked for the original Chuck’s founder Chuck Rolles in Hawaii, who was looking to expand his operation.  Stone had friends at UCSB and liked the town—plus he knew he’d be able to surf here.  As for the location, the Sumida family had a new building available, and Stone thought it might work as a restaurant. “I didn’t have a lot of options, but…they let me have that space and I knew it would be close to Hope Ranch and to people who could dine out daily instead of just weekends.”

This was before La Cumbre Plaza was even completed, but “the shopping center it was a big hit” and so was Chuck’s. “Opening day we served about 100 meals,” recalls Stone. “We’ve always had such a great local following.”

Chuck’s before construction, courtesy Chuck’s of Hawaii

The formula is simple: high quality food in a casual setting.

And then there’s the salad bar. Stone laughs when asked about it, “I’m not saying it was the first salad bar (although others make that claim) but we get credit for being the first company that popularized the salad bar on the mainland.” Stone also gives much credit for the success of Chuck’s to his longtime employees like manager Brad Schuette, who started at age 15, and Steve Hyslop, who started as a dishwasher and now co-owns and runs Chuck’s Waterfront Grill in the harbor.

Stone laughs when asked if he ever imagined that Chuck’s would still be going strong 50 years later. “I wasn’t even thinking about what I’d be doing in five or ten years at that point, but I didn’t think I’d be running around in short pants and Hawaiian shirts as an old man.”

Chuck’s of Hawaii is located at 3888 State St., 805/687-4417, chucksofhawaii.com.

The scene at Chuck's opening night, courtesy Chuck's of Hawaii.

The scene at Chuck’s opening night, courtesy Chuck’s of Hawaii.

Leslie Dinaberg

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

Her Kitchen Rules

Iron Chef and Santa Barbara local Cat Cora is certainly on a roll! Her new burger joint, Mesa Burger, is constantly packed with locals craving the award-winning chef’s crave-worthy burger creations.

So far, my favorites are the Montecito (made with griddled goat cheese/bourbon glazed mushrooms/house onion ring/truffle aioli/arugula/grilled onions) and the Goodland (with double cheddar/sliced & grilled 805 beer brat/crispy onion strings/applewood smoked bacon/smoked bbq sauce), but we’re slowly working our way through the entire menu.

It’s all good, and a welcome addition to the Mesa neighborhood.

Mesa Burger'sFunk Zone: sunny side up fried egg/applewood bacon/bourbon glazed mushrooms/bbq sauce/cheddar cheese/roasted tomato . Paired with their original sweet potato waffle fries. Courtesy photo.

Mesa Burger’s Funk Zone: sunny side up fried egg/applewood bacon/bourbon glazed mushrooms/bbq sauce/cheddar cheese/roasted tomato. Paired with their original sweet potato waffle fries. Courtesy photo.

That’s not all the busy Cat has been up to. She also has a new Fox television show, My Kitchen Rules, which she co-hosts with Curtis Stone.

At last week’s premiere party (at Mesa Burger) it was a little hard to follow with the lively crowd of friends, but from what I can gather it’s a celebrity dinner party contest, with different celebs entertaining each other each week. Cat and Curtis provide the culinary expertise and the cast—which includes Andrew Dice Clay, Naomi Judd and Lance Bass, among others—provides the comedy. It’s definitely worth checking out on Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Fox.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on January 18, 2017.

 

Cocktail Corner: Figueroa Mountain Turns Six

figueroa-mountain-brewing-company-anniversary-release-courtesy-photoA Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg 

Cheers to our friends at Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, which, in just six short years, has grown from a small production facility and taproom in Buellton to a six-taproom, four-brewery operation with distribution throughout California, Arizona and soon expanding to additional states.

Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company is the fastest growing craft brewery on the Inc. 5000 list, and also recently joined the Pacific Coast Business Times’ 50 Fastest Growing Companies list for California’s Central Coast.

Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company was founded by in 2010 father and son team, Jim and Jaime Dietenhofer. With a passion for craft beer, they set out to pay homage to the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley with handcrafted beer and hand-drawn artwork depicting the local landscape on their labels.  There are currently six taprooms along the Central Coast of California.

Excited about the future, the fig team is going BIG for its annual celebration, with a 6th Anniversary Party on Saturday, November 26 from 1-9:30 p.m. at the Buellton taproom (45 Industrial Way, Buellton).

Courtesy Figueroa Mountain Brew Co.

Courtesy Figueroa Mountain Brew Co.

Admission is free and guests can take advantage of the 6th Anniversary bottle release a day before it goes on sale at the other five taprooms and in select local retailers.  Enjoy contests, food for purchase, special mini-events and live music at their flagship brewery and beer garden.

