Cocktail Corner: Get the VIP Treatment at Fess Parker Winery

Fess Parker Winery Barrel Room, photo by Rob Brown.

Fess Parker Winery Barrel Room, photo by Rob Brown.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

It’s always lovely to visit Fess Parker‘s bucolic 714-acre ranch in Los Olivos, but they recently refurbished the VIP Barrel Room, which makes it an even better wine tasting experience.

The tour starts with a video, shot by acclaimed photographer Rob Brown, of the history of the ranch and Fess Parker’s development of the vineyard on what is now known as the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail.  Though Fess passed away in 2010, Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard is still family owned and operated, as it has been since 1989.

Fess Parker Winery, courtesy photo.

Fess Parker Winery, courtesy photo.

Following the video, we went into the barrel room for a discussion of the cooperage selection, and the wine aging process, as well as a special barrel tasting. Our tour was just for my husband and I, but they can accommodate up to 12 guests.

Tasting at Fess Parker Winery, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Tasting at Fess Parker Winery, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

You then go into a seated tasting of some top notch wines,  accompanied by a selection of savory bites prepared by the culinary team at The Bear and Star restaurant (another delicious Fess Parker family venture at the nearby Fess Parker Wine Country Inn & Spa in Los Olivos). Among the six notable wines we tasted that day were the 2016 Pommard Clone Pinot Noir from Sta. Rita Hills and the 2015 Ashley’s Pinot Noir, also from Sta. Rita Hills.

Fess Parker Winery Barrel Room, photo by Peter Malinowski.

Fess Parker Winery Barrel Room, photo by Peter Malinowski.

Tasting in the sophisticated new barrel room—designed in dramatic shades of red and black, which are warmed up by wood cabinetry and shelving—definitely feels like you’re entering the inner sanctum of the winery, and creates a dynamic contrast to the more homespun vibe found in other, more public, parts of the winery, where tastings are also offered.

Fess Parker Winery patio, courtesy photo.

Fess Parker Winery patio, courtesy photo.

The VIP Barrel Room Tasting and Tour is only available on Saturday mornings at 11 a.m., by reservation only, and is $50 for non-wine club members and $35 for wine club members. For more information, call 800/841-1104 or email barrett@fessparker.com.

Fess Parker Winery is located at 6200 Foxen Canyon Rd., Los Olivos and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information on the 12 other wineries on the Foxen Canyon Wine trail (one of the most beautiful ways to explore Santa Barbara Wine Country, in my opinion) click here.

Fess Parker Winery, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Fess Parker Winery, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

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 June 22, 2018.

Local Lowdown: The Dish on Santa Ynez Valley’s New Eateries

Bacon & Brine burger by Tenley Fohl Photography.

Bacon & Brine burger by Tenley Fohl Photography.

From refined ranch cooking to gourmet burgers and creative couplings of unexpected ingredients to upscale wine country cuisine, the Santa Ynez Valley has a host of terrific new places to dine out and indulge in this summer.

By Leslie Dinaberg

Beer & (Big) Bites in Buellton

“The Kitchen” at FigMtnBrew is now open and, as Executive Chef Brian Champlin vows, this place definitely has, as he modestly states, “under-promised and over-delivered!” The eatery now offers a full menu of beer-friendly gastropub fare such as creative burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, tacos, salads and more. Our group particularly loved the 21+ and over grilled cheese, Davy Brown nachos and chorizo cheese fries—but honestly, everything that came out of the kitchen was delicious, especially paired with craft beers like Fig Mtn Mosaic and Paradise Rd. Pilsner.

Jeff Hawxhurst, left, and Brian Champlin of The Kitchen at FigMtnBrew, courtesy photo.

Jeff Hawxhurst, left, and Brian Champlin of The Kitchen at FigMtnBrew, courtesy photo.

“We wanted to provide top-notch food with great prices,” says General Manager Jeff Hawxhurst, a longtime local chef who started his career as a teenager working at the original Habit in Goleta and most recently worked with the Chumash Casino Resort. “The casual environment helps us keep prices affordable while offering fresh farm-to-table cuisine.”

