Cocktail Corner: Celebrate Harvest With SOMM 3, Solvang Grape Stomp and More!

Solvang Stomp, photo courtesy Santa Barbara Vintners.

Solvang Stomp, photo courtesy Santa Barbara Vintners.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

The annual Santa Barbara Vintners Celebration of Harvest events include something for just about every wine lover. From special harvest tastings, lunches and dinners with winemakers and Master Sommeliers, to a grape stomping festival and a movie premiere, the Celebration of Harvest weekend is an ideal opportunity to explore Santa Barbara County wine country,  and it’s all taking place on the weekend of October 12-14.

One of weekend’s highlights is the first public premiere of SOMM 3, the latest addition to the successful SOMM film franchise.  Premiering under the stars at the lovely Solvang Festival Theater on Saturday, October 13 at 8 p.m., under the stars, the festivities also include a post-film Q&A with cast members and Producer Jackson Myers. The premiere is being presented by Santa Barbara Vintners and Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau and net proceeds will benefit the Santa Barbara Vintners.



The story of SOMM 3—the highly anticipated follow-up to the influential films SOMM and its sequel SOMM: Into the Bottle—has been described as follows:While three of the greatest legends of wine meet in Paris to drink the rarest bottles of their careers, the best blind tasters in the world gather in New York City to settle an age-old argument about wine.  In the end, the past and present slam into each other and the results could change the world of wine forever.  The all-star cast includes some of the wine world’s most respected figures including Steven Spurrier, the man responsible for staging the 1976 “Judgment of Paris,” wine critic Jancis Robinson MW, renowned Master Sommelier Fred Dame, as well as Santa Barbara County’s own Rajat Parr, Partner/Proprietor of Sandhi and Domaine de la Côte (and a partner at Bibi Ji, Downtown Santa Barbara’s terrific new Indian Restaurant).”

SOMM 3, courtesy photo.

SOMM 3, courtesy photo.

The Celebration of Harvest schedule also includes:

Friday, October 12

Open House with futures tasting and complimentary appetizers at Lions Peak tasting room (all weekend)

Special harvest wine flight tastings at Foxen Vineyard & Winery (all weekend)

Saturday, October 13

Solvang Grape Stomp Festival, a harvest street festival in downtown Solvang complete with a traditional grape stomp where participants can taste from dozens of area wineries, dance to two live bands, drink pink in the “I Love Rosé Lounge” and purchase food from popular area eateries. Participating wineries include: Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards,  Carivintas WineryCrossHatch Winery, D. Volk Wines, Feliz Noche Cellars, Fiddlehead CellarsGrace + WineHilliard Bruce,  J. Wilkes Wines, Kita WinesLafond Winery and VineyardLarner Vineyard & WineryLions Peak VineyardsLucas & Lewellen/Toccata, Lucky Dogg WineryLumenMartellotto Winery, Melville Vineyards & Winery, Rancho Sisquoc Winery, Royal Oaks Winery Sanford Winery & Vineyards, Santa Barbara Winery, Sevtap Winery, The Sanger Family of Wines, and Twenty Mile Winery. This fun, new event takes place from 2-5 p.m. in downtown Solvang on First Street (between Mission Drive/Hwy. 246 & Copenhagen Drive).

Courtesy Santa Barbara Vintners.

Courtesy Santa Barbara Vintners.

A Harvest Lunch with winemaker Justin Willet at Tyler Winery (includes a welcome reception, wine tasting & lunch).

A Master Sommelier Dinner with Will Costello at Bien Nacido & Solomon Hills Estates.

Winemaker Dinner with Wes Hagen and J.Wilkes at Root 246.

Winemakers Greg Brewer, Lane Tanner and Dick Doré in a food pairing dinner with library pinots from Santa Barbara County at Pico at The Los Alamos General Store, by reservation only.

Lucas & Lewellen in a Winemaker Dinner with Megan McGrath Gates at Petros in Solvang.

Sunday, October 14

Live Music by Kimber Springs and Jess Jones at Riverbench Vineyard.

For additional information on events happening during Celebration of Harvest please visit:

Cheers! 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 believes variety is the spice of life. Send your suggestions to

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on September 28, 2018.

Cocktail Corner: Tasty Tidbits

The Lark, courtesy photo.

The Lark, courtesy photo.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

I can’t believe that summer is almost over. There’s been a lot of news on the bar beat the last few months. Here are some highlights:                

One of Santa’s Barbara’s favorite dining destinations, The Lark (131 Anacapa St.), was recognized by Wine Enthusiast in their sixth annual issue of the “Best Places to Drink Up In While Dining Out.” As a winner of the “Not to be Missed” category, The Lark was recognized for their outstanding wine program curated by Wine Directors Chris Robles and Vern Kettler. The wine list at the Lark focuses on smaller production wines made with minimal intervention from the winemaker, and which reflect a sense of place. Grape varieties for which the Santa Barbara area is known and their international counterparts are the focus. With few exceptions, all American wines are from Santa Barbara County. Wine Enthusiast editors state that “Chef Jason Paluska’s wine friendly foods are inspired by farmers’ markets—smoked pork belly, for example, might come with roasted berries, pickled summer peppers and candied brittle of fat local almonds.” The Lark is the only recipient from Santa Barbara this year, and one of 22 restaurants awarded in California. See the full list here. 

