Editor’s Letter & Editor’s Picks | Winter 2019

Santa Barbara Seasons Editor Leslie Dinaberg, photo by Tracy Smith.

Santa Barbara Seasons Editor Leslie Dinaberg, photo by Tracy Smith.

“When you start to engage with your creative processes, it shakes up all your impulses and they all kind of inform one another.”  —Jeff Bridges

Relationships and connections are endlessly fascinating, and the art of making a life together while making art is even more compelling. In our feature on creative couples and “The Art of Being Together,” photographer/writer Leela Cyd teams with six local couples who share how they collaborate, cohabitate and continue on their creative paths together.

A change of scenery is always a great way to relax and recharge your energies—and your relationships. Whether you’re vacationing or stay-cationing, the Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country makes a great getaway, especially at the newly refurbished Skyview. Read all about this cool place in “Retro-Chic Revival at the Skyview Los Alamos.” Wendy Thies Sell’s guide to  “10 Wonderful Winter Wine Tasting Adventures” also has some terrific recommendations for wine adventures to share with your loved ones.

Beautifully curated by Style Editor Judy Foreman, our Holiday Gift Guide takes you through the winter through Valentine’s Day, and is full of great ideas for everyone in your life, as well as some special items you might have to purchase for yourself (perhaps as a reward for surviving the chaos?). We’ve also got a fun feature from Cheryl Crabtree with “Bright Ideas for Beautiful Bathrooms.”

All of us at SEASONS wish you the happiest of holidays and an even better new year to come. Cheers to a wonderful winter!

Leslie Dinaberg

Managing Editor


Ben Rector courtesy Kids Helping Kids.

Ben Rector courtesy Kids Helping Kids.

Winter Editor’s Picks

Sure, there are many, many ways to learn about philanthropy and economics, but the San Marcos High School Kids Helping Kids program has to be one of the most interesting and unique.

JohnnySwim courtesy Kids Helping Kids.

JohnnySwim courtesy Kids Helping Kids.

During the course of 16 years, students have raised more than 3.1 million dollars for charitable purposes—to improve the lives of disadvantaged children both globally and locally. This year’s student-run gala benefit concerts feature Ben Rector on Friday, Jan. 11, and Johnnyswim on Saturday, Jan. 12. Both shows take place at The Granada Theatre (1214 State St., Santa Barbara). For more information, visit kidshelpingkidssb.org.

One of the highlights of my year is always the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which offers a whirlwind 11 days of more than 200 films, tributes and symposiums that range from American indie films to world cinema and everything in between. At press time, Glenn Close, Melissa McCarthy and Viggo Mortensen were set to receive awards, with many more starry tributes to be scheduled.

Glen Close courtesy SBIFF.

Glen Close courtesy SBIFF.

We can’t wait to see what the organizers have in store for this 34th annual event, which takes place Jan. 30-Feb. 9 at various locations in downtown Santa Barbara. For more information and updates, visit sbiff.org.

Named by none other than Time Magazine as one of the “Most Christmassy Towns

Nisse at Solvang's Julefest, courtesy Solvangusa.com.

Nisse at Solvang’s Julefest, courtesy Solvangusa.com.

in America,” the Danish village of Solvang truly sparkles during the annual Solvang Julefest (pronounced Yule-Fest) celebration, taking place from Dec. 1 through Jan. 4. Highlights include the Nisse Adventure Hunt, Candlelight Tours, visits with Santa “Julemanden” in Solvang Park, Shop, Mingle & Jingle Weekends and the Holiday Wine & Beer Walk “Skål Stroll!” There’s no better way to get into the holiday spirit than a visit to Solvang. For more information, visit SolvangUSA.com.

World of Pinot Noir, courtesy photo.

A salute to one of our favorite grapes, the 2019 World of Pinot Noir includes the opportunity to learn and taste with more than 200 wineries from around the globe. This marquee event, held at the beautiful seaside Ritz-Carlton Bacara Feb. 28 – Mar. 2, features pairing dinners, Pinot Noir parties and expert-led seminars. Other highlights include a Rosé Party on the bluff and
a special celebration rare library pairing dinner for the 30th anniversary of Fess Parker Winery. For more information, visit worldofpinotnoir.com.

