Cocktail Corner: Santa Barbara Wine and Food Festival

Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival 2018, courtesy photo.

Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival 2018, courtesy photo.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

One of the very best wine fests—the 31st Annual Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival—returns to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History on Saturday, June 30.

The Museum is a beautiful place to indulge in delicious wines paired with excellent bites along the shaded banks of Mission Creek. And you can feel good about going to this event because all net proceeds from the festival support the Museum’s nature and science education programs. I have fond memories of field trips to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History  back when I was in elementary school, as well as many more recent trips with my son.

It’s definitely a festival with a LOCAL feeling. Perhaps because of that, the Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival is also one of the few events that the winemakers themselves attend and pour their favorite vintages. “This is one of the very best tastings that we attend throughout the year,” says Richard Sanford of Alma Rosa.

“This is the most beautiful tasting, the most beautiful setting that I do anywhere in the country.” says Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat.

Jamie Slone at Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival, courtesy photo.

Jamie Slone at Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival, courtesy photo.

More than 50 Central Coast wineries will be at the festival, including:

Alexander & Wayne

Alma Rosa

Marni Margerum at Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival, courtesy photo.

Marni Margerum at Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival, courtesy photo.

Andrew Murray Vineyards 

Area 5.1

Arthur Earl Winery

Au Bon Climat

Babcock Winery

Beckmen Vineyards

Bedford Winery

Blair Fox

Brander Vineyard

Brewer-Clifton

Buttonwood

Cambria

Carr Vineyards and Winery

Casa Dumetz

Cebada

Consilience

CORE

Cutler’s Artisan

D’Alfonso-Curran

De Paola

Domaine de la Cote

Epiphany Cellars

Feliz Noche

Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard

Tim Snider and Brad Thomas at Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival, courtesy photo.

Tim Snider and Brad Thomas at Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival, courtesy photo.

Fiddlehead Cellars

Flying Goat Cellars

Foxen

Gainey Vineyards

Grassini Family Vineyards

Jaffurs Wine Cellars

Jamie Slone

Kalyra

Kaena Wine

Ken Brown Wines

Kenneth Volk Vineyards

Koehler Winery

LaFond Winery

Larner Wines

Fred Brander at Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival, courtesy photo.

Fred Brander at Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival, courtesy photo.

Longoria

Lumen

Mail Road Winery

Margerum Wine Company

Melville

Mosby Winery & Vineyard

Municipal Winemakers

Notary Public

Nielson

Oreana

Palmina

Potek

Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival 2018, courtesy photo.

Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival 2018, courtesy photo.

Qupé

Rancho Sisquoc Winery

Rideau

Sagebrush Annie’s

Sandhi Wines

Santa Barbara Winery

Savoy Wines

Silver Wines

Storm Wines

Sunstone Winery

Tablas Creek

Tatomer

Tercero Wines

Transcendence Wines

Whitcraft Winery

Zaca Mesa

Courtesy Santa Barbara Wine and Food Festival.

Courtesy Santa Barbara Wine and Food Festival.

Ian Cutler at Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival, courtesy photo.

Ian Cutler at Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival, courtesy photo.

Also available are sweet and savory delectable delights from more than 40 of Santa Barbara County’s finest eateries and caterers, including:

• Barbareño

• Benchmark

• Black Bow Sweets

• Blue Water Grill

• Bob’s Well Bread

Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival 2018, courtesy photo.

Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival 2018, courtesy photo.

• Bottlest Bistro

• Brophy Bros.

• Ca’ Dario

• Corazon Cocina

• Country Catering

Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival 2018, courtesy photo.

Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival 2018, courtesy photo.

Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival 2018, courtesy photo.

Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival 2018, courtesy photo.

• Deux Bakery

• Enterprise Fish Company

• Farmer Boy

• Finch and Fork Restaurant

• Gelson’s Market – Santa Barbara

• Helena Avenue Bakery

• Hitching Post

• il Fustino

• Industrial Eats

• Jessica Foster Confections

Les Marchands

Loquita

• Michael’s Catering

• Oat Bakery

• Outpost at Goodland

• Pacific Pickle Works

• Pico

Guests enjoy Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival, courtesy photo.

Guests enjoy Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival, courtesy photo.

• Renaud’s Patisserie & Bistro

• Santa Barbara Popcorn Co.

• Savoy Cafe and Deli

• Scarlett Begonia

• Solvang Bakery

• The Bear and Star

The Lark

• Tondi Gelato

• Via Maestra 42

Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival tickets cost $75 for Museum members and $100 for non-members. VIP tickets, including access to the VIP Lounge, early entry at 1 p.m. (the regular festival runs from 2–5 p.m.), six exclusive tastings and food pairings with winemakers, chair massages, and more are $125 for Museum members and $150 for non-members.