J. Wilkes Wines, courtesy photo.

J. Wilkes Wines, courtesy photo.

J. Wilkes Wines has opened a new tasting room in downtown Los Olivos at 2963 Grand Ave.  The space highlights a distinct wine tasting experience including educational aspects focusing on the region’s unique AVA’s, an entertaining quiz and private Winemaker Office Hours with winemaker Wes Hagen

The J.Wilkes brand was launched in 2001 by wine industry veteran Jefferson Wilkes and after his passing in 2010, the label was relaunched by the Miller Family, a fifth-generation California farming family, as a tribute to Jefferson’s unwavering love of the region.  J. Wilkes, under the guidance of accomplished winemaker Hagen, is dedicated to producing wines from the greatest American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s) on the Central Coast.  Their new tasting room and education center in Los Olivos boasts an experience that gives insight into these regions and their wines and provides visitors with information about the area’s AVA’s including Santa Maria Valley, Sta. Rita Hills and Paso Robles.  

At long last, bottles of Cutler’s spirits are now available for purchase in the tasting room.

Cutler courtesy photo

Ian Cutler, courtesy photo

You can now come directly to the distillery to purchase your local favorite spirits. Personally, I’m partial to the spicy, cinnamon-tastic, delicious Grandma Tommie’s Apple Pie Liqueur,  but Cutler’s Artisan Spirits also has its own Gin, Vodka and 33 Bourbon Whiskey, all of which are high quality and locally produced. (the tasting room and distillery is at 137 Anacapa St., Suite D, in the heart of Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone).

Some of the fare at Lama Dog and the Nook, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Some of the fare at Lama Dog and the Nook, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.




The first two tenants at The Waterline, a commercial mixed-use project at 116-122 Santa Barbara St. in the Funk Zone, have opened for business and both have quickly become local favorites: the Nook by Master Chef Norbert Schulz, and Lama Dog Tap Room and Bottle Shop. Craft beers (and a few wines) paired with fabulous, high quality food is a win-win for the area. Try the House-Made Bratwurst or the Rock Fish Tacos with one of 20 interesting rotating beers on tap.

Ah … it’s a great way to keep that summer feeling going all year long!

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 September 2, 2016.



J. Wilkes Wines Served to Global Leaders at the U.S. Department of State

J. Wilkes Wines were served a recent State Department Dinner. Photo courtesy J. Wilkes Wines Facebook Page.

J. Wilkes Wines were served a recent State Department Dinner. Photo courtesy J. Wilkes Wines Facebook Page.

It’s always exciting to hear about a local winery’s success. Santa Barbara County wines are definitely being served in high places.

For the second time this year, Santa Maria Valley’s J.Wilkes wines were selected to be served at the U.S. Department of State in Washington D.C.  Last month Nordic Leaders from five countries enjoyed J. Wilkes wines at a luncheon hosted by Secretary John Kerry and then proceeded to a meeting with President Barack Obama.

State Department Executive Chef Jason Larkin chose the J.Wilkes 2014 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Blanc and the 2012 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir to serve with a Nordic-themed menu, prepared by Larkin and celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, an Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised chef and restaurateur who appears regularly on Top Chef, Chopped and over food-oriented television shows. Guests enjoyed a Spring Salad including pickled shrimp and cured char, followed by a Bourbon Beet-Glazed Salmon.

J. Wilkes winemaker Wes Hagen was there.  “Seeing the leaders of the five Nordic countries toasting peace, the environment and friendship with the wines I represent was a humbling moment for me,” he says.  “Wine was instrumental in the development of Democracy in the ancient Athenian ‘symposia’, and it is still strongly a positive element in diplomacy and open dialog in a free and democratic world.”

J. Wilkes Wines were served a recent State Department Dinner. Photo courtesy J. Wilkes Wines Facebook Page.

J. Wilkes Wines were served a recent State Department Dinner. Photo courtesy J. Wilkes Wines Facebook Page.

A week before, the J. Wilkes 2012 Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay and 2012 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir were served at a luncheon on the occasion of the U.S.-Caribbean-Central American Energy Summit, hosted by Vice President Joe Biden and attended by Secretary of State John Kerry. 

The wines were thoroughly enjoyed, so much so that Chef Larkin was inspired to serve them again, according to the J. Wilkes team.   

