Cocktail Corner: Garagiste Wine Festival

Garagiste Festival 2017, courtesy photo.

Garagiste Festival 2017, courtesy photo.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

Recently named “America’s Best Wine Festival” by USA Today, the Garagiste Wine Festival returns to Solvang February 8 – 10. “Garagistes” (pronounced garage-east) is a term originally used in the Bordeaux region of France to denigrate renegade small-lot wine makers, sometimes working in their “garages” (anything considered not a chateau), who refused to follow the “rules,” and is now a full-fledged movement responsible for making some of the best wine in the world. 

Showcasing the wines of some of California’s best small production winemakers, the seventh anniversary festival has a number of different components, including the popular “‘Original Garagiste” seminar, featuring Central Coast winemaking legend Ken Brown of Ken Brown Wines interviewed by Garagiste Festival Co-founder and KRUSH radio host, Stewart McLennan.

“We are proud to lead off our main event with a one-on-one discussion and tasting with Ken Brown—a true original ‘garagiste’ many years before micro-production winemaking became a movement,’ says McLennan.  “Ken was one of the first to recognize the cool climate potential of this region back in the 70s and to craft delicious wines from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay right here in Santa Barbara. We are looking forward to an informative and inspiring conversation as we taste some of his delicious wines.” 

Brown’s winery, Ken Brown Wines, focuses on very small lots of Pinot Noir from the finest vineyards of Sta. Rita Hills. Recognized as one of Santa Barbara County’s pioneering winemakers and innovators, he was the founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery and spent 20 years at Byron Winery as well. Not only was Ken Brown among the first vintners to realize the tremendous promise for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Santa Barbara County, he was also the first winemaker to introduce the Syrah grape, as well as Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, to the region. The “Original Garagiste” seminar runs from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 9 and will focus on how he helped shape the Santa Barbara wine scene and why he ultimately returned to small-lot winemaking. 

Winemaker Ken Brown leads off the 2019 Garagiste Festival with a one-on-one discussion and tasting. Photo by Rocco Ceselin, courtesy Garagiste Festival.

Winemaker Ken Brown leads off the 2019 Garagiste Festival with a one-on-one discussion and tasting. Photo by Rocco Ceselin, courtesy Garagiste Festival.

Dubbed a “tasting nirvana,” “strange and wondrous” and “one not to miss” by the Los Angeles Times, the Garagiste Festival is renowned for its renegade spirit, passionate winemakers, handcrafted wines and rules-breaking, anti-snobby ethos. The wines are poured directly by their makers, and it’s definitely one of the most fun—and accessible—festivals to talk to winemakers about their passion projects. 

In many cases the winemakers are employed by larger wineries but showcase their own, lovingly crafted, small batch concoctions at the Garagiste Festival. For example, Marisa Matela Beverly is Owner/Winemaker of Bevela Wines (which will be showcased at the festival), but has also been working with Au Bon Climat, Qupe and Verdad wineries since 2008.

“Under these two pioneers of Santa Barbara county wine, I try to soak up as much knowledge as I can,” says Beverly. “Over the years, this has helped fine tune my palate and path in winemaking. I am allowed all the freedom I want when it comes to the production of my wines. This helps keep Bevela Wines unique and very boutique.  The best example of influence and yet freedom is my barrel aging regime.  I saw and tasted what extended aging can do for certain Italian varieties, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to use this technique.  It is not the most cost effective—and takes a lot of floor space—but the end results are undeniable, it is worth it!”

Guests can taste those end results on Friday, February 8 at the popular “No Repeats, Rare & Reserve,” tasting, where attendees can get up close and personal with the winemakers as they share limited Club Only, Library and Pre-Release bottles and Barrel samples, and enjoy a BBQ buffet from local favorite Neighbor Tim’s BBQ.

Bevela is pouring a library selection of the Matela Teroldego (the 2010 vintage) as well as the current release (the 2012 vintage).  “We also have a special selection of 2014 Presqu’ile Syrah, only bottled in magnum and only available to our allocation list.  This wine is our silent auction item on Saturday,” says Beverly, who will be pouring her  2017 “Fractured Emergence” Chardonnay, 2012 “Matela” Teroldego, 2015 “Old Fashioned Superstition” Syrah, and 2015 “Unforeseen Alchemy” Red Blend at the Grand Tasting Event on Saturday, February 9.

