Cocktail Corner: Que Syrah, Syrah

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

Fellow Syrah lovers, have we got a seminar for you. As part of the Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend, on April 23, this special tasting seminar throws the spotlight on this dark, delicious, full-bodied grape.

Panel participants (L-R): Chris Hammell, Bien Nacido Vineyard; Pater Stolpman, Stolpman Vineyards; Michael Larner, Larner Vineyard; Mark Horvath, Crawford Family Vineyards; Larry Schaffer, Tercero Wines; Scott Sampler, the Central Coast Group Project; Chad Melville, SAMsARA; and Wendy Thies Sell, Seminar Moderator & Wine Writer (courtesy photos).

Panel participants (L-R): Chris Hammell, Bien Nacido Vineyard; Pater Stolpman, Stolpman Vineyards; Michael Larner, Larner Vineyard; Mark Horvath, Crawford Family Vineyards; Larry Schaffer, Tercero Wines; Scott Sampler, the Central Coast Group Project; Chad Melville, SAMsARA; and Wendy Thies Sell, Seminar Moderator & Wine Writer (courtesy photos).

Featuring an in-depth exploration and tasting of Santa Barbara County Syrah, the panelists are an impressive lot:

Chris Hammell, Vineyard Manager of Bien Nacido Vineyard

Mark Horvath, Owner & Winemaker at Crawford Family Wines

Michael Larner, Owner & Winemaker at Larner Vineyard and Winery

Chad Melville, Owner & Winemaker at SAMsARA

Scott Sampler, Owner & Winemaker at the Central Coast Group Project

Larry Schaffer, Owner & Winemaker at Tercero Wines

Peter Stolpman, Partner at Stolpman Vineyards

Wendy Thies Sell, Seminar Moderator & Wine Writer (& Santa Barbara Seasons contributor)

The Santa Barbara Wine Seminar takes place on Saturday, April 23 from 10 – 11:30 a.m. at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott, 555 McMurray Rd., Buellton. Tickets are $35 per person and can be purchased here.

Wine Tasting, courtesy Santa Barbara Vintners.

Wine Tasting, courtesy Santa Barbara Vintners.

According to vinepair.com, “A great bonus to drinking Syrah is that due to the high level of tannins present in the wine, Syrah has one of the highest level of health-benefiting antioxidants.” I just like the taste.

I like the music too. Here’s the original Que Sera Sera by Doris Day, as well as an update by Corinne Bailey Rae. Cheers!

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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 April 8, 2016.

News From Over the Hill

What’s Going on in North County This Spring

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Take flight over wine country with Sky’s the Limit Ballooning Adventures. Courtesy photo.

Craft Beer Month

It takes a lot of beer to make good wine, which is probably why the craft beer movement has exploded in Santa Ynez Valley. Our local wine country celebrates the virtues of beer for the entire month of May, when suds lovers can enjoy an impressive array of out-of-the-ordinary tastings, classes, dinners, demos and more. One of the highlights is the Buellton BrewFest. Featuring more than 50 breweries (and some wineries), life-sized beer pong, food trucks and three live bands, this fun festival is sure to sell out, so buy your tickets early. | Santa Ynez Valley Craft Beer Month, May 1–31, various locations, visitsyv.com/craft-beer-month. Buellton BrewFest, Riverview Park, 151 Sycamore Dr., Buellton, May 9, VIP 11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.; general admission, 12:30–4 p.m., buelltonbrewfest.com.

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Cowboy entertainer Dave Stamey appears in Tales from the Tavern at the Maverick Saloon, courtesy of Dave Stamey.

Tales From the Tavern

Come hunker down at Maverick Saloon, Santa Barbara County’s quintessential cowboy bar, for the tavern’s annual concert series. Dave Stamey, who True West Magazine named the “Best Living Western Solo Musician,” takes the stage on March 11. This cowboy, mule packer, dude wrangler has delighted audiences in 14 states and says that he prefers this to being stomped by angry horses. Jamaican-born reggae singer-songwriter Owen Plant and Brother Sun play on March 25; then musician, rancher, storyteller and Canadian icon Ian Tyson tells his tales in a special Thursday night performance on April 16. Wrapping up the spring season on April 29 is American musical legend Janis Ian, who began her professional life at 12 years old and is probably best known for hits like “Society’s Child,” “At Seventeen” and “Between the Lines.” Fun fact: Ian was the very first musical guest on the debut broadcast of Saturday Night Live on October 11, 1975. | Maverick Saloon, 3687 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez, 805/688-0383, talesfromthetavern.com.