Champlin also has impressive foodie credentials, most recently as co-owner and executive chef of Succulent Café in Solvang. Taking the farm-to-table concept up a notch, “Our brewery actually gives our spent grain to a local farm who then feeds it to their cattle. We are then able to serve the local beef on our menu. It’s a sustainable cycle that ensures we know what’s in our food and where it is coming from. We call it ‘brewery-to-farm-to-table’ cuisine.” The Kitchen, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, 45 Industrial Way, Buellton,
FigMtnBrew.com.
 

Refining Ranch Cuisine at The Bear and Star

The Bear and Star (a nod to patriarch Fess Parker’s California and Texas roots) gets its culinary inspiration from the 714-acre Fess Parker Home Ranch located seven miles away, where 75 head of Wagyu cattle are raised and finished with the spent grains and pomace from the family brewery and winery, along with chickens, quail, rabbits, pigs, bees and a number of heirloom fruits and organic vegetables.

The Bear and Star by Kodiak Greenwood.

The Bear and Star by Kodiak Greenwood.

This impressive ecosystem was developed under Chef/Partner John Cox’s passion and vision. Also integral to the restaurant is a 30’ custom reverse-flow Texas smoker that he specially designed for slow smoking and barbecuing many of the dishes. Cox, formerly with Sierra Mar at Big Sur’s renowned Post Ranch Inn, has created an inventive ranch-inspired menu offering lunch and dinner items like Wagyu Fries with garden herb aioli; deviled ranch eggs with Santa Barbara urchin and espelette; fried green tomatoes with “cheese wiz” and BBQ spice; Parker Ranch Wagyu burger with smoked cheddar, tomato jam and butter pickles; crispy catfish with re-fried black-eyed-peas and “blackened” smoked tomato sauce; Wagyu meat loaf with potato puree, garden vegetables and pan jus; Parker Ranch chile with cheddar, chives and cornbread crouton; local stuffed quail with farro risotto, bay laurel and red wine demi glace; and an array of steaks, ribeyes and filets, among other items.

Highlights for breakfast are dishes of cheddar biscuit and country gravy; steel cut oatmeal brûlée with local blueberries and caramelized palm sugar; and smoked Wagyu hash with farm eggs, root vegetables and lemon-thyme hollandaise.

The Parker family’s acclaimed wines are prominently featured and the offerings also showcase expressive small-production wines from Santa Barbara County’s most sought-after wineries, and beyond, as well as a stunning
wine-walled private dining room. The Bear and Star, Fess Parker’s Wine Country Inn, 2860 Grand Ave., Los Olivos, 805/686-1359, thebearandstar.com.

Bottlest Winery Bar & Bistro

Already offering one of the most unique wine-tasting experiences in California—with its expansive “Wine Wall” of 52 constantly changing wines available by the taste, half glass or full glass—the new Bottlest Winery Bar & Bistro has stepped up its cuisine tremendously, with a new restaurant concept from Executive Chef Owen Hanavan, the former Head Chef of Barbareño, whose culinary résumé includes time spent at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara and the Michelin-starred COI Restaurant in San Francisco.

Utilizing a bounty of locally sourced organic produce, meats and fish, a recent sampling of Chef Owen’s creations was so delicious that it’s hard to name a favorite dish. Definitely high on my list are the beautifully plated “Sixteen Spiced Pork Shoulder” (with almond rice pilaf, date glaze, romanesco broccoli and lemon oil), melt-in-your-mouth New York strip (with sousbise, duck fat potato, chimichurri and crispy leeks) and yellowtail (with poached tuna, rice cracker, nori vinaigrette and micro cilantro). In addition to the elevated evening cuisine, the lunch and midday menus include a variety of small plates (the lamb meatballs on housemade potato chips are divine), as well as sandwiches, salads and pizzas sure to please every palate.

Bottlest Winery Bar & Bistro, photo by Bottle Branding.

Bottlest Winery Bar & Bistro, photo by Bottle Branding.

Also a crowd pleaser is the view of Terravant Winery’s popular custom-crush facility, which shares the space with Bottlest Bistro and the soon-to-be-launched bottlest.com online wine experience, where you can craft your own wine (and labels) from start to finish, based on a sliding scale of personal preferences. For more information, visit bottlest.com. Bottlest Winery Bar & Bistro, 35 Industrial Way, Buellton, 805/686-4742,
bottlest.com/bistro.