The Grand Tasting runs from 2-5 p.m. showcasing over 40 winemakers pouring 150+ wines and 20+ unique varieties. Among the winemakers scheduled to pour are: Ascension Cellars, Bevela Wines, Blatty, Bodega de Edgar, Bolshoi Family Wines, Byron, Camlow Cellars, Cholame Vineyard, Cloak & Dagger Wines, Copia Vineyards, Cordon Wines, Corner Cellars, Cutruzzola Vineyards, D.Volk Wines, Dascomb Cellars, DeWit Vineyard, Dracaena Wines, Elwood Wines, Ferguson Family Winery, Golden Triangle, Greyscale Wines, Hoi Polloi Winery, Kaleidos Winery, Kimsey Vineyards, Kings Carey, Lepiane Wines, Luna Hart, Maiden Stoen, Marin’s Vineyard, MCV, Metrick Wines, Montagne Russe, Montemar Winery, Nexo, Pelletiere Estate, RF Fine Wines, Ryan Cochrane Wines, Seagrape, Sycamore Ranch, Temperance Cellars, Tercero Wines, Thomas William Fermentation Company, Torch Cellars, Volatus, and Westerly Wines

All tickets include unlimited tastes, complimentary cheese and charcuterie and a souvenir Stolzle crystal wine glass—plus a Silent Auction full of enticing wine packages which benefits The Garagiste Scholarship at Cal Poly

Dana Volk of D.Volk Wines is pouring at the Garagiste Festival, and offering special discounts to festival attendees at her nearby Solvang tasting room. Photo by Bottle Branding, courtesy D.Volk Wines.

Dana Volk of D.Volk Wines is pouring at the Garagiste Festival, and offering special discounts to festival attendees at her nearby Solvang tasting room. Photo by Bottle Branding, courtesy D.Volk Wines.

Dana Volk, Owner/Winemaker of D.Volk Wines, will be pouring on Friday (her 2016 John Sebastiano Vineyard Syrah, which is usually only available to wine club members) and Saturday. She says, “I have poured wine at many festivals in my 25 years in this business and this is by far my favorite one to show my wine at! The attendees are genuinely interested in getting to know you personally and to learn about the wines and winemaking.”

On Saturday she’ll be pouring and offering special discounts on D.Volk Wines’ 2017 Curtis Vineyard Chardonnay, Santa Ynez Valley; 2017 Grenache Blanc, Dorigo Family Vineyards, Ballard Canyon; 2017 Rosé, Camp 4 Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley; 2015 Pinot Noir, Duvarita Vineyard, Santa Barbara County; and 2016 Hampton Family Vineyard Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley.

“There is a special place in our hearts for Solvang, and for the amazing small production winemakers who pour at this venue. Solvang, and the beautiful Veteran’s Memorial Hall, lend such a charming and intimate setting for attendees to chat and taste with the winemakers and owners who will be pouring their hard-to-find wines. We love the diversity of the wines poured here, with multiple micro-climates, grape varieties and innovative blends represented.” says Garagiste Festival cofounder Doug Minnick

With the exception of the Passport Day tastings, which take place at individual wineries and tasting rooms, all festival weekend events take place at Solvang Veterans’ Memorial Hall, 1745 Mission Dr., Solvang.

Tickets are very limited, so if you want to go, you should act now. To purchase tickets, click here. 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 January 25, 2019.

Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Weeks Jan. 27-Feb. 10

Root 246's Creekstone Ranch Burger is one of the specials on the menu at Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Weeks, taking place Jan 27 to Feb 10. Courtesy photo.

Root 246’s Creekstone Ranch Burger is one of the specials on the menu at Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Weeks, taking place Jan 27 to Feb 10. Courtesy photo.

The Santa Ynez Valley has so many great restaurants, and the upcoming annual foodie celebration is the perfect time to check out a new one or revisit and old favorite.

Part of Visit California’s California Restaurant Month, this year’s Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Weeks feature three-course meal deals—all $20.19—at a record 32 restaurants in the six Santa Ynez Valley towns of Ballard, Buellton, Los Alamos, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, and Solvang.