Originally published in the Winter 2019 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

Cocktail Corner: The California Directory of Fine Wineries

CA Directory of Fine Wineries

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

The newest volume of The California Directory of Fine Wineries: Central Coast Edition (Wine House Press) takes a good thing and improves upon it, which isn’t always that easy to do.

Editor Tom Silberkleit has the tough job of navigating through hundreds of Central Coast wineries and tasting rooms and selecting the very best places to sip and savor throughout Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. Then writers K. Reka Badger and Cheryl Crabtree (both frequent Santa Barbara Seasons contributors), joined for this edition by Daniel Mangin, get to write profiles of the top 50 destinations, which each feature lush, full-color photographs by Robert Holmes, along with sidebars listing locations, specialties and nearby attractions.

It’s no surprise that this beautiful, visually-appealing book is featured in most of the top hotel rooms in the county. It would also make a great gift for the wine-loving people in your life.

Carhartt Vineyard tasting room, courtesy California Directory of Fine Wineries Facebook page

Carhartt Vineyard tasting room, courtesy California Directory of Fine Wineries Facebook page

Among the Santa Barbara County wineries that made the cut are Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards, Beckmen Vineyards, Blair Fox Cellars, Byron, Cambria Estate Winery, Carhartt Vineyard and Carr Vineyards & Winery.

Also featured are Costa de Oro Winery, D’Alfonso-Curran Wines, Demetria Estate Winery, Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard, Foley Estates Vineyard & Winery, Foley Food & Wine Society and Foxen.

Grassini Family Vineyards, Hitching Post Wines, Loring/Cargasacchi Tasting Room, Pali Wine Co., Sanford Winery & Vineyards, Silver Wines and Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards are also featured in The California Directory of Fine Wineries.

Byron tasting room, courtesy California Directory of Fine Wineries Facebook page

Byron tasting room, courtesy California Directory of Fine Wineries Facebook page

“There’s a lot more activity in the Funk Zone this time around,” says Crabtree, who wrote the majority of Santa Barbara County entries. The update includes the addition of a number of Santa Barbara urban wineries, including Pali, Silver Wines and Blair Fox in the Funk Zone, and Grassini, in the downtown El Paseo Wine Collection. There is also the addition of the Foley Food & Wine Society at the Bacara Resort & Spa, where you can taste from a large portfolio of Foley-owned wineries.

This visual feast of a wine book is available at Chaucer’s Bookstore, 3321 State St., as well as some of the local tasting rooms and wine-related venues.

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 May 22, 2015.

Noozhawk Talks: Santa Barbara Writers Blend Talents, Wine Experiences

For Reka Badger, left, and Cheryl Crabtree, writing the California Directory of Fine Wineries was a labor of love — and red wine.  (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

For Reka Badger, left, and Cheryl Crabtree, writing the California Directory of Fine Wineries was a labor of love — and red wine. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Leslie Dinaberg: The California Directory of Fine Wineries book is quite lovely and takes you on a journey through 58 wineries in Santa Barbara County, San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles. How did you decide which wineries to include?Cheryl Crabtree: (Our editor) Tom Silberkleit picked them.LD: Do you know how he picked them?Reka Badger: He tasted all over the place.

CC: He researched heavily.

RB: He chose them for the wine and the quality of the destination.

CC: It had to have a double package … these were destination travel pieces more than wine experiences. He definitely did his homework.

LD: Both of you have written extensively about wine. Tell me about some favorites you discovered in the course of writing the book.

RB: I thought Whalebone’s wines were really good. There was something about knowing their stories that added such a dimension to tasting the wine, too. The guy who owns Whalebone, Bob Simpson, was an obstetrician, and he lost his fingers in a hunting accident and had to do something else. He got involved with vineyards by doing something that was similar to what he did as a doctor, using equipment. They were raising cattle, as well, so they were already kind of farmer types. Then he planted some vineyards and grapes. He’s so devoted to farming … and I liked their wines.