Hagen says the crew at J. Wilkes is thrilled about this newly established relationship with the U.S. Department of State and Chef Larkin.  “Working with Chef Jason Larkin and his team at the State Department to pair three J. Wilkes Wines in two separate events … has been one of the true pleasures of my 22 years in fine wine,” says Hagen.  “I have confidence that our wines will continue to be used at State functions, and I also expect interest in J. Wilkes Wines to peak as a result.”

 —Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on June 18, 2016.

Cocktail Corner: The Garagiste Festival

Courtesy Garagiste Festival

Courtesy Garagiste Festival

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg  |

GARAGISTES (gar-uh-zhē-stuh)—which comes from a term originally used in the Bordeaux region of France to denigrate renegade small-lot wine makers, sometimes working in their garages, who refused to follow the “rules” of traditional winemaking—may not be a well-known word around here YET, but it will certainly be flying off the tongues of the lucky folks who gather for the second annual “Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure” in Solvang March 29-30.

The garagiste movement is responsible for making some of the best wine in the world, much of which will be showcased later this month when 56 of Santa Ynez Valley’s and Santa Barbara County’s high-quality, limited-production commercial garagiste winemakers gather at the beautiful, Mission-style Veterans Memorial Hall, 1745 Mission Dr., Solvang.

Last year’s one-day event sold out and, in response to both consumer and winemaker demand, the nonprofit festival (which benefits Cal Poly’s wine and viticulture program) has expanded to two days full of tasting seminars, high-quality wines, first-time and “soon-to-break-out” discoveries, personal winemaker interaction and diverse varietals.

Courtesy Garagiste FestivalWith almost 50% of the winemakers pouring at the event for the first time—13 pouring their first vintage, and 80% lacking  tasting rooms—this festival offers a truly one-time-only opportunity for guests to discover some of the hottest, yet-to-be-discovered wines.

Winemakers pouring on Saturday, March 29 from 2–5 p.m. include: Archium Cellars*, Ascension Cellars*, Carucci Wines*, Casa Dumetz, Cholame Vineyard, Cordon Wines, Crawford Family Wines*, Dubost Ranch*, DV8 Cellars*, Graef Wines*, Ground Effect Wines, Harrison Clarke Wines, Kaena Wine Company, Kessler-Haak Winery, Kita Wines*, Larner Winery, Luminesce, Moretti Wine Co.*, Pence Ranch, Press Gang Cellars, Roark Wine Co., Ryan Cochrane Wines, Seagrape Wine Company, Shai Cellars, Tercero Wines, Transcendence Wines, Turiya* and Vinemark Cellars*.

Winemakers pouring on Sunday, March 30 from 1–4 p.m. include a-non-ah-mus, Baehner-Fournier, Bradley Family Winery*, Brophy Clark Cellars*, C. Nagy Wines, Calilove Winery*, Cloak & Dagger, Clos Des Amis*, Dascomb Cellars*, Desperada*, Dilecta, Fontes & Phillips*, Frequency Wines, Gioia Wines*, Guyomar Wine Cellars*, J. Wilkes Wines, La Fenetre Wines, LaZarre Wines, Montemar Winery*, Nicora Wines, ONX Wines, Plan B Cellars*, Refugio Ranch, Scott Cellars*, Solminer Wine*, STANGER Vineyards, Weatherborne Wine Co.* and Zinke Wine Company*.

(Wines designated with an asterisk * are new to the festival.)

In addition to the grand tastings, each day will feature one of the festival’s popular (and limited seating) morning tasting seminars. On Saturday from 11 a.m.– noon is Rhones Rule: The Wines of Ballard Canyon, focused on Santa Ynez Valley’s brand new AVA, Ballard Canyon, and featuring Michael Larner of Larner Vineyards, Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines and Mikael Sigouin of Kaena Wine Company. Sunday from 11 a.m.– noon the seminar is A Pinot Noir Primer from the Roots Up, featuring Joshua Klapper from La Fenetre Wines, Adam LaZarre from LaZarre Wines and Clarissa Nagy from C. Nagy Wines.

The nonprofit Garagiste Festivals showcase high-quality, cutting-edge, small-production commercial wineries that produce fewer than 1,500 cases a year. “One of the most fulfilling things about Garagiste Festival events is seeing important new winemakers not only get discovered for the first time but, in many instances, explode out of the box,” says Garagiste Festival co-founder Doug Minnick.

“With Southern Exposure, Garagiste Events is proud to continue to serve as both starting gate and incubator for some of the Central Coast’s (and the world’s) most important small-lot winemakers and to offer consumers the unique joy of connecting with artisans whose passion and maverick spirit pulse through the terroir’ of their wines,” says Garagiste Festival co-founder Stewart McLennan.  “And all at an event that is heavy on fun and light on pretension—which is perhaps the thing we are most proud of. As our attendees will attest, Garagiste events are a blast!”

Tickets are now on sale at


Click here for more cocktail corner columns. Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on March 7, 2014.

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.”