Where Palate Meets Palette Artist — Christina LoCascio ‘01

Part of being an artist is bringing pieces of yourself into your work, but painter Christina LoCascio ‘01, whose work is featured in “Gauchos Gone Grape,” takes this connection to a new level. She is truly living her creative life among the vines, painting with wine as a medium and working exclusively with wines from her family’s Larner Winery in Santa Barbara’s Ballard Canyon, where LoCascio, her winemaker husband Michael Larner, and their children Steven (10) and Sienna (8) make their home. 

When LoCascio began experimenting with wine painting in 2002 she couldn’t find any information about how to do it. “That was before Instagram or Facebook. Now if you search the hashtag #wineart there’s a bunch of artists that are painting with wine, but I feel like what makes what I’m doing special is that it’s such a part of my life.” 

Double majoring in communication and art, LoCascio got her first real exposure to the world of wine in her junior year as an intern for Touring & Tasting Magazine. “It was my 21st birthday and they sent me home with a bottle of wine.” That job also had her researching and writing about wineries and grapes and very quickly she was hooked. 

After graduation she worked in the wine industry in Temecula for a short time, until 2002, when Sunstone Winery scion Bion Rice lured her back to Santa Barbara wine country with an offer to work at Artiste Winery, a new venture featuring art-inspired blends that perfectly combined LoCascio’s interests in wine and art. 

The idea for painting with wine grew out of classes she would host for wine club members at Artiste that used wine in a similar fashion to watercolor. 

Those first few paintings led to a group exhibition in Santa Barbara and then an offer to create wine labels for Artiste. “The exposure of working at the tasting room, having my art on display and then having my art on the wine bottles was great for me,” says LoCascio, who went on to have nine shows at Artiste. 

She continues to show her work at the tasting room gallery, although she stopped working there in 2008, when the family opened Larner Winery. They now have a tasting room in Los Olivos, where LoCascio’s art is on display. “From the very beginning, I was drawn to wine and all the wonderful things about it and how it combined art and science and history and so many things,” she says. 

Wine remains a consistent media for her work — the many shades of red comprise her color palette and she uses white wine to “lift” color in a similar way that watercolorists use water to soften their paint. And while wine is a frequent subject, she also delves into figurative art and architectural paintings. “I think that in the time that I’ve been painting with wine my art has evolved and it continues to change. I have gone through a lot of different types of things,” says LoCascio, who has recently begun experimenting with leaves as well as the fermentation process of the wine itself. Exploding wine bottles and incorporating spills into female forms are some of her other recent artistic explorations. 

Of course, when harvest calls, the paintbrush comes down and it’s all hands on deck for the family business. “We’re really busy, but I’ve come to realize that that’s all part of the process. So, when we’re bringing in grapes and doing the punch down and I’m helping with the wine, and watching the fermentations, it’s just kind of part of it and it all inspires me to think of different ideas,” she says. 

“I think the act of being in the winery making the wine is inspiring for the art, too.” 

UC Santa Barbara Magazine, Winter 2021

UC Santa Barbara Magazine, Winter 2021

Originally published in the Fall/Winter 2021 issue of UC Santa Barbara Magazine. Cover illustration by Yumiko Glover. To see the story as it originally appeared click  here.


Cocktail Corner: Central Coast Wine Classic Celebrates 31 Years of Delicious Indulgence

Courtesy Central Coast Wine Classic, which takes place Aug. 10-14.

Courtesy Central Coast Wine Classic, which takes place Aug. 10-14.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

Archie McLaren‘s enthusiastic zest for food, wine, art and philanthropy is infectious! The Founder and Chairman of the Central Coast Wine Classic and I recently discussed his plans for this year’s impressive event, which takes place Aug. 10-14, and spans the Central Coast from San Simeon through Paso Robles, Shell Beach, Avila Beach, San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande and Buellton to Santa Barbara.

The Central Coast Wine Classic has highlighted Santa Barbara County wines throughout its many renditions, but this is the first time that some of the events will actually take place in Santa Barbara. It’s truly a remarkable opportunity to taste world-class wine and food in our hometown.

Asking McLaren to pick a favorite event was like asking a parent to name his favorite child.  “Everything looks like a highlight, what would you say are some of the highlights?” I wonder.