I thought Calcareous Vineyard was a wonderful story — those two sisters (Dana Brown and Erika Messer), and I thought the wines were really nice. Those Zinfandels really showed what you could do with zin. Their pinot … there really is pinot up there in the right spot. I could go on and on.

LD:: What about you, Cheryl? Did you have any discoveries?

CC: I did discover probably one of the best wineries here, Kenneth Volk Vineyards.

LD: Really?

CC: Kenneth Volk is a pioneer in the wine business. He started Wild Horse Winery up in Templeton. He was one of the first and he’s very academic.

RB: He loves to talk about it. He loves to tell you about it.

CC: He’s a scientist, but he loves experimentation. What happened with Wild Horse is, it got a little too big for him and he wanted to return to making just the wines he really wanted to make and experiment with. He’s got 16 or 20 different wines. Some are really unusual ones, from really unusual varietals. Those wines were really good. I loved seeing how much he loves to get his hands dirty and experiment. It’s like a kid with a chemistry kit.

LD: Is this book something people would use to map out their wine-tasting destinations?

RB: It gives a series of really good starting points. I think the purpose is to get people out there, give them an idea of what they might find, and then from there, they can do their own exploring. It’s not a comprehensive guide, but it can point you to some of your favorites and to some that you don’t know.

CC: And to make it seem accessible, because a lot of people who don’t come from California especially think, oh, it’s only for connoisseurs. But that’s not the case at all. The photos really show that. Just normal people learning about wine in a very informal, casual way.

LD: Let’s say, for example, Reka: Where would you take a friend from out of town if you were to go wine tasting?

RB: That’s a really tough one. I would want them to stay five days and we would go to five different regions.

LD:: Really?

RB: Yes. Because there’s a lot of driving involved in the western Paso Robles area, near Whalebone. Vina Robles emerged full-blown from the soil with all of this stacked stone and expensive state-of-the-art stuff, which I steer clear of usually. They usually look too fancy for me, but it was a fabulous experience.

Where we would go would depend on whether we were going to taste some wine or we were going to stop and have a picnic. L’Adventure is at the end of the road. It’s this crazy French guy (Stephen Asseo) who didn’t want to be restricted to the Bordeaux requirements for blending. He wanted to develop blends around cabernets, so he came over here and bought that property. It’s an adventure just getting there. If you want to take a ride and see some country, I would want to go out there. If it’s a short time, I would go someplace a little closer. If there’s no time at all, go down to downtown Paso Robles and just do the downtown.

CC: Same thing, downtown Solvang and downtown Santa Barbara, the Urban Wine Trail. If you have little time, I would focus on those because you can still taste some great wines and walk.

LD: Do you guys have a favorite wine? You mentioned you like reds, Reka.

RB: I do, but depending on the weather and what I’m doing and the time of day. Mornings I prefer champagne, definitely. Late afternoon hot, I love a real crisp rose; I really like the roses a lot, but I do like a red.

LD: What about you, Cheryl?

CC: Pinot Noir. There are several great Pinot Noirs from the Santa Rita Hills. Those are stellar. Kris Curran; anything she touches is wonderful. And she is married to Bruno D’Alfonso, who was (the winemaker) at Sanford for a long time. They now have their own label, D’Alfonso-Curran Wines, but she also is the winemaker for Foley. She works wonders; it doesn’t matter who she’s working for, just find Kris Curran. And she and Bruno have a tasting room in Solvang, too.

LD: I’ll have to remember that.

CC: She is incredible. And so is Bruno. They are, he’s a pioneer also. They helped pave the way. He was the one who crafted Sanford wines for years. But my favorite is Alma Rosa Chardonnay. That’s what we always buy.

RB: Is it pretty affordable?

CC: It’s $11.99 at Costco.

LD: Where’s your favorite place to enjoy a glass of wine?

RB: I have a zero gravity chair, and I sit out on the patio and I kick my feet up and that’s about it. How about you, Cheryl?

CC: Well, I haven’t gotten out much except to my patio, but if I could my favorite view is Ellwood Bluffs. But I’m not sure you can bring wine up there.