Blissful Bellies at Bacon & Brine

Hyper local culinary entrepreneurs Chef Pink and Courtney Rae DeLongpré’s Bacon & Brine sits at the top of the ever-evolving Santa Ynez Valley food chain. This delicious addition to the Solvang scene opened last summer to eager fans and customers of the duo’s previous sandwich shop. With guidance from Chef Pink, we ate our way through much of the menu, an impressive gastronomic collection of delights that evidence the couple’s full commitment to utilizing local organic vegetables and organic grass-fed pasture-raised animals. In fact, none of their food items come from more than 10 miles away, except spices and seasonings, which are all fair-trade.

Bacon & Brine by Tenley Fohl Photography.

Bacon & Brine by Tenley Fohl Photography.

Beef, chicken and vegetarian options mingle with the pork menu items (all of the cattle and poultry come from Shadow Creek Ranch, a small Santa Ynez Valley farm), but the flavors are even more impressive than the menu’s provenance. Our favorites include Korean Fried Chicken (KFC), “The Hipster” sandwich (buttermilk fried chicken, shredded lettuce, pickle and aioli on a doughnut bun), the kimchi burger (wagyu beef, bacon, housemade “legit” kimchi, farm egg, chives and bacon aioli), fried Brussels sprouts, roasted beets and the to-die-for salted caramel bacon doughnuts.

Chef Pink, the “bacon” half of this business, is a 17-year food and restaurant industry veteran who has worked with California chefs and restaurants stretching from Los Angeles to San Francisco, as well as in New York and Paris kitchens. She’s also a bit of TV food celebrity, appearing on Spike TV’s Bar Rescue, Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen and FYI’s Man vs. Child.

The “brine” half of “Bacon & Brine” is Courtney Rae DeLongpré, a proponent of healthy eating with a passion for food, nutrition and small-scale homesteading, which led to her studies of traditional old-world food preparations, segueing to her fermentation craft.

“We want to share with the surrounding community our personal mix: fine dining techniques using local ingredients and our use of fermentation to create flavor profiles, which let those ingredients shine,” says Chef Pink. “I’m meshing my years of training as a proper chef, with our philosophies of hyper-local organic, whole, sustainable food systems…and my love of, and allegiance to, a great food experience that’s accessible to everyone.” Bacon & Brine, 1618 Copenhagen Dr., Solvang, 805/688-8809, baconandbrine.com. Hours vary by season.  

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

Cocktail Corner: The Wonderful World of Pinot Noir

Courtesy World of Pinot Noir

Courtesy World of Pinot Noir

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg 

The word Pinotphile may not roll off the tongue quite as sweetly as say, a 2012 Sta. Rita Hills Fess Parker Pinot Noir, but the World of Pinot Noir—which features Fess Parker among the more than 200 top interpreters of the grape—is quite a delicious event.

The sixteenth annual World of Pinot Noir is taking place for the third time locally, March 4-5 at Bacara Resort & Spa. This indescribably fun weekend brings pinot noir producers and pinot noir enthusiasts together for an impressive line-up of educational, culinary and tasting events highlighting a veritable buffet of pinot noirs from California, Oregon, Burgundy, Champagne, New Zealand and Tasmania.

Courtesy World of PInot Noir

Courtesy World of PInot Noir

Tasting Events

The World of Pinot Noir Friday Focus Tasting showcases 100 Pinot producers pouring a vineyard designate and library wine selection. The Saturday Grand Tasting features a different lineup of wineries and expands to 125 brands. Both tastings feature wine country appetizers from Bacara Executive Chef Vincent Lesage.

Pinot Focused Seminars

A Sparkling Evolution explores the grower-producer Champagne and Sparkling wine movement

The Diversity of Maison Joseph Drouhin’s Burgundy with Frederic Drouhin focuses on a tasting of wine from different “climats” and Burgundy’s recent designation as a World Heritage site by UNESCO

– Côte d’ Or March Madness is an educational Premier Cru wine tasting that pits the best villages from the Côte de Beaune against the Côte de Nuit

Courtesy World of PInot Noir

Courtesy World of PInot Noir

Debunking the Myth: Cheese & Chocolate wine pairing seminars features fromagers and chocolatiers throwing down the gauntlet to winemakers

