Cocktail Corner: Thanksgiving With Friends

Friends ThanksgivingA spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

When I count my blessings this Thanksgiving season—gobble by gobble, of course—friends and family fall at the very top of the list.

So cheers to a happy holiday to all of you and yours … and a little bit of Friends fun to get us in the mood.


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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.”

‘Yachts of Love’ Raises $156,000 for Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care

(L-R) Tom Parker (Chairman of the Charity Regatta), Robyn Parker (Regatta Steering Committee member), Lynda Tanner (President & CEO of Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care), Rick Keith (Executive Director of the Foundation of Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care). Photo by Rhianna Mercier

(L-R) Tom Parker (Chairman of the Charity Regatta), Robyn Parker (Regatta Steering Committee member), Lynda Tanner (President & CEO of Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care), Rick Keith (Executive Director of the Foundation of Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care). Photo by Rhianna Mercier

Friends and supporters of Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care gathered at the Santa Barbara Yacht Club to celebrate the 9th Annual “Yachts of Love” Charity Regatta. The event benefitted Serenity House, and successfully raised $156,000 for the organization’s 18-bed inpatient residential hospice home.

Before the first gun went off to start the race, the Harbor Patrol did a ceremonial ‘Fire Dance’ complete with fire hoses to send the racers on their way. Nearly 30 sailboats competed in this year’s Charity Regatta, and in the end, Prevail came in first for the “A” fleet, captained by Celebrity Skippers Todd Pazier and Hugh Montgomery (both with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department). Jim Rampton, Battalion Chief of the Carpinteria/Summerland Fire Station, steered Bullet into first for the “B” fleet.

After the race, guests made their way back to the Yacht Club for a delicious barbecue dinner, and a final chance to bid on the silent auction items.


Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care is the leading nonprofit provider of comprehensive in-home health care. The mission of Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care is to provide high quality, comprehensive home health, hospice and related services necessary to promote the health and well-being of all community residents, including those unable to pay. It serves the greater Santa Barbara area, and Santa Ynez and Lompoc Valleys and  is one of Santa Barbara’s oldest nonprofit organizations. For more information click here or call 805/965-5555.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on November 20, 2013.

PathPoint Wins Legacy Award at Clean Business Awards

Congratulations to PathPoint for winning the Clean Business Investment Summit’s (CBIS) Legacy Award for 2013. The organization—a locally-based nonprofit organization that provides services, programs, and opportunities for people with disabilities and disadvantages since 1964—is the first nonprofit to receive the prestigious award, which honors those who have demonstrated significant contributions to education, leadership, innovation and the development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem to most effectively inspire and build new entrepreneurs while upholding the principals of Clean Business.
The award recognizes PathPoint’s nationally-recognized programs that support people with disabilities and disadvantages through employment, housing, and developmental training—enabling them to become integrated, productive members within communities. Thanks to PathPoint’s programs, more than 2,300 people in California each year are supported in their steps to live productive, independent lives within the five counties of San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, and Kern. As a $24 million organization, PathPoint has an annual overhead of only 11% enabling it to give back 89 cents of every dollar that it receives to helping the people and communities it serves.
“This award is a validation to the men and women in our organization who have made it their life-long mission to serve people and communities,” says PathPoint president and CEO Cindy Burton, in her acceptance remarks. “We hope to continue with our work through collaboration with businesses and organizations who share our passion and mission to serve others.”
For extended more information, visit
—Leslie Dinaberg
Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on November 19, 2013.

Lobero LIVE presents Dawes with special guest Blake Mills

The wait is almost over: the Lobero Theatre will be re-opening in December 2013 after completion of Encore: Lobero preservation work! Kicking off the Lobero LIVE Encore Season is a performance by California-based roots rock band, Dawes, and special guest Blake Mills on December 11.

While the city of Los Angeles has been both an inspiration and a home to the four members of Dawes, they found themselves traveling East last fall to record their third album, Stories Don’t End, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina with newly enlisted producer Jacquire King. Stories Don’t End spotlights the group’s maturing skills as arrangers, performers and interpreters who shape the raw material supplied by chief songwriter and lead vocalist Taylor Goldsmith into an artfully concise and increasingly soulful sound. Opener Blake Mills has already stacked up a career’s worth of gigs as a session and touring guitarist, playing with a diverse array of musicians that span from Lucinda Williams to Fiona Apple. His flawless technique, uncanny confidence, and unique interpretation of every piece of music he touches has turned Mills into one of the most in-demand players in the music business.

Tickets for Dawes with special guest Blake Mills are on sale now at

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on November 17, 2013.

Jazz at the Lobero announces the Encore Season Lineup

The folks at the Lobero have been hard at work preserving and enhancing Santa Barbara’s home for great jazz, and can’t wait to welcome guests back to a refreshed, and even more intimate, Lobero Theatre for an unforgettable series. The Lobero’s new seats offer more legroom and better sight lines than ever before. Plus, improved airflow and enlarged restrooms guarantee this will be the most comfortable Jazz at the Lobero season yet.