Designated drivers are free to enter as long as they accompany a paid guest. Designated drivers can sign up by emailing Sarah at sclement@sbnature2.org and giving the names of their passenger(s).

The Museum is located at 2559 Puesta Del Sol, Santa Barbara. For more information, please visit www.sbnature.org/winefestival.

I 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 believes variety is the spice of life. Send your suggestions to Leslie@sbseasons.com.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on June 3, 2018.

Cocktail Corner: Experiencing the Vineyard at Zaca Mesa

A drone view of Zaca Mesa Vineyard, courtesy Zaca Mesa.

A drone view of Zaca Mesa Vineyard, courtesy Zaca Mesa.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

Venturing into Santa Barbara County wine country is always a treat, but if you want something extra special, the Vineyard Experience at Zaca Mesa is a must-see. My husband and I recently took the tour and had such a lovely day. 

First of all, the sustainable estate winery and vineyard is gorgeous, with sweeping views as far as the eye can see. In his air-conditioned vehicle, Garrett Black, who is the company’s Brand Ambassador | Special Events, as well as a Certified Sommelier, CMS, took us through the history of the renowned 750-acre property, which was planted in 1973 and only the third winery in Santa Barbara County at that time.

Zaca Mesa Vineyard, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Zaca Mesa Vineyard, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

As an added and very clever part of the tour, as we stopped at various points in the vineyard and tasted wines among the very vines that they came from. Believe me when I say that Zaca Mesa’s famous Black Bear Block Syrah—the oldest Syrah block in the Central Coast—is even more delicious when you’re sipping among the vines! 

Zaca Mesa served as the training ground for many great winemakers. Ken Brown was Zaca Mesa’s first winemaker (he later started Byron in Santa Maria Valley). Adam Tolmach, Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist worked at Zaca Mesa before venturing out on their own to start Ojai Vineyard, Au Bon Climat and Qupé, respectively. The current team produces excellent Syrah, Viognier, and other Rhône varieties and includes Director of Vineyard and Winery Operations Eric Mohseni and Winemaker Kristin Bryden.

Zaca Mesa Winemaker Kristin Bryden, courtesy photo.

Zaca Mesa Winemaker Kristin Bryden, courtesy photo.

Our experience (2+ hours) included an in-depth tour of the vineyard and production facility, personalized tours of the crush pad, tank rooms and barrel rooms, and a delicious wine country picnic lunch (ours was delicious and from Industrial Eats) with a guided tasting of current releases.

It was so much fun. The Vineyard Experience is $100 per person, and is available only to groups of 4-13 people. If that’s not quite in your budget, or time constraints, Zaca Mesa also offers a Winery Tour & Tasting, where guests can enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at the winery and production facility in an hour-long experience that spotlights Zaca Mesa’s history and the winery’s annual journey from vine to bottle. The Winery Tour & Tasting is $30 per person and includes a sampling of current releases.  

Some snippets from our tour of Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyard, photos by Zak Klobucher.

Some snippets from our tour of Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyard, photos by Zak Klobucher.

Both tours are available by reservation. Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyard is located at 6905 Foxen Canyon Rd., Los Olivos, 805/688-9339. For more information about tastings and tours click here.

Cheers!  Click here for more Cocktail Corner columns.

Zaca Mesa Vineyard, photo by George Rose, courtesy Zaca Mesa.

Zaca Mesa Vineyard, photo by George Rose, courtesy Zaca Mesa.

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 May 25, 2018.

Cocktail Corner: Southern Exposure Garagiste Wine Festival

Southern Exposure Garagiste Wine Festival returns to Solvang Feb. 9-11, featuring just about every varietal of small production wines. Courtesy photo.

Southern Exposure Garagiste Wine Festival returns to Solvang Feb. 9-11, featuring just about every varietal of small production wines. Courtesy photo.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

The Garagiste Festival is back in Solvang next month and I am so excited to taste what they have in store for us this year.

A fun and very unique wine festival celebrating small production wines and their makers (who are usually there to pour and talk about all things vino), Garagistes (garage-east) is a term originally used in the Bordeaux region of France to put down renegade small-lot wine makers, sometimes working in their “garages” (anything not a chateau), who refused to follow the rules, and has now become a full-fledged movement responsible for making some of the best wine in the world.

The 2018 Southern Exposure Garagiste Wine Festival, which features more than 30 of California’s best micro-production wineries, takes place on Feb. 9-11 at the Veterans’ Memorial Hall in Solvang (1745 Mission Dr.). 