Why is it two weeks long?

“We continually heard from local restaurants and from diners that the only way to improve Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Weeks is to offer more of it,” says Shelby Sim, President/CEO of Visit the Santa Ynez Valley. “The event has been successful from year one, expanding well beyond what can be fit into just one week. It is exciting to continue to see it grow.”

Representing each of the Santa Ynez Valley’s six distinct communities, 32 restaurants will participate in Restaurant Weeks in 2019. In addition to the offerings of the Valley’s restaurants, many Santa Ynez Valley wineries will offer wine and small bite pairings in their tasting rooms for $20.19. And special lodging deals are available at hotels throughout the Valley.

“Santa Ynez Valley’s food scene is rapidly evolving in terms of both quality and quantity; it’s even challenging the region’s reputation for world-class wines. Our restaurants these days—rule,” says Sim. 

The Courtyard at S.Y. Kitchen | Photo Credit Rob Stark

The Courtyard at S.Y. Kitchen | Photo Credit Rob Stark

Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Weeks menus shine with farm-fresh examples of wine country’s seasonal bounty, with tasting menus crafted by celebrated chefs. Exemplary, and locavore, Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Weeks dishes include S.Y. Kitchen executive chef Luca Crestanelli’s “Bird’s Nest Lasagna” (with fontina cheese, roasted butternut squash, chanterelle mushrooms), his “Fried Sous Vide Organic Egg” (with cheese fondue and chicory), and his “Saffron Gnocchetti (with butter and sage, optional bone marrow, raspadura cheese). At The Bear and Star in Los Olivos, chef/partner John Cox’s Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Weeks menus include the likes of his “Wagyu Empanada” (with black beans and Cotija cheese), utilizing proteins pulled from nearby Fess Parker Ranch.

In Solvang, new chef de cuisine at Root 246, Crystal “Chef Pink” DeLongpré, puts her locally- and sustainably-sourced, TV chef touches on an “American Lamb Burger” (Bellwether Farms Jersey ricotta, house-pickled mustard seed, smoky tomato jam, served with fries or Chef Pink’s famous Brussels sprouts), which is destined for the eatery and lounge’s Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Weeks menu.

Norman, courtesy Skyview Los Alamos.

Norman, courtesy Skyview Los Alamos.

The food-centric hotspot of Los Alamos will boast chef and restaurant participants like the town’s culinary founders, chef Jesper Johansson of Plenty on Bell and chef Clark Staub at his Full of Life Flatbread enterprise; chef Drew Terp of PICO fame; chef Conrad Gonzales’ Valle Fresh; and Norman restaurant and bar, the dining and drinking component at mid-century motor lodge marvel, Skyview Los Alamos.

At Buellton’s pioneering Santa Ynez Valley food-scape player, Industrial Eats, chef/owners Jeff and Janet Olsson will celebrate the foods of—with 100% of proceeds benefitting—the People of Yemen. Yemeni dishes will comprise the bistro’s Restaurant Weeks menu, with specialties like Shourba Bilsen (lamb broth lentil soup with coriander), Hor’ee (braised beef shank with basmati rice), and Bint Al-Sahn (dough cake with honey).

Dates of participation vary by establishment, but the list of participating restaurants, wineries, and lodging properties includes:

Ballard

The Ballard Inn & Gathering Table, 2436 Baseline Ave., 800/638-2466

Buellton

Campfire Café at Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground, 180 Avenue of Flags, Buellton, 805/688-3716

Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.,45 Industrial Way, 805/694-2252

Firestone Walker Brewing Co., 620 McMurray Rd., 805/697-4777

Hitching Post II, 406 E Hwy 246, 805/688-0676

Industrial Eats, 181 Industrial Way, 805/688-8807

La Tequila Mexican Restaurant, 35 W. Highway 26, 805/697-7776

Santa Ynez Valley Marriott, 555 McMurray Road, 805/688-1000

Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Weeks is taking place Jan 27 to Feb 10. Courtesy photo.

Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Weeks is taking place Jan 27 to Feb 10. Courtesy photo.