Starting things off on February 18 is a ferociously talented quartet featuring Jack DeJohnette, Joe Lovano, Grammy darling Esperanza Spalding and Leo Genovese as “The Spring Quartet.” On March 14, celebrate 60 memorable years of the Newport Jazz Festival; headlined by Anat Cohen, Karrin Allyson and other treasured alum. To close out the series, they’ll bring you an evening with Branford Marsalis and his brilliant quartet on May 7.

Jazz at the Lobero Series Tickets are on sale now, Single tickets will be available November 30. Series subscribers enjoy 20% off single ticket prices, and are the first to know about new events. Jazz VIP ticketholders can also look forward to exclusive receptions with complimentary appetizers and cocktails before each performance.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine on November 16, 2013.

Indie singer-songwriter Andrew Bird with The Handsome Family

UCSB Arts & Lectures presents “distinctively original” indie singer-songwriter and violinist Andrew Bird, with show opener The Handsome Family, in concert Thurs., Nov. 21 at UCSB Campbell Hall.

Drawing on influences from American roots music to his classical training, the “relentlessly inventive” (NPR) Chicagoan creates lush, densely layered soundscapes on stage with his violin, a looping pedal, guitar and glockenspiel. His songs are driven by infectious, lilting melodies and clever lyrics that “spin existential doubts into elegant confections” (The New York Times).

The Handsome Family, the quirky alt-Americana duo of Brett and Rennie Sparks (whose songs Bird has covered in the past), will open for Bird.

Tickets are going fast. Don’t miss this intimate show with an artist who’s played everywhere from Carnegie Hall to Bonnaroo and the Mojave Desert!

For tickets or more information, call UCSB Arts & Lectures at 805/893-3535 or purchase online at

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on November 18, 2013.

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.


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

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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.”

Doing the math on divorce

“Divorce is contagious, be careful,” warned my friend Emily, who recently split from her husband, following the no-longer-rose-petal-strewn paths of three of her bridesmaids. Where weddings–and vodka shots–once encouraged romance and marriages, divorces can also ripple through groups of friends faster than a case of head lice in a classroom of kindergarteners.

Fortunately for me, the vast majority of my friends’ marriages are still intact. Though I may be playing with fire by writing this column as my husband and I prepare to move out of the place we’ve lived for the past eight years, when this wacky invention called “The Divorce Calculator” ( showed up in my inbox, I couldn’t resist the temptation to do the math.

Not just my own math–I calculated the odds for all of my friends as well. It’s not that I’m nosy, but Emily’s words were still ringing in my head. Did I dare to find out the odds of our beating the odds? Fortified by a triple latte, I took the test.

Given that 43 percent of first marriages in the United States end within 15 years, and Zak and I will hit that 15-year mark in March, my results were actually better than I expected.

The Divorce Calculator found that 14 percent of people with similar backgrounds to mine are already divorced and that three percent of people with similar backgrounds who will be divorced over the next five years.

That doesn’t sound so bad, right?

According to the site, for the five-year divorce prediction rates, those with less than three percent are at lower risk, three to seven percent are of average risk and more than seven percent are at higher risk.

So my results were average. They were on the low side of average, practically less than average. Average-ish. I was sure that if I ran my friends’ calculations they would help to bring our score down.

I scored my sister, my best friend from college and my best friend from high school. Then I tried my three best friends in town. Astonishingly, they all had the same results as I did: the chances that people with similar backgrounds will be divorced over the next five years are three percent.

Could it be that I hang out with a bunch of statistical clones? Or it is just my 97 percent happy marriage is contagious?

Three percent chance of divorce isn’t so bad, right? I can live with three percent. Those are pretty good odds. Plus, at least three percent of my friends are already divorced, a few more than once. But if that doesn’t count, then for a three percent bump in my stats I would be willing to make a few new friends and let them get divorced.

I could even throw them a party, like the divorce party I read about in Las Vegas, where each woman invited the most attractive single man she knew to come meet their girlfriend–and none of the other women were allowed to wear makeup or cute outfits, so the honoree would feel great about herself. Or if they’re not quite up for dating yet, I could throw them a party like the one in New Jersey, where they gave the marriage a eulogy, bought a wedding ring coffin, and feasted on a beautiful three-tiered divorce cake, which had the original wedding cake’s bride and groom perched on top–minus the groom’s head.

Not that I would wish a divorce–or a divorce party–on any of my friends, even my fictional new ones.

I remember rejoicing the summer that oversized wedding and wedding-related party invitations stopped clogging my mailbox.

Not that all the weddings weren’t fun–but doing the Hora and the Hokey Pokey can get old when it’s every single weekend.

Not that it wasn’t fun to drive around State Street in stretch limos and sipping cosmos from veiny, plastic, glow-in-the-dark, disembodied penis straws–but bachelorette parties can get old too.

Not that it wasn’t fun to ooh and aw over china patterns and linens at bridal showers–although, come to think about, those were never that much fun.

But I am 97 percent sure I would happily sit through hours of bridal bingo, creating wedding gown couture out of toilet paper and giggling at lists of “things the bride will say on her honeymoon” if I never have to go a divorce party–especially one where I can’t wear makeup.