New this year, the festival’s sixth in Santa Barbara County, is a seminar series that pays tribute to the “Original Garagistes,” featuring a Q&A and wine tasting with Central Coast winemaking pioneer, Bob Lindquist of Qupé.  An original Rhône Ranger (America’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting American Rhone varietal wines) and recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award, Lindquist was one of the first in the wine industry to advocate American-made Syrah and other Rhône varietals. His winery Qupé has been named one of the Wineries of the Year for Wine & Spirits Magazine every year since 1999.

“A true original garagiste, Bob is an inspiration to micro-production winemakers everywhere and epitomizes everything that the American Garagiste movement is about—handcrafting stunning wines from under-appreciated grapes, ignoring established rules, innovating and taking risks and generously sharing knowledge with peers,” says Garagiste Festival Co-founder Doug Minnick.  “There would be no Garagiste movement, no Rhone Rangers—and the Central Coast would still be a blip on the way to Napa—without visionary winemakers like Bob.”

Southern Exposure Garagiste Wine Festival returns to Solvang Feb. 9-11, for its sixth annual festival. Courtesy photo.

Southern Exposure Garagiste Wine Festival returns to Solvang Feb. 9-11, for its sixth annual festival. Courtesy photo.

The weekend’s fun kicks off on Friday night, Feb. 9, with a “No Repeats, Rare and Reserve” tasting and BBQ, featuring food from local favorite Neighbor Tim’s BBQ (6480 Calle Real, Goleta). The “Original Garagiste” event with Lindquist takes place on Saturday, Feb. 10, immediately preceding the Grand Tasting, at Veterans Memorial Hall. Sunday, Feb. 11 marks the return of Passport Day, which offers special deals at participating local wineries for Garagiste Festival ticket holders who want to further explore the area.

Winemakers already scheduled to pour include:

Ann Albert Wines, Santa Barbara County

Ascension Cellars, Paso Robles

Bevela Wines, Central Coast

 

Courtesy photo.

Courtesy photo.

Bradley Family Winery, Santa Ynez Valley

Buscador Wine, Buellton

Byron Blatty Wines, Los Angeles

Caliza Winery, Paso Robles

Camlow Cellars, Russian River Valley

Cavaletti Vineyards, Southern California

Cholame Vineyard, Buellton

Cloak & Dagger Wines, Paso Robles

Clos de Amis Winery, Ventura County

Cordon Wine, Santa Barbara County

D. Volk Wines, Santa Ynez Valley 

Courtesy Garagiste Festival.

Courtesy Garagiste Festival.

Diablo Paso, Paso Robles

Dunites Wine Co., San Luis Obispo County

Dusty Nabor Wines, Westlake Village

El Lugar Wines, San Luis Obispo

Elwood Wines, Santa Maria Valley

Golden Triangle, Paso Robles

Ground Truth Wine, Santa Barbara County

Hoi Polloi Wines, Central Coast

Kimsey Vineyards, Santa Barbara County

Luna Hart Wines, Buellton

March Wines, Napa Valley

Marin’s Vineyard, Lockwood 

Courtesy Garagiste Festival

MCV Wines, Morro Bay

Metrick Wines, throughout California

Mollie Wines, Santa Barbara County

Montagne Russe, Mill Valley

Montemar Winery, Lompoc

Ryan Cochrane Wines, Santa Barbara County

Serrano Wine, Paso Robles

Sycamore Ranch Winery, Crestline

TLO Wines,  Paso Robles

Torch Cellars, Paso Robles 

TW Fermentation Co., Paso Robles

Velvet Bee Wine, Santa Ynez Valley

Vino Vargas, San Miguel

Volatus Wines, Paso Robles

Weatherborne Wine Co., Santa Barbara County

Called “wildly exuberant and fun,” “wine tasting Nirvana” and “not-to-be missed’ by the Los Angeles Times, Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure has showcased hundreds of micro-production winemakers from Santa Barbara/Santa Ynez area, many of who poured their first vintage at the festival and have gone on to greater renown.

Garagiste Festivals Inc. is a nonprofit organization and benefits the Garagiste Scholarship at Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Department, so not only can you drink great wine and meeting interesting winemakers, your ticket also gives back to local youth. 

For more information, visit californiagaragistes.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

on January 19, 2018.

Cocktail Corner: Santa Barbara Wine & Food Festival

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Food & Wine Festival.

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Wine & Food Festival.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History‘s beloved wine festival, and they are commemorating the event with a new name—the Santa Barbara Wine & Food Festival—which more accurately reflects the bounty of sips and bites found at this signature fundraiser.