Los Alamos

Full of Life Flatbread, 225 Bell St., 805/344-4400

Norman, 9150 US Highway 101, 805/344-0080

Pico at The Los Alamos General Store, 458 Bell St., 805/344-1122

Plenty on Bell, 508 Bell St., 805/344-3020

Valle Fresh, 380 Bell St., 805/865-2282

Los Olivos

The Bear & Star, 2860 Grand Ave, 805/686-1359

Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café, 2879 Grand Ave., 805/688-7265

Santa Ynez

The Lucky Hen Larder, 1095 Meadowvale Rd., 805/691-9448

S.Y. Kitchen, 1110 Faraday St., 805/691-9794

Trattoria Grappolo, 3687 Sagunto St., 805/688-6899

Willows Restaurant & Bar, 3400 E. Highway 246, 805/686-0855

Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Weeks is taking place Jan 27 to Feb 10. Courtesy photo.

Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Weeks is taking place Jan 27 to Feb 10. Courtesy photo.

Solvang

Cecco Ristorante, 475 1st St., 805/688-8880

First & Oak, 409 1st St., 805/688-1703

Fresco Valley Café, 442 Atterdag Rd., 805/688-8857

Hill Haven Provisions, 448 Atterdag Rd., 805/691-9025

Hummingbird Restaurant, 453 Atterdag Rd., 805/403-7100

Leonardo’s Ristorante, 632 Alamo Pintado Rd., 805/686-0846

Los Arroyos Mexican Restaurant & Take Out, 1992 Old Mission Dr., 805/693-2994

Mad & Vin at The Landsby, 1576 Mission Dr., 805/688-3121

River Grill at The Alisal, 150 Alisal Rd., 805/688-7784

Root 246, 420 Alisal Rd., 805/686-8681

Solvang Brewing Co., 1547 Mission Dr., 805/688-2337

Succulent Café Wine Charcuterie, 1555 Mission Dr., 805/691-9444

Toscana Pizzeria, 485 Alisal Road #163, 805/697-7445

Alma Rosa’s eco-chic tasting room in Buellton, built by Allen Construction, incorporates a 15-foot olive tree, local river stone and recycled Douglas Fir. Photo by Patrick Price.

Alma Rosa’s eco-chic tasting room in Buellton, built by Allen Construction, incorporates a 15-foot olive tree, local river stone and recycled Douglas Fir. Photo by Patrick Price.

Wineries

Alma Rosa Winery, 181-C Industrial Way, Buellton, 805/691-9395

Hitching Post Wines, 420 E. Highway 246, Buellton, 805/688-0676

Kalyra Winery, 343 N Refugio Rd., Santa Ynez, 805/693-8864

Loring Wine Company, 201-B Industrial Way, Buellton, 805/691-1300

Pence Vineyards & Winery, 1909 W. Highway 246, Buellton, 805/735-7000

Roblar Winery & Vineyards, 3010 Roblar Ave., Santa Ynez, 805/686-2603

Sunstone Winery, 125 N. Refugio Rd., Santa Ynez, 805/688-9463

 

Lodging

Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground, 180 Avenue of Flags, Buellton, 805/688-3716

Hampton Inn & Suites Buellton/Santa Ynez Valley, 600 McMurray Rd., Buellton, 805/686-1555

King Frederik Inn, 1617 Copenhagen Dr., Solvang, 805/688-5515

The Landsby, 1576 Mission Dr., 805/688-3121

New Haven Inn, 271 Alisal Rd., Solvang, 805/618-8541

Pea Soup Andersen’s Inn, 51 E. Highway 246, Buellton, 800/732-7687

Santa Ynez Inn, 3627 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez, 805/688-5588

Sideways Inn, 114 E. Highway 246, Buellton, 805/688-8448

Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Week menus do not include tax, tip, or beverages, and reservations are strongly encouraged. For the latest updates, including menus and dining hours, visit www.DineSYV.com.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on January 24, 2019.

Local Dish: An Edible Tribute to Hanukkah

As my grandmother used to say, the best way to come to Hanukkah feast is to come hungry! That advice definitely still holds for next week’s special event, 8 Nights {an Edible Tribute to Hanukkah}.

Courtesy K'Syrah Catering & Events.

Courtesy K’Syrah Catering & Events.