RB: Well, if you’re discreet. (Laughs)

CC: That’s where I would go if I had the time. Anywhere with a view around here is not hard to find. Have you ever been to Clautiere Vineyard in Paso Robles? The tasting room has wigs and you put the different wigs on and be whoever you are, wander around the grounds with these wigs and it’s like a French cabaret.

LD: What a hoot. I’ve never heard of that.

RB: You know winemakers are all eccentrics, really.

CC: They really are.

LD: The other part of this is I ask you two a few questions about yourselves. So, Reka, what else do you like to do when you’re not working?

RB: One of my favorite things is to dig holes and plant things. I love to get out there with a shovel and a hat and dig holes and plant. I’m an irrepressible gardener. I love to read, I love to swim, I like to travel but I don’t get to do enough of that now. When the wine runs out I like a nice cold Bombay Martini straight up.

CC: If I had time I would have a list of things that I used to do.

RB: What’s at the top of the list?

CC: Travel. I love to walk the dog and enjoy Santa Barbara. All of these wonderful open spaces that we have. We’re so lucky to be able to have that. Every day we can go to the Douglas Preserve or Hendry’s Beach or the Bluffs or the burned-out trails, but they’re kind of fun still; it’s unusual. It’s a different look but it’s interesting. Also, recently I’ve begun to really like watching water polo.

RB: Isn’t it weird to be interviewed? It’s very strange to be on the other side.

CC: Yeah, it’s peculiar.

LD: If you could pick three adjectives to describe yourself, what would they be?

RB: Gorgeous, confident, wealthy. Put that.

CC: You can think of those for us.

RB: Yeah, just look at us. Curious, driven; those are the only two I can think of.

CC: Stubborn, persistent.

RB: I think we’re going to go with two adjectives each since there are two of us.

Vital Stats: Cheryl Crabtree

Born: July 21, in ancient times, San Francisco

Family: Husband Chris; sons Cameron, 15, and Colin, 10; Lightning the Jack Russell terrier and cats Pepper and Lorraine

Civic Involvement: Hope School District Educational Foundation, volunteer for kids’ sports teams

Professional Accomplishments: BA Stanford University with Honors in humanities and comparative literature; graduate studies in comparative literature at New York University. Moved to Santa Barbara in 1983 to work for EF (Education First). “When the headquarters (and my writing job) moved to Boston in the late ‘80s, I decided to freelance until I found a ‘real’ job. Two decades later, I still don’t have a real job, but I’ve written tons of things.” This includes co-authoring the first edition of The Insider’s Guide to Santa Barbara; working for Fodor’s Travel Publications updating the Central Coast and Monterey Bay chapters in Fodor’s California guidebook since 2001; co-authoring Hometown Santa Barbara (with Noozhawk’s Leslie Dinaberg and Zak Klobucher, and Nancy Ransohoff and Starshine Roshell) and co-authoring California Directory of Fine Wineries. Story editor/writer Montecito Magazine, writer for Santa Barbara Seasons/Custom Media and writer for the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau’s new Santa Barbara visitor’s magazine.

Best Book You’ve Read Recently: Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness by Lisa M. Hamilton; Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson; The Little Book by Selden Edwards

Little-Known Fact “I spent a year in Norway as a high school exchange student and speak Norwegian. Heia Norge!”

Vital Stats: K. Reka Badger

Born: June 12, midcentury last, in Monterey Park

Family: Married 21 years to Jon Budac; two cats and a ball-crazy whippet

Civic Involvement: Creston Garden Club, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, former board member Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association

Professional Accomplishments: BA in cultural anthropology from UCSB. “I have worked a lot of different jobs, including driving a cab, making documentary films, building models for an animator, painting houses, writing celebrity bios and managing winery tasting rooms. Currently, I write weekly wine, food and garden-related columns (for the Santa Barbara News-Press and the Santa Maria Sun), and consider the publication of this book a landmark accomplishment.”

Best Book You’ve Read Recently: Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett; Mother of Pearl, by Melinda Haynes; The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck

Little-Known Fact: “I managed a little copy kiosk at the edge of the UCSB campus way back when and was among Kinko’s first handful of employees.”

Originally published on Noozhawk.com on August 2, 2009.

A room of my own

Photo courtesy Cinders in the Dark on Vimeo.