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Food & Wine Festival.

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Wine & Food Festival.

While the food and the wine have always flowed freely at the festival, this year events manager Meridith Moore has set a goal to have 50 food vendors on the roster this year to accompany the 50 wineries. “My hope is that the name change will help to attract even more of Santa Barbara county’s incredible food vendors and highlight the ones that have been participating all these years,” she says.

As of press time, food vendors include: BarbarenoBenchmarkBob’s Well BreadBrophy Bros.Buena OndaCa’ DarioCoffee Bean and Tea LeafChooket/Your Cake Baker, Corazon CocinaCountry CateringFarmer BoyFinch and Fork RestaurantGelson’s ~ Santa BarbaraHelena Avenue BakeryHippypopIl FustinoIndustrial EatsLa MousseLa SorelleLoquitaMichael’s CateringMr. E’s FreezeMulberry LovePacific Pickle WorksPicoRenaud’s Patissiere and Bakery , Slate Catering CoSolvang BakeryThe Bear and StarThe Berry ManTondi GelatoVia Maestra 42 and Whole Foods Santa Barbara.

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Food & Wine Festival.

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Wine & Food Festival.

Wineries pouring this year include: Alexander & WayneAlma RosaAndrew Murray VineyardsArea 5.1Arthur Earl WineryAu Bon ClimatBabcock WineryBeckmen VineyardsBedford WineryBlair FoxBrander VineyardBrewer-CliftonButtonwoodByron by NielsonCa Del GrevinoCambriaCarr Vineyards and WineryCasa DumetzCebada, ConsilienceCORECrawford Family WinesDierbergDe PaolaEpiphany CellarsFalcone Family VineyardsFeliz NocheFess Parker Winery & VineyardFiddlehead Cellars,

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Food & Wine Festival.

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Wine & Food Festival.

Flying Goat CellarsFoxenGainey VineyardsGrassini Family VineyardsHilliard BruceJaffurs Wine CellarsJamie SloneKalyraKen Brown WinesKenneth Volk VineyardsKoehler WineryKuninLaFond WineryLarner WinesLongoriaLoring Wine CompanyLumenMargerum Wine CompanyMelvilleMosby Winery & VineyardMunicipal WinemakersNotary Public WinesOreanaPalminaPoint ConcepcionPotekPure Order Brewing CompanyQupéRancho Sisquoc WineryRefugio RanchRideauSagebrush Annie’sSanta Barbara WinerySilver WinesSpear WineryStar Lane VineyardSunstone WineryTablas CreekTatomerTercero WinesThird Window BrewingToucan WinesTranscendence WinesVogelzangWhitcraft Winery and Zaca Mesa.

The beautiful grounds of Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History (2559 Puesta del Sol) 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. The event takes place on Saturday, June 24.

Guests 21 and older may purchase admission on the Museum’s website (www.sbnature.org/winefestival). This event is always a sellout, so if you want to join in the fun, act quickly or you not get tickets.

Hope to see 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 on June 2, 2017.

Cocktail Corner: In the Beginning—The Early Years in the Santa Barbara Wine Country

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Wine Festival. The event takes place Jun. 25 at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

“In the Beginning: The Early Years in the Santa Barbara Wine Country” is a bookend event for the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s signature Santa Barbara Wine Festival. Courtesy photo.

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg 

The history of Santa Barbara County’s wine industry takes center stage at The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History on October 23, with an autumn symposium featuring an all-star panel of Santa Barbara winemakers.

Panelists include Jim Clendenen (Au Bon Climat), Fred Brander (Brander Vineyards), Ken Brown (Ken Brown Wines), Bob Lindquist (Qupe), Lane Tanner (Lumen Wines) and Rick Longoria (Longoria Wines)—all of whom are pioneers in the industry. The moderator is Antonio Gardella, a local fine wine specialist.

Attendees will first mingle with the winemakers at a tasting from 1-2 p.m., followed by an hour Q&A and finished with two hours of socializing and tastings.

“These six winemakers have a wealth of information that they will share with the intimate group of guests and guests will have a chance to interact with all of them during the tastings,” says Meridith Moore, the museum event manager. Being in the presence of all of these heavy-hitters in such an intimate setting is definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity for anyone with the slightest interest in the wine industry.

The panelists will have their wine on hand, as well as additional wines from Zaca Mesa, Mosby Winery and Whitcraft. Sweet and savory bites from local food purveyors Village Modern Foods, Pete Clements Catering, Jessica Foster Confections, Pico Restaurant, C’est Cheese and The Shop Café will also be on hand.