This exclusive holiday food happening is hosted by Chef Brooke Stockwell, Executive Chef for K’Syrah Catering & Events (www.kscateringandevents.com). A contemporary culinary twist on traditional Jewish celebratory foods, the event takes place on Dec. 7 at K’Syrah Catering & Events (478 4th Place, Solvang) from 6:30-10 p.m. The ticketed evening includes six seated courses of Chef Brooke’s special Hanukkah menu, preceded by two passed appetizer courses.

“This holiday holds so many happy family memories for me, and most of those, food-related. These Hanukkah events give me a chance to honor those memories and traditions, and share them with the whole community—and visitors.

Courtesy K'Syrah Catering & Events.

Courtesy K’Syrah Catering & Events.

I’m using local and seasonal ingredients that showcase this region, to craft a Hanukkah menu which would be fairly recognizable as such,” says Chef Brooke.

Raised in Lompoc, Chef Brooke’s culinary style has evolved over the past dozen years as she has plied her trade in Santa Barbara and Las Vegas, in Morro Bay, and now, back in the Santa Ynez Valley. Chef Brooke’s culinary career began as a private chef at age 19, while she was still in culinary school in Santa Barbara. After working for celebrity chef Rick Moonen in Las Vegas, Chef Brooke returned to the Central Coast where she happily fed locals and tourists alike, as the Executive Chef of the Inn at Morro Bay. Now, upon her return to the Santa Ynez Valley, Chef Brooke became the Executive Chef of K’Syrah Catering & Events, where she continues to share her passion for food and the stories that coincide with the ingredients she selects.

Participating Jewish Santa Barbara County winemakers who will be featured include Sandra Newman, Cebada Wine; Michael Roth, Lo-Fi Wines; and Larry Schaffer, tercero wines. In addition, a portion of the event’s proceeds will support the Santa Ynez Valley Jewish Community.

Courtesy K'Syrah Catering & Events.

Courtesy K’Syrah Catering & Events.

The “8 Nights” Menu for Friday, Dec. 7, with participating Jewish Winemakers, includes:

Tray Passed

1 — potato latke // house-cured salmon // black pepper crème fraîche // chives

2 — savory olive oil cake // cherry coulis // salted bay leaf Chantilly

Seated

3 — roasted beets // frisée // orange // honey vinaigrette // goat cheese crouton

4 — fritto misto // zucchini, winter squash, apple, fennel, lemon // sage brown butter // edible flowers

5 — savory kugel // kale, cipollini, broccolini, mushrooms // gruyere // challah bread crumbs // herbs

6 — grilled quail // parsnip latke // pomegranate // charoset

7 — smoked brisket // roasted apple sauce // grilled root vegetables // smoked Jerusalem artichoke cream // crispy taro root

8 — apple beignet // dulce de leche // sour cream ice milk // edible flowers

Tickets for the event are $85 per person, plus an onsite cash bar, and are available at 8-nights-edible-tribute-to-hanukkah.eventbrite.com.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on November 30, 2018.

Cocktail Corner: SB County Women Winemakers Dinner

Santa Barbara County Women Winemakers Dinner is March 8.

Santa Barbara County Women Winemakers Dinner is March 8.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

International Women’s Day is coming up on March 8, and I can’t think of a better way to toast the occasion than by attending the second annual Santa Barbara County Women Winemakers Dinner.

Last year’s festivities were, quite simply, amazing, delicious and fun, with a great spirit of collaboration and mutual admiration among the winemakers and chefs taking part.  Because the inaugural event—which was planned, executed and sold out within the space of a few weeks—was so popular, the event’s organizers have expanded this year’s dinner to accommodate more guests and to provide different levels of options for participation and support. 

I can’t wait! 

The charitable event, which runs in its entirety from 5:30-9 p.m. at K’Syrah Catering & Events (478 4th Place, Solvang, www.kscateringandevents.com) will, for the second year, benefit the Women’s Fund of Northern Santa Barbara County. Tickets to the March 8 event are currently on sale, at womenswinemakerdinner.eventbrite.com.

