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

California Wine Festival, courtesy photo

California Wine Festival, courtesy photo

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

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

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

Courtesy California Wine Festival

Courtesy California Wine Festival

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

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

Courtesy California Wine Festival

Courtesy California Wine Festival

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

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

Photo by Jeremy Ball/Bottle Branding

Bacon and Barrels. Photo by Jeremy Ball/Bottle Branding

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

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


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

Leslie DinabergWhen she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

Cocktail Corner: 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.


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.”