When Leslie’s not obsessing about divorce statistics, she’s reading email at email. Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on January 9, 2009.

Cocktail Corner: Grandma Tommie’s Apple Pie Liqueur

Cutler courtesy photo

Ian Cutler, courtesy photo

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I’m sure some super-organized hosts already have their menus color coded and the ink is dry on their calligraphy place cards. To those people I say, “thanks for making the rest of us look bad” … and to the rest of us I say: “forget struggling over the crust:  Grandma Tommie’s Apple Pie Liqueur is the best apple pie you’ve ever had in your life!”

I’m not kidding!

I was hooked from the first sip of this spicy, cinnamon-tastic, delicious liqueur from Cutler’s Artisan Spirits (the tasting room and distillery is at 137 Anacapa St., Suite D, in the heart of Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone). Seriously, it’s even better than dessert, and I don’t say that very often.

Cutler's Artisan Spirits: Grandma Tommie's Apple Pie LiqueurAs Ian Cutler explained when I visited the tasting room a while back, the flavor was inspired by his Grandma Tommie’s Apple Pie recipe (which had to have been out-of-this-world yummy). He starts with Cutler’s ultra premium extra smooth 7 times distilled Vodka, and adds fresh apple juice, certified organic whole vanilla beans, certified organic cinnamon and other spices to mimic that perfect fresh baked apple pie taste.

Taste it at Cutlers’ Artisan Spirits, then mosey a few doors down to Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant (131 Anacapa St., Suite B) to buy a bottle (or two)  to take home and get into the spirit and “prepare” for Thanksgiving.

(Click here for an additional list of local places to purchase Grandma Tommie’s Apple Pie Liqueur, as well as the fine establishments where Cutler cocktails are served.)


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Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine on November 8, 2013.

Leslie Dinaberg

Leslie Dinaberg

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

Cocktail Corner: The Pickle Room

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

“Santa Barbara needs a lounge where people can hang out and be off State Street and kick their feet up and be comfortable,” says Clay Lovejoy, who recently opened the Pickle Room, 126 E. Canon Perdido St. (805/965-3445), with the aim of providing that very thing. The spot is a reincarnation of sorts of Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, a favorite local watering hole owned and operated by the Chung family in that spot from 1947 until 2006.

Lovejoy’s Pickle Room is also a family place, brought back to life by Clay and his father Bob Lovejoy, a longtime Jimmy’s regular. And it’s right next door to their Three Pickles Deli + Sub, which the pair have had great success with (along with their other Three Pickles Deli + Sub location at 420 S. Fairview Ave. in Goleta).

The Pickle Room's Reuben Egg Roll (courtesy photo)

The Pickle Room’s Reuben Egg Roll (courtesy photo)

“This place was founded on the Mai Tai,” says Clay. “It was Tommy’s, the original owner’s, recipe, in fact probably his father’s recipe before that, because he was pretty young …  our Mai Tai is our most popular drink by far.”

Luckily, he’s got an able hand behind the bar to mix that potent concoction of Myer’s Platinum Rum with an exotic blend of fruit juices splashed with dark rum and Bacardi 151 Rum. Bartender Willy Gilbert, a close friend of the Lovejoys who ran the place for 25 years, is back behind the bar to mix those yummy rummy Mai Tai’s, along with Singapore Slings, Moscow Mules, Hornito’s Margaritas and more.

“We hired him as a manager to come in here and help us out because we wanted it to run seamlessly,” says Clay. “He’s a huge part of making this a success. We’ve been actually very busy for the last month and have had great crowds.  So with his help we’re learning along the way.”

The Pickle Room's Clay Lovejoy (Leslie Dinaberg photo)

The Pickle Room’s Clay Lovejoy (Leslie Dinaberg photo)

The menu, which Clay describes as “Chinese Deli,” was created by executive chef Westen Richards (formerly of Restaurant Julienne and Wine Cask and currently earning kudos for his creative Spare Parts pop up restaurant). “The Reuben Egg Roll is our #1 seller and people just absolutely love it,” Clay says. “We were trying to think of something fun … we use our pastrami, our sauerkraut and Swiss cheese and we roll it in a egg roll and serve it with our Russian dressing,  same as the other side. So that’s been quite a hit.”

And of course, with a name like the Pickle Room, there have to be pickles.

Clay laughs. “You know what’s been a really hot thing is—we have to of course tell people about it because they’re not used to it—but if you do a shot of whiskey and  you do a pickle back shot … You take a little shot of pickle juice it and it knocks it out of your palate so fast and after people try it they just start lining them up … it’s been very popular.”

New to the menu this week is the Pickletini , “A little bit of pickle juice with gin or vodka and then a nice little pickle spear.” Clay smiles, perhaps at the skeptical expression on my face. “Everybody I tell about it, they’re like ‘that sounds terrible,’ but everybody that tries it is like ‘oh that is awesome I don’t even like pickles but I like that!'”

Cheers! Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine on November 1, 2013.

Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

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.”