Last year's Women Winemakers Dinner, photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

Last year’s Women Winemakers Dinner, photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

More than 20 female winemakers will be joined at the March 8 event by some of the Santa Ynez Valley’s leading culinary ladies, the latter of which are collaborating to create a four-course, sit-down dinner to pair with some of their winemaker colleagues’ wines. In addition to the seated dinner portion of the evening, this year’s event features a tent on a closed-to-traffic street in front of K’Syrah’s downtown Solvang venue. Housed inside the tent is a pre-dinner tasting reception (available as a separate ticket), where more than 20 women winemakers will be on-hand to pour tastes of their wines and talk with event guests from 5:30-7 p.m. The tent festivities also include passed appetizers and a cheese table from local female cheesemonger Janelle McAtamney of Solvang’s Cailloux Cheese Shop.

Participating winemakers and wineries confirmed include: Karen Steinwachs, Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard; Sonja Magdevski, Casa Dumetz Wines; Brooke Carhartt, Carhartt Vineyard & Winery; Alison Thomson, Lepiane Wines; Lane Tanner, Lumen Wines; Adrienne St. John, Rideau Vineyard; Gretchen Voelcker, Moon Unit Wines; Jessica Gasca, Story of Soil; Tara Gomez, Kitá Wines; Angela Osborne, A Tribute To Grace; and Kimberly Smith, LaMontagne Winery, with more to be announced  soon.

Chef Brooke Stockwell, Executive Chef at K’Syrah Catering & Events, will be joined in the kitchen by baker Amy Dixon, of The Baker’s Table in Santa Ynez; Theo Stephan, owner of Los Olivos’ Global Gardens; and additional Santa Ynez Valley chefs and food crafters, to be announced as the event nears. 

VIP-level tickets for this year’s event will include both the tasting tent and the seated dinner, where guests will be treated to wine pairings by, and conversation with, an exclusive selection of some of Santa Barbara County’s female winemakers, who will also be announced in the coming weeks. A dessert reception will follow the seated dinner, where guests may continue to mingle with the winemakers.

International Women’s Day has been celebrated worldwide since 1909, with a focus on working women’s achievements and issues. In a working environment that sees about 10% of the global wine industry as female winemakers, Santa Barbara County boasts a much higher percentage of women winemakers than most places in the world, with nearly double the average. The March 8 event will bring together a good portion of the County’s female winemakers in a show of support for each other, and other working women, world-wide; those who toil and labor while honing and elevating their craft in their workplace, while also balancing work-lives with family and community service.

It’s going to be a wonderful evening. Hope to see some of you there! 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 February 9, 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.

Eyvind Earle | Winter at Elverhøj Museum

Eyvind Earle, "Winter Barns," courtesy Elverhøj Museum of History & Art.

Eyvind Earle, “Winter Barns,” courtesy Elverhøj Museum of History & Art.

Winter arrives before Thanksgiving at Elverhøj Museum of History & Art in Solvang (1624 Elverhoy Way) with the debut of the holiday exhibition, “Eyvind Earle│Winter.” 

Noted for his landscape painting and contributions to the background illustration and styling of classic Disney animated films like Sleeping Beauty and Lady and the TrampEyvind Earle is also famous for his Christmas and holiday greeting cards, creating over 800 designs between 1938 and 1995.

The Elverhoj exhibition showcases serigraphs and paintings that are the basis of Earle’s famous greeting cards. This is a special opportunity for collectors as limited edition serigraphs will be available for purchase.

“I never planned to be involved with Christmas card designing,” said Earle. “It simply happened as a means of survival. To me, every day is Christmas. Every creation is divine. Cover the ugliest run-down shack with snow, and it becomes a magic vision of purity.”

For a ten year period between 1968-1978 Earle resided in Solvang. “The imagery derived from themes of the Santa Ynez Valley are unmistakable in many of Earle’s paintings and serigraphs,” says Elverhoj Executive Director Esther Jacobsen Bates. “He found inspiration in the natural beauty of the CA Central Coast.”

Elverhøj Museum of History & Art is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is no charge for admission; suggested donation is $5. More information can be found at www.elverhoj.org or by calling 805/686-1211.

 The Eyvind Earle exhibition  is on view from November 18 through January 28.

 —Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on November 19, 2017.

Local Lowdown: The Gathering Table at Ballard Inn

The Gathering Table at Ballard Inn, photo by Tenley Fohl Photography.

The Gathering Table at Ballard Inn, photo by Tenley Fohl Photography.