“In the Beginning: The Early Years in the Santa Barbara Wine Country” takes place on October 23 from 1-5 p.m. in Fleischmann Auditorium at the Museum of Natural History’s Mission Creek campus (2559 Puesta del Sol). Tickets are $75 for members and $100 for non-members, and are available now at www.sbnature.org/tickets 

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.”

This story was originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on October 7, 2016.

Cocktail Corner: Santa Barbara Wine Festival Gets Better With Age

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Wine Festival. The event takes place Jun. 25 at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Wine Festival. The event takes place Jun. 25 at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

Santa Barbara Wine Festival—the first festival of its kind on the Central Coast—returns for the 29th year, hosted by the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History (2559 Puesta Del Sol Rd.) on Saturday, June 25 from 2-5 p.m.

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? Guests will sip, swirl, and savor a variety of wine from 75 wineries complemented by tasty hors d’oeuvres and desserts from famed local restaurants, farm-to-table caterers, and other top shelf food purveyors.

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Wine Festival. The event takes place Jun. 25 at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Wine Festival. The event takes place Jun. 25 at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

They’ll also be celebrating the museum’s 100th birthday with, what else … bubbles! As a commemorative presentation this year, Santa Barbara Wine Festival features Sparkling Way; a special area dedicated to sparkling wines and the perfect opportunity to raise a glass to the occasion. Also, new to the event this year is the VIP Redwood Lounge, where VIP ticket holders can enter the festival one hour early and enjoy a private tasting before everyone else arrives.

Winemakers Paul Lato and Morgan Clendenen will be in the VIP Lounge from 1-2 p.m. to pour their world class wines, along with savory bites from Chef Pete Clements. The lounge will also offer access to intimate seating, delectable treats, late , and complimentary chair massages throughout the festival.

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Wine Festival. The event takes place Jun. 25 at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Wine Festival. The event takes place Jun. 25 at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

The Cork Pull raffle is always one of my favorite things at this festival. For $30 to pull a cork, participants are guaranteed to win a prize worth at least $30, many of which are terrific wines and other prizes valued at $50 and above. Plus, all proceeds benefit the museum’s exhibits and education programs.

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Wine Festival. The event takes place Jun. 25 at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Wine Festival. The event takes place Jun. 25 at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

Participating wineries include: Alexander & WayneAlma RosaAndrew Murray VineyardsArthur EarlAu Bon ClimatBabcock WineryBeckmen VineyardsBedford WineryBlair Fox Cellars, Brander VineyardBrewer-Clifton ButtonwoodByronCambriaCargasacchi/Pt ConceptionCarr Vineyards and WineryCasa DumetzCebadaCinque StelleCOREConsilienceCrawford Family Wines, Daniel Gehrs WinesDierberg/Star LaneDe Paola VineyardEpiphany CellarsFalcone VineyardsFeliz NocheFess Parker Winery & VineyardFiddlehead CellarsFlying Goat CellarsFoxenGainey VineyardGrassini Family VineyardsGypsy Canyon, Jaffurs Wine Cellars  and Jamie Slone Wines.

Also pouring are:KalyraKen Brown WinesKenneth Volk VineyardsKita WinesKoehler WineryKuninLaFondLarner Wines and General StoreLongoriaLoring Wine CompanyLumenMargerum Wine CompanyMelvilleMosby Winery & VineyardMunicipal WinemakersOreanaPalminaPotekQupéRancho Sisquoc WineryRefugio RanchSanta Barbara WinerySilver WinesSunstone WineryTablas CreekTatomerTercero WinesToucan WinesTranscendence WinesWhitcraft WineryWilliam James and Zaca Mesa.

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Wine Festival. The event takes place Jun. 25 at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Wine Festival. The event takes place Jun. 25 at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

In addition, participating food vendors are: BarbarenoBenchmark eatery, Brophy Bros., Ca DarioCountry CateringCoffee Bean and Tea LeafDuoFarmer BoyFinch & ForkFreezerMonkeyIl FustinoIndustrial EatsJessica Foster ConfectionsMichael’s CateringMr. E’s FreezeMulberry LoveNectar Eatery and LoungePacific Pickle WorksThe Stonehouse at San Ysidro RanchVia MaestraVillage Modern Foods and Patxi’s Pizza.

For more information and to purchase tickets for the Santa Barbara Wine Festival, please visit http://www.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 17, 2016.

Arthritis Foundation’s 33rd Annual Taste of the Town

Photo courtesy Arthritis Foundation's Taste of the Town

Photo courtesy Arthritis Foundation’s Taste of the Town

We got a preview last week of what’s in store for the 33rd annual Santa Barbara Taste of the Town, and there’s a lot to be excited about for this signature culinary event benefiting the Arthritis Foundation.