Ballooning

One of the best ways to enjoy the valley is to go up, up and away in a hot air balloon with Sky’s the Limit Ballooning Adventures. Flights capture beautiful views over the wine country surrounded by transverse mountain ranges, the Channel Islands, Lake Cachuma and the historic towns of Solvang, Los Olivos, Buellton, Santa Maria and Paso Robles. A variety of packages are available, including one that includes wine tasting at vineyards such as Bedford, Alma Rosa, Rusack, Brander, Carhartt, Bridlewood, Dierberg and Blair Fox. | Sky’s the Limit Ballooning Adventures, Santa Ynez Valley Airport, 900 Airport Rd., Santa Ynez, 760/602-0295, santabarbaraballoonrides.com.

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Craft Beer Month in May is an excellent time to taste small batch beers, courtesy Firestone Walker Brewing.

The Penelopiad

Margaret Atwood’s new stage adaptation of her wry, witty and wise novella The Penelopiad is a reimagining of the ancient story of the Trojan War, Helen of Troy and Odysseus, told from the point of view of Penelope (perhaps the first desperate housewife to appear in art). She fends off the attentions of greedy suitors, as traveling minstrels regale her with the news of Odysseus’s epic adventures around the Mediterranean, only to have him repay her devotion with heart-wrenching ruthlessness. This PCPA (Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts) production runs March 5–22. | Severson Theatre, Allan Hancock College Campus, 1100 S. Bradley, Santa Maria, 805/922-8313, pcpa.org.

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Taste the best of Solvang this March, photo by Liz Dodder.

Taste of Solvang

There’s always something delicious going on in Solvang, but they really bring out all the stops at this annual event. Now in its 23rd year, Taste of Solvang offers a menu—from farm-to-table rustic Italian cuisine to new American and modern Danish fare, plus desserts in all forms, award-winning beers and world-class wines—that’s sure to please every palate. This year’s highlights include Farmers Market Chef Walks led by Chef Budi Kazali of The Ballard Inn & Restaurant, Chef David Cecchini of Cecco Ristorante and Chef James Owens of The Bistro at Hadsten House; Bubbles and Brunch at Wildling Museum; a Winemaker Dinner with Michael Larner of Larner Vineyard & Winery and Bacon & Brine’s Chef Pink; plus sips and sweets, the Solvang Wine and Beer Walk, the Grand Tasting with treats from more than 30 businesses and much, much more! | March 18–22, various locations throughout Solvang. 805/688-6144, solvangusa.com.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine, Spring 2015.

Cocktail Corner: Sublime Summer Sips

Courtesy Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club

Courtesy Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

Sublime Summer Sips are on the menu with a variety of opportunities to wine down on those long summer days.

Pony up for Happy Hour at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club. The club now welcomes visitors to take in the excitement of world-class polo competition combining the beauty and speed of thoroughbred horses with the thrill and skill of team competition on Friday nights, as well as every Sunday during the summer. Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club, 3375 Foothill Rd., Carpinteria, 805/684-5819, sbpolo.com.

Les Marchands is the place to be on Tuesday June 24, when “the King of Rheingau Riesling,” Johannes Leitz, will sit down to dinner and pour four of his wines.  The German winemaker is considered a modern master by people in the know, and Chef Weston Richards will pair stunning Riesling-friendly dishes such as crispy pig ear salad with frisee, avocado and herbs;crab bisque, red curry and puffed rice; housemade ramen, pork belly, spicy garlic pork broth, brussel sprouts and scallions; and pittig aged gouda, lavender honey and apricots for dessert. Space is limited, so click here for reservations. Les Marchands, 131 Anacapa St. 805/284-0380, lesmarchandswine.com.

Santa Barbara Wine Festival on Saturday, June 28, is a wonderful way to appreciate being out in nature underneath the oaks along Mission Creek at the museum, while enjoying more than 50 tantalizing wines from the Central Coast’s premier wineries—everyone from Alma Rosa to Zaca Mesa is there, often with the winemakers themselves pouring and chatting up the crowd—complemented by fitting pairings of savory and sweet delights from local chefs, caterers, bakers and restaurateurs. Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, 2559 Puesta de Sol, 805/682-4711, sbnature.org.

Local winemaker and owner of Larner Vineyards and Winery, Michael Larner is teaming up with Chef Jason Paluska at The Lark for a Local Treasures dinner, which should be amazing! Expect a complete six-course dining experience, pairing locally sourced ingredients with wines from Ballard Canyon in the Santa Ynez Valley. Seating is limited, so please contact mkremzar@thelarksb.com for reservations. The Lark, 131 Anacapa St., 805/284-0370, thelarksb.com.

Tickets must be purchased by June 22 for the 29th annual Central Coast Wine Classic, a weekend in Avila Beach (July 10-13) centered around fine wine and cuisine that features local wineries and restaurants, and draws crowds from across the country and around the world. Many charities on the Central Coast will be awarded gifts, including the Rona Barrett Foundation, a local nonprofit that seeks to provide a solution to affordable housing and supportive services for seniors in need with the development of the Golden Inn & Village, where seniors may access a variety of care that meets their needs as they age in place. Various Avila Beach locations, centralcoastwineclassic.org.