Photo courtesy Cinders in the Dark on Vimeo.

Last week I finally got the answer to the age-old mystery pondered by mothers everywhere: My son has been potty-trained for three years, when do I finally get to use the bathroom by myself?

The answer: When you go on a trip without him.

Last week I tagged along with my friend Cheryl Crabtree, a travel writer (and mom of two boys) who was updating the Central Coast section for Fodor’s Travel Guides. I was ostensibly working on a few travel stories for the Beacon, but mostly I was enjoying having someone else cook my meals (in restaurants with cloth napkins and no kids menus), make my bed (with 600 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets) and drive me around (OK, so Cheryl’s Camry is only slightly more glamorous than my Tercel, but at least she was behind the wheel). Most of all, I was luxuriating in my personal bathroom space.

Guilty thoughts flitted by as I lay soaking in a lavender-scented spa tub at the Ventana Inn & Spa in Big Sur, which is surely one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

I took a sip of my wine and a bite of a perfect strawberry, and watched the stars twinkle over the Pacific Ocean and thought: Here I am, starring in one of the most romantic scenes of my entire life, and my husband is hundreds of miles away, probably eating a Big Mac.

I should feel guilty he’s not here to enjoy this. No really, I should. Guilty. Wracked with it. Hmm.

But what were the odds of my husband being able to relax and enjoy an $800 hotel room?

Even though it was free, I knew he’d be stressing out about Koss breaking something. And if our son weren’t with us, we’d both be stressing out about whether he was okay without us.

All in all I’m much better equipped to enjoy this luxurious bathtub all by myself, I rationalized. He doesn’t even like massages, the rubber-boned freak. This would be wasted on him. Really, I’m doing him a favor.

Oh! Does that strawberry have chocolate on it!

After my bath I tried out the Jacuzzi on my own private patio. Again, it was heaven. Once upon another life, I had a Jacuzzi in my backyard, but it was hard to keep the leaves out, and with the ambient lights of the city, I could never see stars like the ones in Big Sur.

I spotted the Big Dipper, and thought about how excited Koss would be to see it. Santa brought him a telescope, but it’s hard to see stars from our backyard when it’s raining all the time.

Cheryl and I worked hard the next day, and I was exhausted when we finally arrived at the brand new Carlton Hotel, in downtown Atascadero of all places. When you walk in the door you feel like you’re in a first class Boston hotel, or maybe Washington, D.C. Very posiphisticated.

I couldn’t wait to take a bath.

At home, not a week goes by when I don’t come home from work, kick off my shoes and fantasize about a long, hot bath.

We barely have a shower in our teeny tiny rental house, and besides, I can’t even get through the first chorus of “Walking on Sunshine” without Koss having something incredibly important to tell me about his Pokemon cards.

The Carlton has another incredible, oversized spa tub. Between that and the chocolate strawberries, I was in heaven.

“This is the life,” Cheryl and I sigh, as we clink wine glasses and relax, uninterrupted by our real lives.

If I could just freeze time for that first hour of the day when I get home from work, I thought, not for the first time. Just to have an hour a day all to myself, preferably in a spa tub with my masseuse, Juan, no Brad. That would be perfect.

It’s not that I don’t love my son … and I really love that he still wants to be with me all of the time. But who knew when we finally potty-trained him that wouldn’t be the end of it. We’ve been working on privacy training ever since.

My third spa tub — at the Avila Village Inn in Avila Beach — was also heavenly, but the novelty was starting to wear thin. It was awfully quiet in my hotel room, and it sounded like I missed a really fun “attack of the Leprechauns” on Koss’s kindergarten classroom.

It’s hard for me to believe that for all the times I’d craved this peace and quiet and solitude, it only took a few days for me to crave the chaos of home and family. I laughed at what a wimp I’d turned into!

Then I thought about what a kick Koss would get out of the fireplace that goes on with just a flick of a switch and how much fun he would have ordering room service. I call him one more time, just to say goodnight.

I vow to remember his sweet little voice on the phone, the next time he bursts into my shower, seemingly just to annoy me.

I can hardly wait.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on March 24, 2005.