Cocktail Corner: California Wine Festival, Bacon and Barrels & More!

California Wine Festival, courtesy photo

California Wine Festival, courtesy photo

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

California Wine Festival returns to Santa Barbara this week (July 16-18), bringing the opportunity to sip and savor nearly 250 wines from over 70 wineries and 30 fine dining restaurants and gourmet food purveyors. This festival was recently named one of the 2015 Top Culinary Festivals and Wine Events around the U.S. and the World by Gayot.

The first event is “Old Spanish Nights Wine Tasting,” a celebration of wines, foods and music true to Santa Barbara’s Spanish roots. Taking place at the historic De La Guerra Adobe Courtyard Thursday, July 16, from 6:30-9 p.m., this tasting is a showcase for world-class wines accompanied by a spicy array of appetizers from top local restaurants and colorful Flamenco dancers, accompanied by blazing guitars and hot Latin sounds.

Courtesy California Wine Festival

Courtesy California Wine Festival

Unique to the California Wine Festival this year is a special wine-experience seminar, where 40  lucky guests will enjoy a Cabernet Clinic and Tasting Seminar conducted by winemakers from the Paso Robles Cab Collective and moderated by Matt Kettmann. The event takes place on Friday, July 17, from 5-6 p.m. at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort.

Immediately following, just down the road at the charming old-world carousel at Chase Palm Park Plaza is the “Sunset Rare & Reserve Wine Tasting” where California’s best winemakers dust off their rare and reserve bottles and let lucky guests sip the good stuff! Some of the wines being poured are impossible to buy and are no longer in distribution. Guests are greeted with champagne, then treated to Napa trophy cabs, rare bottles from Sonoma, old vine wines from the high Sierras and the best from California’s Central Coast and Santa Barbara County. There are also gourmet appetizers from top local chefs, live music and a silent auction of fine wines, exotic super-sized-wine bottles including dozens of magnums, double magnums and special luxury wine trips will raise money for The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. It all takes place on Friday, July 17, from 6:30-9 p.m. and is limited to just 500 ticket holders.

Courtesy California Wine Festival

Courtesy California Wine Festival

The finale of the festivities is the “Beachside Food & Wine Fest” on Saturday, July 18, from 1-4 p.m., when thousands of wine lovers pour into Santa Barbara’s sun-splashed beachside location for a day of sun, sea, wine, food and music. Hundreds of premium California wines are served up along with the best of the regional microbreweries, local top chefs, food purveyors and vendors of all things related to wine. VIP entry at is at noon, and new this year is an expanded  VIP Pavilion sponsored by Santa Barbara Public Market and features public market vendors Belcampo Meat, Green Star Coffee, Foragers Pantry, I’a Fish Market & Cafe, Crazy Good Bread, Empty Bowl Noodle Bar, Flag Stone Pantry, Il Fustino and Rori’s Ice Cream.

Print-at-home tickets are available on the Festival website:

Photo by Jeremy Ball/Bottle Branding

Bacon and Barrels. Photo by Jeremy Ball/Bottle Branding

Also back in town next weekend is Bacon & Barrels, which moves to Buttonwood Farm this year. Named “Top Bacon Festival in the U.S.” by A Luxury Blog, and “Top 5 California Festival” by The Huffington Post, the three-day event is a must-attend for bacon obsessed foodies and those who prefer their drinks from a barrel.

Attendees will savor creative bacon dishes, and libations surrounded by the farm’s bounty of olives, pomegranates, peaches, herbs, and summer vegetables. The event kicks off with a Midsummer Night’s Bacon Dream Dinner at Buttonwood Farm on July 17, where attendees are treated to a four-course all pork dinner paired with Buttonwood Farm Wines.  The Grand Tasting at Buttonwood Farm will take place July 18 and will feature chef and mixologist demonstrations as well as access to tastings featuring leading winemakers, small production distilleries, craft breweries, artisan food purveyors and the sounds of Moonshiner Collective. Purchase tickets or get more information at


Click here for more cocktail corner columns. Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on July 10, 2015.

Leslie DinabergWhen 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.”