Taking place on Sunday, Sept. 7 at the picturesque Riviera Park Gardens, 2030 Alameda Padre Serra,  from noon-3 p.m., the fundraiser is expected to attract more than  1,000 guests for an afternoon of wine tasting and delicious nibbles presented from many of Santa Barbara’s finest restaurants and wineries.

Mingle and support a good cause over live entertainment overlooking the beautiful city below.

Opal Restaurant & Bar co-owners Tina Takaya and Richard Yates are co-chairs for the event. Some of the participating restaurants include: Aldo’s Italian Restaurant, Blue Tavern, Ca’ Dario, Fresco Café & Bakery, Il Fustino, Los Agaves, Los Arroyos Mexican Restaurant, Louie’s California Bistro, Michael’s Catering, New West Catering/Industrial Eats, Olivos del Mar, Opal Restaurant & Bar, Renaud’s Patisserie & Bistro, Santa Barbara City College, The Chase Restaurant, The Faculty Club, The Palace Grill and Via Maestra 42, among others.

Wine, beer and beverages will be provide by: Adelaida, Alexander & Wayne/Arthur Earl, Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards (winemaker Richard Sanford is a special honoree), Au Bon Climat, Babcock Vineyards, Brander Vineyard, Brewer-Clifton, Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard, Carr Vineyards & Winery, Consilience Winery/Tre Anelli, Daniel Gehrs Wines, Falcone Family Vineyards, Fess Parker Winery, Fiddlehead Cellars, Figueroa Mountain Brewery, Foxen, Giessinger Winery, Grassini, Island Brewing Company, Jaffurs Wine Cellars, Ken Brown Wines, Kenneth Volk Vineyards, Lafond Winery and Vineyards, Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards/Toccata Wines, Margerum Wine CompanyMelville Vineyards & Winery, Mosby Winery, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Qupe, Sanford WinerySanta Barbara Winery, Scott Cellars, Silver Wines, Sort This Out Cellars, Starlane & Dierberg Vineyards/Three Saints, Sunstone Vineyards, Tolosa, Whitcraft Winery, William James Cellars and Zaca Mesa, among others.

Photo courtesy Arthritis Foundation's Taste of the Town

Photo courtesy Arthritis Foundation’s Taste of the Town

Kendall Viera, a 13-year-old middle school student from Santa Ynez has been named this year’s Youth Honoree. She was diagnosed at the age of 6 with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) and is currently in remission, thanks to medical advances. To see a video of Viera talking about why she supports the Arthritis Foundation click here.

Dr. Timothy Spiegel has been named the event’s Medical Honoree. Hel is a rheumatologist (arthritis specialist) in Santa Barbara that has been diagnosing and treating patients for almost 40 years. 

All proceeds from Taste of the Town support local programs and services of the Arthritis Foundation. The foundation is the only nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of 53 million people (including nearly 300,000 children) with arthritis through research and local programs of education, advocacy and juvenile arthritis support.

Taste of the Town tickets purchased in advance are $125 per person; tickets at the door will be $140, if available, and corporate group discounts are also available. Tickets are limited, so early reservations are encouraged. For tickets and information call 805/463-4685 or visit tasteofthetownsantabarbara.org.

Sponsors and their guests will also enjoy the exclusive Connoisseurs’ Circle, co-chaired by Jennifer Jaqua and Jacques Habra. Celebrating its fifth year, this unique VIP experience will feature a progressive tasting menu designed and prepared by a visiting chef of distinction at Belmond El Encanto on Friday, Sept. 5, along with a live auction. Taste of the Town sponsorship opportunities are still available by contacting Asher Garfinkel at 805/563-4685.

–Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on July 31, 2014.

Cocktail Corner: Taste the Future of Wine at Les Marchands

Santa Barbara County Wine Futures TastingA spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg  |

After last year’s super successful first “Funk Zone version” of the Santa Barbara County Wine Futures Tasting, there’s a lot of excitement surrounding numero due, especially since an exclusive Friday evening event was added to the mix, taking place on April 18.

Unlike a typical Winemaker’s Dinner, this gathering will echo what has gone on for generations in Europe but was formally organized in the 1920’s by Count Lafon as La Paulee de Meursault with a celebration in Burgundy marking the end of harvest. With that in mind, this will be a harvest style celebration of bringing and sharing superb wines.  Les Marchands has invited several winemakers to participate and in generosity they have agreed to bring along Santa Barbara County wines from their cellars—fun, unique, aged, new, unreleased, large format—the variety will be truly memorable.