By Leslie Dinaberg

An artistic melding of Asian, French and California wine country cuisine, The Gathering Table at Ballard Inn features a delicious selection of seasonal locally sourced produce, seafood and meats.

Ballard Inn has always been highly regarded for its romantic ambiance and award-winning cuisine, but the new restaurant concept from Chef Budi Kazali, who has owned the property with his wife Chris since 2004, offers a much more fun, casual and inviting experience. Rather than a special-occasion place, it’s a welcoming spot to gather over incredible food that’s meant to be shared.

The Gathering Table's Local Black Cod with Miso Beurre Blanc, photo by Tenley Fohl Photography.

The Gathering Table’s Local Black Cod with Miso Beurre Blanc, photo by Tenley Fohl Photography.

We sampled a wide array of tasty dishes, including Hamachi made with avocado and soy-yuzu vinaigrette; sesame Caesar; Hope Ranch mussels with chorizo and garlic toast; pork & shrimp shumai and marinated hanger steak with spicy charred Brussels sprouts. 

The Gathering Table's Hamachi with Avocado & Soy-Yuzu Vinaigrette, photo by Tenley Fohl Photography.

The Gathering Table’s Hamachi with Avocado & Soy-Yuzu Vinaigrette, photo by Tenley Fohl Photography.

The Gathering Table is “meant to be a gathering place for locals and visitors, a fun and inviting place to gather over incredible food,” says Chris. Adds Budi, “The food is flavorful, seasonal and unique, and there’s truly something for everyone.”

The Gathering Table's Octopus Sashimi with Squid Ink Vinaigrette & Spicy Yuzu Aioli, photo by Tenley Fohl Photography.

The Gathering Table’s Octopus Sashimi with Squid Ink Vinaigrette & Spicy Yuzu Aioli, photo by Tenley Fohl Photography.

Built in 1985, Ballard Inn is located at 2436 Baseline Ave. (ballardinn.com) in historic Ballard, just 35 minutes north of Santa Barbara near Solvang.  

The Gathering Table's Grilled Filet Mignon with Maitake Mushrooms, photo by Tenley Fohl Photography.

The Gathering Table’s Grilled Filet Mignon with Maitake Mushrooms, photo by Tenley Fohl Photography.

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

Cocktail Corner: Champagne Tasting at First & Oak

La Grande Réserve, Château de Bligny, by Simon Law, courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

La Grande Réserve, Château de Bligny, by Simon Law, courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg 

Any event at Solvang’s First & Oak is sure to be a treat, and they’re upping their game even further for the holidays with a special Champagne Tasting event on December 10. The event, which runs from 1-3 p.m., includes tastes of ten sparkling wines and champagnes, and light hors d’oeuvres carefully-crafted by First & Oak’s Executive Chef Steven Snook to pair with the wines.

In addition, First & Oak’s Sommelier, Jonathan Rosenson, will be on-hand to lead guests through the exclusive sparkling wine tasting, explaining how each wine sampled showcases specific points in the wide range of flavor profiles, regions and values.

First & Oak Champagne Tasting featured bubbles include:

2004 Dom Ruinart, Blanc de Blancs, Champagne
2010 Pehu Simonet “Fins Lieux No.1” Blanc de Noirs, Grand Cru, Champagne
2004 Forest Marie Brut Millésimé, Trigny, Champagne

N.V Pierre Peters “Cuvee de Reserve,” Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru, Champagne
N.V Aubert Et Fils Brut Epernay, Champagne
N.V. Domaine Fouet, “Crémant de Loire,” Brut Rosé Cabernet Franc
2011 Boeckel, “Crémant d’Alsace,” Chardonnay Extra Brut
2009 La Montina Rose Extra Brut, Franciacorta, Italy
2012 Bernhard Riesling Sekt Brut, Germany
2013 Nigl, Sekt Rosé Brut, Kremstal, Austria

The special tasting, which is expected to become an annual event, is $85 per person in advance, or $95 per person at the door (ticket prices exclude tax).  In addition,  a portion of the proceeds ($10 per ticket) will be donated to the Santa Barbara Food Bank.

Reservations for First & Oak’s Champagne Tasting may be made in advance by contacting the restaurant: 805/688.1703 or info@mirabelleinn.com. Limited space available; reservations highly recommended. 