Featured Pinot Noir Dinners

Southwestern featuring “ranchero” style cuisine prepared by Frank Ostini of Hitching Post II

Pacific Northwest with guest Chef Jason French from Oregon’s Ned Ludd restaurant

Country French dinner prepared by Bacara Executive Chef Vincent Lesage

– The Rock Stars of Pinot Noir event honoring Josh Jensen with Calera Wine Company

Pioneers & Protégés dinner pairs wines and cuisine with winemaker mentors and mentees

Courtesy World of PInot Noir

Courtesy World of PInot Noir

Pinot in the Movies

The winning films from the inaugural International Wine Film Festival will be shown on the big screen in the resort’s state of the art theatre. Somm: Into the Bottle will be screened on Saturday afternoon.

Trust me, this is a weekend pinot noir lovers won’t want to miss. And if you need any more incentive, a portion of the funds from the World of Pinot Noir silent auction benefit the Michael Bonaccorsi Foundation with Allan Hancock College and the Keith Patterson Memorial Endowment at Cal Poly University.

All events take place at the Bacara Resort & Spa, 8301 Hollister Ave. For additional information or to purchase tickets visit worldofpinotnoir.com.

Hope to see some of you there. 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 February 26. 2016.

Cocktail Corner: Santa Barbara Wine Festival

"The Magnificent Seven" (left to right) Ken Brown, Bob Lundquist, Richard Sanford, Jim Clendenen, Drake Whitcraft, Doug Margerum, and Fred Brander - a veritable 'who's who' of Central Coast winemakers, will all be at this year's Santa Barbara Wine Festival again – for the 28th year. Photo by Joni Kelly.

“The Magnificent Seven” (left to right) Ken Brown, Bob Lundquist, Richard Sanford, Jim Clendenen, Drake Whitcraft, Doug Margerum, and Fred Brander – a veritable ‘who’s who’ of Central Coast winemakers, will all be at this year’s Santa Barbara Wine Festival again – for the 28th year. Photo by Joni Kelly.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

The beautiful grounds of Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History are a wonderful spot to appreciate being out in nature, and what better way to enjoy a summer weekend than sipping wine underneath the oaks along Mission Creek? Especially when the proceeds go to support the work of the museum.

Santa Barbara Wine Festival, photo by Bob Dickey

Santa Barbara Wine Festival, photo by Bob Dickey

“Santa Barbara Wine Festival is a wine-focused festival,” says Festival Chair, Meridith Moore. Indeed, more than 50 wineries will be pouring at the museum, including some of our favorites like Santa Barbara Winery, Arthur Earl, Grassini, Kita Wines (Chumash Tribe), Palmina, Alma Rosa, Koehler, Au Bon Climat, Babcock, Sunstone, Fess Parker, Andrew Murray, Margerum, Jamie Slone, Beckmen and Whitcraft, to name just a few.

There are plenty of tasty bites at Santa Barbara Wine Festival as well. “We have a large array of top-shelf food purveyors, many of whom are especially paired with wineries that complement one another,” says Moore. “It is exciting because many of the winemakers and chefs are present and available for the guests to meet and discuss the qualities of their varietals and menu items–just another example of why this has become one of the most beloved wine festivals on the Central Coast and the one to attend.”

Scrumptious samples from local food purveyors will complement the wines poured at the Museum's annual event. Photo by Valentin Mendoza.

Scrumptious samples from local food purveyors will complement the wines poured at the Museum’s annual event. Photo by Valentin Mendoza.

Among the yummy items on the menu are: Braised Short Rib Meatballs (Michael’s Catering); Oyster Shooters (Brophy Bros.); Homemade Tamales (Santa Barbara Tamales To Go); Sage and Butternut Squash Raviolis (Ca Dario); Cheese Tastings from around the World (C’est Cheese); Hand-rolled Truffles (Jessica Foster Confections); and Mini Cupcakes (Coveted Cakery), to name a few.

Santa Barbara Wine Festival takes place at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History (2559 Puesta de Sol, 805/682-4711, sbnature.org) on Saturday, June 27 from 2-5 p.m.

For more information and to purchase admission for the Santa Barbara Wine Festival, please visit sbnature.org/winefestival.

Hope to see you there. Cheers!

Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

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.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on June 19. 2015.