Confirmed winemakers and proprietors attending include Zotovich Cellars, Ojai, Tyler Winery, Wenzlau Vineyard, Sillix, Chanin, Storm Wines and Sandhi, with a few more in the works.

Expanding on the theme, Les Marchands is encouraging guests to bring a wine from Santa Barbara County to share since the evening is centered around sharing, enjoying, and learning about the expressive wines of Santa Barbara County.

SBCWFTDinner2014-2855The menu includes:

Farmer’s Market Crudite Platter with Seasonal Vegetables, Herbed Goat Cheese, Black Pepper Creme Fraiche, and Romesco Sauce

Roasted Cauliflower Soup, Chives and House-made Potato Chip

Grilled Tri-tip, Salsa Verde served with Rosemary Potatoes, Grilled Broccolini with Lemon Zest and Chili Flakes, Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad

Rori’s Ice Cream
Cost is $85 per person, and reservations can be made by clicking here.

That’s just the beginning of this delicious world of fun.

On Saturday, April 19, more than 50 of the hottest local wineries will gather for an exclusive tasting next door to Les Marchands at 131 Anacapa St., which will be transformed into an indoor tasting room. Attendees have the rare opportunity to be among the first to taste and purchase special cuvees available prior to release at a 20% discount off standard retail price. Historic producers like Au Bon Climat and Qupe are confirmed to attend, alongside upcoming stars like Tyler, Sillix, Zotovich, Tatomer, Habit Wine Company and Wenzlau.

Tickets for the 2014 Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant’s Santa Barbara County Wine Futures Tasting are $70 with advance purchase on the Les Marchands website or $80 at the door. The event will take place from noon-4 p.m.

Cheers!

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on March 21, 2014.

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: Cultivate’s Generous Pour

Dream Walking webA spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

The wine industry is a notably generous one—you’ll get a warm and fuzzy buzz just thinking about how much donated wine is poured in the name of loosening checkbooks at local charity events every year!

Now that grape-infused generosity has a new twist with the Cultivate brand.

The brainchild of wine investor Charles Banks (who recently purchased Qupe) and his wife, Ali Banks, Cultivate gives back the first ten cents of every dollar in gross sales to nonprofits supporting education and basic human needs in local communities, and has raised over $430,000 for charities in over 45 communities across the U.S. since its launch in 2011. Another interesting twist is that Cultivate does not direct the funds—instead, nonprofits submit their causes and the brand allows customers to vote on its website with the goal of allowing customers to express their values through their purchases and have a voice in determining where the money goes.

And trust me, the wine is good: the folks at Cultivate have produced more than 20 wines rated 25 points or higher in the last ten years.

I recently spoke with Nat Gunter, Cultivate’s director of winemaking, who travels the world tasting thousands of samples of juice to craft the best wines possible at the best value possible from regions all over the globe.

The Feast webLeslie Dinaberg: What a fun job you must have.

Nat Gunter: It is. It has been tons of fun.

LD: The Cultivate wines include: The Gambler, 100% Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina; Double Blind 100% Pinot Grigio, Veneto, Italy; Wonderlust, 100% Chardonnay, Valle Centrale, Chile; Copa Cabana, 60% Cabernet, 40% Carmenere, Chile; The Feast, 66% Merlot, 34% Cabernet, Alexander Valley and Napa, CA; and Dream Walking, 100% Chardonnay, Mendocino and Sta. Rita Hills, CA.

So tell me about the travel aspect of your work. You’re going to these places, you’re tasting the juice and then are you collaborating in making the wines with these different vineyards?  How does that work?

NG: It’s a little different in every area because different countries and different wine growing regions obviously have different customs and different laws and different ways of doing things. With respect to the two California wines we make now, that is made through me personally blending different sources of wine, different bulk wine lots … and then physically doing the blending, the culturing and modeling ourselves. Whereas obviously in Chile, because the cost of doing everything is a little bit lower, we can actually go from grapes to bottle in Chile. It was really about finding producers that would be the most advantageous for the wine we wanted to make in cellar practices and that are also really fun to work with and to visit three times a year and to be in constant communication with. We go sort of through harvest with them, and go from grapes to bottle and I blend the wine together each year with their winemaker.

Nat Gunter (courtesy photo)

Nat Gunter (courtesy photo)

LD: How many cases are you producing?

NG: We have five wines at the moment: two from Chile, a red and a white, sort of our entry-level price point if you will. And we’re bringing in probably close to 20,000 cases each. … In our middle tier right now we have a Malbec from Argentina, bringing in just shy of 8,000 cases a year of that. In January we’ll launch a Pinot Grigio that will sort of fit alongside the Malbec in our kind of middle tier and maybe our middle range white wine. And we have our two California wines that are sort of our high end wines, if you will, still retailing below $20 a bottle but for the cultivated program they are the high end and we’ve been producing between 5,000 and 7,000 cases a year of those wines.