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.”

Cocktail Corner: Wandering Dog Wine Bar’s “Friday Night Wines”

Courtesy Wandering Dog Wine Bar

Courtesy Wandering Dog Wine Bar

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

Looking for something fun and unique to do on a Friday night? Why not “wine down” your week at one of Solvang’s Wandering Dog Wine Bar‘s monthly events.

The April class, “Vinification Techniques with Syrah,” on Friday, April 4, is led by local winemaker, Michael Larner of Larner Vineyard. He’ll cover different winemaking techniques and how they affect Syrah and will offer up samples from his own label as he explains the processes, as well as other Syrahs both local and imported.  The class takes place from 6–7 p.m. A great way to start your weekend.

May’s class, “All About Pinot Noir,” on Friday, May 2, features Mark Horvath, owner/winemaker of Crawford Family Wines. Guests will sample three Pinots from his new label, as well as a selection of other style of Pinot from wineries outside of the Santa Barbara area.  This class also takes place from 6–7 p.m.

The family-owned Wandering Dog Wine Bar is known for carrying under-the-radar labels, and specializes in boutique wines, craft beers and gourmet cheeses. They offer a dozen wine flights every day, including everything from local favorites, sparkling and sweet wines, to reserve flights featuring wines that run $50+, as well as tastings of premium beers.

In addition to the Friday night fetes, every Thursday, Wandering Dog Wine Bar hosts a Blind Tasting from 4– 7 p.m., when guests are challenged to match up regions, varietals, price points and vintages of four featured wines.

Wandering Dog Wine Bar is located at 1539-C Mission Dr. (next to Paula’s Pancake House), in Solvang. To make a reservation for any of the Friday night classes, please call 805/686.9126 or email wines@wanderingdogwinebar.com.

Cheers!

Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on April 4, 2014.

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.”

Cocktail Corner: Notable News

Blue Tavern's Pisco Sour features Porton Pisco, angostura bitters and cinnamon tincture. (courtesy photo)

Blue Tavern’s Pisco Sour features Porton Pisco, angostura bitters and cinnamon tincture. (courtesy photo)

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg |

Winemaker Doug Margerum‘s first release from his new brand, BARDEN came out earlier this month. Margerum says, “The BARDEN collaboration is the pairing of my dream to make the ultimate expression of Santa Barbara County grapes and winemaker Jason Barrette’s acute craftsmanship and skill. BARDEN showcases a fusion between Jason’s southern hemisphere and worldwide winemaking experience, our access to the top vineyards and the philosophy and knowledge we both share in what makes a wine world-class. The BARDEN trade name is my middle name and its English meaning is ‘Lives near the boar’s den’ … thusly we have adorned the label with an image of the wild boar that is pervasive in the vineyards of Santa Barbara County.” The wine, which retails for $87,  received 92-93 points from Tanzer and can be ordered by emailing tastingroom@margerumwines.com. |

Acclaimed mixologist Deysi Alvarez at the hot new restaurant Blue Tavern (119 State St., 805/845-0989) utilizes a unique blend of cultures as inspiration for her cocktail menu, which features classic drinks made with housemade tinctures and small-batch spirits. The Margarita features Espolon tequila, house orange reduction, fresh lime Juice, agave nectar, and Gusano salt; the Mojito de Martinique showcases Clement Rhum VSOP and clement cane syrup; and the Old Fashioned takes a trip to South America with the replacement of bourbon with mezcal. Blue Tavern’s wine list  focuses on local vintners, many of whom have tasting rooms in the Funk Zone, just blocks from the restaurant.|

Nikki and Jeff Nelson, owners of Liquid Farm, the small production wine project focused on Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay and Happy Canyon AVA Rosé, are plowing through this year’s early harvest in a boutique winery space within the newly-established, local coop facility, the Buellton Wine Center (65 Los Padres Way, Buellton) with the help of friend and winemaker, James Sparks. Located just half of a mile north of Firestone Walker Brewing Company and Taproom Restaurant, Liquid Farm joins seven other Santa Barbara County wine producers in the Coop, including Bonaccorsi Wine CompanyLarner WineryCasa Dumetz Wines and Municipal Winemakers. Michael Larner, the visionary behind the new Coop, has transformed two adjacent industrial buildings into private, individually walled-off wine production spaces outfitted with communal harvest equipment and resources, as well as cooperative common areas. |

As part of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival celebration, from January 30 – February 9, Film Feast 2014 will take you and your taste buds on a culinary journey of cuisine and libations, made famous in Santa Barbara. Local talents and ingredients have come together to produce award-worthy tasting flights. Nominees include “The Graduate Wine Flight” at Au Bon Climat Wine Tasting Room and The Jim Clendenen Wine Library (813 Anacapa St.) which includes eight wines comprised of four sets – one older and one younger vintage of the same wine.

Cheers!

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Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on December 27, 2013

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.”