First & Oak is located at 409 First St. (at the corner of Oak Street) in Solvang

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 December 2, 2016.

 

Cocktail Corner: Celebration of Harvest Weekend

First & Oak is a Perfect Pairing

First & Oak's Santa Barbara Spot Prawn with marinated cucumber, shrimp toast and sesame vinaigrette; and Roasted Lobster with curried carrot puree, Livier's Granola and Vadouvan Veloute. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

First & Oak’s Santa Barbara Spot Prawn with marinated cucumber, shrimp toast and sesame vinaigrette; and Roasted Lobster with curried carrot puree, Livier’s Granola and Vadouvan Veloute. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

A plethora of perfect bites can be found at Solvang‘s new restaurant, First & Oak. We enjoyed every bit of our meal, from our first taste to the last bite of the exquisite summer menu created by executive chef Steven Snook with owner and sommelier Jonathan Rosenson’s carefully selected pairings of Coquelicot wines.

First & Oak's Truffle Roasted Cauliflower with chive vinaigrette, crisp quinoa and whipped cauliflower. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

First & Oak’s Truffle Roasted Cauliflower with chive vinaigrette, crisp quinoa and whipped cauliflower. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

That menu, with an emphasis on fresh, wine friendly cuisine under the  headings To Begin, From the Garden, From the Ocean, From the Farm, and To Finish, features small plates so tasty you won’t really want to share them—but just try keeping your dining companions away from these tasty temptations.

The idea is to be able to eat a perfect little bit from each of the categories without feeling overly stuffed. According to the website, “our recommendation is five plates per person which is equivalent to a first and second course, and dessert.”

First & Oak's Short Rib Bourguignon with pearl onions, wild mushrooms, espuma potato and braising jus; English Pea Risotto with brown butter snails, smoked bacon and wild mushrooms; and Roast Breast of Duck with red miso, crispy garbanzo and hazelnut. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

First & Oak’s Short Rib Bourguignon with pearl onions, wild mushrooms, espuma potato and braising jus; English Pea Risotto with brown butter snails, smoked bacon and wild mushrooms; and Roast Breast of Duck with red miso, crispy garbanzo and hazelnut. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

The night we went our meal included a beautifully inventive selection:

  • Heirloom Tomato Tea with fresh thyme, shaved spring vegetables and lemon vinaigrette;
  • Truffle Roasted Cauliflower with chive vinaigrette, crisp quinoa and whipped cauliflower;
  • Santa Barbara Spot Prawn with marinated cucumber, shrimp toast and sesame vinaigrette;
  • Roasted Lobster with curried carrot puree, Livier’s Granola and Vadouvan Veloute;
  • English Pea Risotto with brown butter snails, smoked bacon and wild mushrooms;
  • Short Rib Bourguignon with pearl onions, wild mushrooms, espuma potato and braising jus;
  • Roast Breast of Duck with red miso, crispy garbanzo and hazelnut;
  • Coquelicot Poached Pear, with dulce de Leche Mousse, Peanut Powder and crisp chocolate; and
  • Pain Perdu with carmelized brioche, milk sorbet, balsamic glass and marinated blackberries.

Rosenson paired each course with a special selection from Coquelicot, all of which were lovely, and enhanced the flavors to a tee.

First & Oak's Coquelicot Poached Pear, with dulce de Leche Mousse, Peanut Powder and crisp chocolate; and Pain Perdu with carmelized brioche, milk sorbet, balsamic glass and marinated blackberries. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

First & Oak’s Coquelicot Poached Pear, with dulce de Leche Mousse, Peanut Powder and crisp chocolate; and Pain Perdu with carmelized brioche, milk sorbet, balsamic glass and marinated blackberries. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

This charming restaurant is clearly a labor of love and also a family affair. Father-son team Bernard and Jonathan Rosenson own the Coquelicot Estate Vineyard in Solvang and purchased the Mirabelle Inn, where First & Oak is located (at 409 First St. in Solvang) in order to showcase their wines and “to create a truly localized restaurant that specializes in local, fresh produce and products from Santa Barbara.”

They have succeeded indeed.

The restaurant is open for dinner daily from 5:30-8:45 p.m. For more information, call 805/6881703 or visit firstandoak.com.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on August 29, 2016.