Cocktail Corner: Wine Notes

The beautiful home of Westerly Wines, photo by Leslie Dinaberg

The beautiful home of Westerly Wines, photo by Leslie Dinaberg

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

Purely by coincidence, I spent the last two weekends tasting a number of limited production wines—while the number of bottles may be small, their variety is large and their quality is excellent.

Westerly Wines

First up was a lovely tour, barrel sampling and wine tasting at the Santa Ynez estate home of Westerly Wines. What a treat! Winemaker Adam Henkel played host for the private event. He’s a Kentucky-born charmer who came to the vineyard a few years ago, after a decade in Napa Valley making wines for Harlan Estate and Swanson Vineyards.

Westerly Wines Winemaker Adam Henkel with one of the ceramic "eggs" used in the white winemaking process. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Westerly Wines Winemaker Adam Henkel with one of the ceramic “eggs” used in the white winemaking process. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

First of all, the estate is beautiful. Based in the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA, it was once part of a 3,900-acre horse ranch, Westerly Stud Farms, and horses still graze the neighboring estates. Our first wine was a 2013 Westerly Sauvignon Blanc, a bright, fresh and balanced wine that was perfect for a warm, spring afternoon. Then Henkel took us into the barrel room, where we sampled the 2014 Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay and the 2013 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir, both of which were quite promising. This winery is state-of-the art, with reds fermenting in concrete conical tanks, French Oak and traditional stainless steel, while the whites cold ferment in concrete “eggs,” as well as small French Oak barrels and stainless steel tanks. It’s amazing the number of different winemaking vessels available, and Westerly seems to have them all on hand.

Then it was onto the picturesque dining room, where owner Roger Bower greeted us warmly. At lunch we tasted an excellent Bordeaux varietal, the 2010 Westerly Fletcher’s Red, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. We also tasted the 2012 Cote Blonde, a blend of 87% Syrah and 13% Viognier co-fermented together to create my new favorite wine. It’s really nicely balanced and full bodied with a wonderful smell of dried apricots of flowers. Trust me, it’s delicious! It was a great introduction to these (new to me) wines. I definitely won’t be a stranger!

The winery is not open to the public, however wine club members are invited to special events and staff will be pouring at a number of upcoming wine festivals, including the 2nd Annual Santa Barbara Food & Wine Weekend at the Bacara Resort & Spa April 16-17. Click here for details.

The Garagiste Festival

Speaking of festivals, if you want to know what’s new and exciting in the world of wine, the Garagiste Festival is the place to be. Named for the GARAGISTES (gar-uh-zhē-stuh), which comes from a term originally used in the Bordeaux region of France to denigrate renegade small-lot wine makers, sometimes working in their garages, who refused to follow the “rules” of traditional winemaking, the festival focuses on producers of less than 1,500 cases, which means these are wines you are unlikely to find very easily. The Solvang festival had two days of Grand Tastings, with different wines poured a each one.

One of my favorites was the 2012 Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay from Seagrape Cellars, which is a side project for Buttonwood Farm Winemaker Karen Steinwachs (started with her late husband, Dave). Another festival fave (I was focused on whites) was Baehner Fournier Vineyards 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from Vogelzang Vineyard in Happy Canyon.

This is the special rose flight from Wine + Beer, photo courtesy JZPR.

This is the special rose flight from Wine + Beer, photo courtesy JZPR.

Wine + Beer

Rosé was also on the menu this week. As part of its one-year anniversary celebration, Wine + Beer in the Santa Barbara Public Market is offering a special “Drink Pink” rosé tasting series that runs through April 7 features some excellent local winemakers:

Tatomer “Spaatburgunder” Rosé, made of 100% Pinot Noir

Stolpman Vineyards Rosé, Ballard Canyon, made from 100% Grenache

Margerum Wine Company “Riviera” Rosé (97% Grenache, 3% Counoise and Cinsaut)

Dragonette Cellars Rosé, Happy Canyon (70% Grenache, 25% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre),

Liquid Farm “Vogelzang Vineyard,” Happy Canyon, made from 100% Mourvedre.

Tasting flights are only available through next week, but the wines—so perfect for spring —are all for sale by the bottle in this bustling tasting room. Cheers!

Click here for more cocktail corner columns. Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on April 3, 2015.

Leslie Dinaberg

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.”