LD: Is the long-term plan to continue that size of production?

NG: I think in a perfect world we’d like to grow at all levels, because of the business model and with our ten percent give, the more wine we can sell the more money we can put to good use so we definitely don’t want to put any cap on how big we could potentially grow.

… I think because of the way the model is set up we can be very nimble and advantageous in our pursuits and so we knew we wanted to make our value brands … in Chile, and so to be able to find places where I was of a like mind from a winemaking philosophy, and from a viticulture philosophy with the people with whom we would be working is huge.

On the other hand, if someone were to come to Charles and say we would like to produce specifically this type of wine from this place we obviously have within the terroir selections we have sort of family or group intelligence, we have the ability to capitalize on that and make that happen.

LD: Have you always enjoyed the collaborative aspect of winemaking?

NG: I have to say that’s definitely something I have come to only with Cultivate. … It’s only through Cultivate that I’ve really had this much responsibility in terms of style and volume of wine produced. And so I think collaboration has been a necessity and so to know that I can get valuable feedback … and get some honest and candid feedback from people who have been doing what I’m doing, some of them for much longer than I’ve been doing it, but we’re all sort of working with and for the same people and the same goal and it’s really, it’s very gratifying.

LD: I would imagine it keeps you on your toes from a winemaking point of view, but also from just having so many different partners.

NG: Absolutely and sometimes when I find myself stuck, oftentimes you’ll look for really creative solutions when a logical one will do and sometimes you’re looking for a really logical solution when something outside the box will do. And to have different wine makers on different continents with different backgrounds to bounce things off of, I feel like most of the time we sort of more quickly arrive at more solutions than I would certainly individually. I won’t speak for the rest of them.

LD: Are the partnerships intended to be one offs, or is it possible that a few years from now you may go back to the same place?

NG: It’s sort of on a case-by-case basis. With our partnership in Chile, we’re into our third vintage on both the red wine and white wine, with two different partners. I spent a lot of time down in Chile early on visiting tens if not hundreds of producers and then taking time to make the wine incrementally better year after year, which I think happens actively and passively through better understanding and time working with people.

With California wines there are obviously within sort of our group or rolodex there are some contacts we have in the wine world that we trust. Different vintages bring different conditions and different growing regions bring the ability to sort of capitalize on those, to maybe pull more from Mendocino than the Central Coast one year and vice versa, depending on the quality of that vintage I think it’s certainly helpful to our overall quality.

LD: I love the charitable component of Cultivate. Are you involved with that at all?

NG: Yes, absolutely. Everyone in the organization definitely keeps abreast of the different community based nonprofits that we help. Our first give recipient was actually from my home state (South Carolina) and while I wasn’t terribly involved with that organization before, I then struck up a really meaningful friendship with the director of that organization.

It’s a nice reminder from time to time and Ali (Banks) actually is very good about keeping that mission at the forefront and sharing notes that she receives from gift recipients and sort of keeping up with those gift recipients down the road, not just on the day that a check is delivered and finding out not only what our give dollars have helped do but how they are growing.

LD: How much of that, if any, is part of your discussion when you’re looking at vineyards and people to partner with?

NG: I certainly want anyone that we may partner with … to know our mission and our goal and our business model because certainly from a production end if you’re giving away ten percent of your gross, that doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for any mistakes really. You really need to get everything right the first time. And because Charles and Ali and the rest of us by extension feel so strongly about that give, it is some added motivation to get it right so making sure that everyone we partner with is aware of that is definitely a big part of it.

LD: What’s your favorite part of your work?

NG: I do think that collaboration is something that is probably the most gratifying to me and I think it comes in many forms. There are two wine festivals throughout the year in which Terroir Selections as a group participates. They are both West Coast, in the spring the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival and then in the late summer, the Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival, and more often than not, every winemaker in the portfolio is together. It’s just a great time to sort of taste everyone’s wine with everyone else and then after that just sort of throw it all out there on the table. And I always leave those occasions feeling pretty dialed in and invigorated about winemaking.

Cultivate founders Ali and Charles Banks explain how their journey through the wine world lead to the creation of Cultivate and it’s model of giving away 10% of sales to non-profits. Shot in Andy and Annie Erickson’s backyard, as well as the lab, with the Cultivate team. Filmed and edited by 4 Slow Play.

Cheers!

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine on November 15, 2013.

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.”