He laughs, “That is an interesting comment, because I’ve pondered this as well. When I drew the schedule, I began to wonder what in the world I was thinking in what has been described as my overly indulgent realm, because when I look at this, basically what it looks like is all the things I would like to do. And of course, one of the challenges is the fact that when we’re here in Santa Barbara, for example, for the winery dinners on Friday night we’ve got three that are absolutely outstanding.”

Courtesy Central Coast Wine Classic, which takes place Aug. 10-14.

Courtesy Central Coast Wine Classic, which takes place Aug. 10-14.

Certainly notable in that group (and filling up fast) is a Winemaker Dinner, on Aug. 12, featuring Vintners Fred Brander of The Brander Vineyard and Bob Lindquist of Qupé Wine Cellars in the recently restored Mural Room of the Historic Santa Barbara County Courthouse.

“That as a destination alone is worth going to, but in the midst of that destination we’re dealing with Brander and Qupé, two of the iconic wineries in Santa Barbara County, and Chef Michael Hutchings, who is not only revered here but also for our dinner at Hearst Castle, he’s been a part of that for decades and he will be part of that again,” says McLaren. “It’s an incredible symbiotic relationship of food and wine. It’s as good as it gets … we’re talking about a venue the construction of which took place in 1929 … the timing is impeccable for us.”

The Hearst Castle Dinner, on Aug. 11, begins with a Champagne Reception featuring Roederer Estate Brut in Magnums, presented by Xavier Barlier, Marketing Director of Maisons Marques & Domaines, followed by five dinner courses, conceived and created by renowned chefs, Christophe Eme and Laurent Quenioux, as well as assisted and presented by the Wine Classic’s Stellar Family of Chefs, including Santa Barbara-area chefs James Sly and Hutchings, matched with fine dinner wines from Heralded Wine Classic Vintners.

Aug. 12  also offers another fabulous Winemaker Dinner locally, featuring Vintners Bion Rice of Sunstone Vineyards & Winery and Artiste Winery and Bryan Babcock of Babcock Vineyards, with fine wines from each, and another fabulous venue: the Channel Cat, the largest luxury sailing catamaran ship in Santa Barbara Harbor.

“Chef Cynthia Miranda is going to be the person who creates the dinner,” says McLaren. “I think that’s going to be an absolutely outstanding dinner as well.”

Courtesy Central Coast Wine Classic, which takes place Aug. 10-14.

Courtesy Central Coast Wine Classic, which takes place Aug. 10-14.

He continues, “If that weren’t sufficient, the Rare Wine Dinner at the Santa Barbara Club (also on Aug. 12) is beyond description. The wines that are a part of that areas good as they get, and they are rare.” Hosted by McLaren, along with “fellow over-indulgers” Dr. Blake Brown, Don Schliff and John Tilson in the Private Dining Room at the Santa Barbara Club, this very exclusive event includes rare bottles and a meal prepared by Guest Chef Bernat “Bernard” Ibarra and Club Executive Chef Humberto Perez.

The list of incredible food and wine event list goes on and on, barrel tastings, vineyard tours, a dinner at Hearst Castle, education symposiums, the complete list of events can be viewed here. But that’s not all. There’s also important philanthropic component to this event, the Rare & Fine Wine & Lifestyle Auction, which takes place on Aug. 13 at Bella Vista, the extraordinary Pat Nesbitt Polo Estate, in Summerland.

Since its founding in 2004, the Central Coast Wine Classic Foundation has conferred grants exceeding $2,500,000 to 125 San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County 501(c)3 nonprofits whose missions are in the Healing, Performing and Studio Arts. For 2016, the Studio Arts Beneficiaries will be the Hearst Preservation Foundation and the Friends of Hearst Castle Foundation that sustains the irreplaceable, historic Hearst Castle artifacts. The Performing Arts Beneficiary will be the newly established Léni Fé Bland Performing Arts Fund, founded by 2016 Wine Classic Patron Honoree Sara Miller McCune of Montecito. The Wine Classic Board of Directors will announce the Healing Arts Beneficiary soon.

Tickets are now on sale for all of these extraordinary events and experiences. I really 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 Magazine on June 24, 2016.