In addition, this year’s special bottle release is Figueroa Mountain’s 6th Anniversary Grand Cru Ale aged in apple-pear brandy, grape brandy and whiskey barrels and sold in 22-ounce bottles.   Special holiday gift-packs will also be available with two 6th Anniversary bottles and a 6th Anniversary t-shirt.

“I’m always excited about our Anniversary beer releases and this year is no exception,” says President Jaime Dietenhofer.  “Despite the 14% ABV (alcohol-by-volume) of this barrel-aged Grand Cru Ale, it has a smooth taste and a complex flavor profile.  We discovered a long list of flavors including notes of marshmallow, vanilla, whiskey, almonds, honey, pears, figs and gentle toasted oak.  It’s one of those beers you reward yourself with or bring to a holiday celebration to share.”

In addition to the food items for sale in the beer garden from Figueroa Mountain’s new Buellton taproom restaurant, there will be several special offerings throughout the day.  Unlimited cask tastings will be sold for $10 per wristband with four cask releases throughout the day.  Wristband holders will also be eligible to win prizes such as a private beer pairing dinner for 10 with Chef Brian Champlin.

Also available for serious beer aficionados is the 6th Anniversary Barrel Tasting & Pairing held in the upstairs mezzanine from 3-5 p.m.

Taster of Figueroa Mountain beers (L-R): Ginger Red, Hurricane Deck Double Indian Pale Ale, Stagecoach Stout, and Irish Stout

Taster of Figueroa Mountain beers (L-R): Ginger Red, Hurricane Deck Double Indian Pale Ale, Stagecoach Stout, and Irish Stout

“Our brewers will walk guests through a flight of four versions of the 6th Anniversary Grand Cru Ale,” explains Head Brewer of Buellton, David Traille.  “We’ll have samples of each barrel followed by the final blend for comparison.”  Each taste will include a small bite of food that pairs with that particular sample.  For $75 per ticket, guests will also receive a 6th Anniversary t-shirt and a 22-ounce bottle to take home with them.

Tickets can be purchased at http://fig6th.nightout.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 November 11, 2016.

 

Cocktail Corner: Calivore Spirits

Aaron Bergh, the "President & Commander-in-Mischief" of Calivore Spirits, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Aaron Bergh, the “President & Commander-in-Mischief” of Calivore Spirits, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg 

I had the opportunity to sample some spirits with Aaron Bergh this week, the “President & Commander-in-Mischief” of Calivore Spirits, a new California born and bred business specializing in regionally made liquor.

Bergh started his venture just a few years ago as a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student who basically made hooch in his dorm room. Studying agriculture, he started fermenting the fallen fruit from Cal Poly’s orchards and initially made fruit brandy, followed by rum, whiskey and assorted liqueurs. He quickly realized he might have a legitimate business in the making, and got help from a campus group for budding entrepreneurs. He soon won a “Shark Tank” style business plan competition and started working with a craft distillery to produce spirits from his recipes, teaming up with two friends (Raleigh Nejame and Luke Beaton) to help send the resulting Calivore Spirits brand out into the world this year.

So far they’ve got three products—Blonde Rum, Spiced Rum and Big Sur Gin—I sampled all three and this is not just a great young entrepreneurial story, they’re quite tasty.

Intermezzo's "Cali Mai Tai," made with Calivore Blonde and Spiced rums, pistachio orgeat, lime and grenadine. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Intermezzo’s “Cali Mai Tai,” made with Calivore Blonde and Spiced rums, pistachio orgeat, lime and grenadine. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

The Calivore Blonde Rum is fermented from US-grown raw sugar cane and rested in chardonnay barrels. The Calivore Spiced Rum is a delicious autumnal mix of orange peel, vanilla, clove, cinnamon, ginger and molasses, also mellowed in wine barrels. The Calivore Big Sur Gin is unusual in that it’s grape-based (a very California influence) with 12 different herbs including juniper, sage, yerba santa, bay, fennel, and elderberry—the idea is to bring you the experience of a Big Sur hike in a bottle.

Wine Cask and Intermezzo Bar & Cafe Beverage Director Matt Pickett whipped us up a wonderfully refreshing “Cali Mai Tai” made with Calivore Blonde and Spiced rums, pistachio orgeat, lime and grenadine. It’s on the specialty cocktail menu and well worth a try, especially with these hot autumn days we’ve been having.  Calivore Spirits are also on the menu at The Bobcat RoomChase Bar & GrillLa Arcada BistroThe Nugget Bar & Grill, Sama Sama KitchenScarlett Begonia and Viva Santa Barbara, with more outlets soon to follow. 

Calivore Spirits are also carried in Whole Foods, with additional distributors coming soon. For more information, go to calivorespirits.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 Magazine on September 30, 2016.