Cocktail Corner: Good Wines, Good Causes

Fork & Cork 2014, photo by Eric Roland Photography

Fork & Cork 2014, photo by Eric Roland Photography

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

Santa Barbara winemakers are a generous bunch. They constantly get hit up to donate wine to charitable events, and do so with stunning regularity, often pouring the wine themselves, and always with affable smiles on their faces.

A few causes that are particularly near and dear to the wine/food community have their own fundraising events coming up soon, and lucky us, we get to sip and savor and support them in style!

Coming up on May 3 is the 2nd annual Fork & Cork Classic, which brings food and wine aficionados together to benefit Santa Barbara County Foodbank. Held at the Montecito Country Club, this delicious fundraiser features tastings from an array of select wines and special dishes prepared by over 20 of Santa Barbara’s top restaurants and chefs, including Bella Vista at the Four Seasons, Blue Owl, Ca’DarioEmpty Bowls Noodle Bar, Finch & Fork, Industrial Eats, Jessica Foster Confections, Julienne, Montecito Country Club, Patxi’s, Santa Barbara Yacht Club, Succulent Cafe, The Secret Ingredient, The Pasta Shoppe and Whole Foods.

Participating wineries include Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards, Ampelos Cellars, Beckmen Vineyards, Blair Fox Vineyards, Consilience, Marianella & Tre Anelli, CORE Family Winery and Deep Sea by Conway Family Wines.

Additional wineries include Falcone Family Vineyards, Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard, Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards, Nagy Wines, Pegasus Estate Winery, Scott Cellars, Silver Wines LLC, Turiya Wines, William James Cellars, Whitcraft Winery and Zaca Mesa Winery & Wineyards.

Also pouring are Ascendant Spirits, Caribbean Coffee Company, Cutler’s Artisan Spirits, Island Brewing Company, Pressed Juicery, The Real McCoy Rum and Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

100% of the event’s proceeds will benefit the Foodbank’s 300 local nonprofit partners who supply nutritious meals to Santa Barbara County residents. Last year alone, the Foodbank served 140,575 people—over 25% of the local population, including 50,000 children.  For more information or to purchase tickets visit

Fork & Cork 2014, photo by Eric Roland Photography

Fork & Cork 2014, photo by Eric Roland Photography

Also back for the second year at the Bacara Resort & Spa is the Santa Barbara Food & Wine Weekend  April 16—19 . I’ve written about this before but this is a great event for a good cause: The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts. Child herself created the foundation, and the mission is to honor and further her legacy, which centers on the importance of understanding where food comes from, what makes for good food, and the value of cooking.  It is a grant making, nonprofit which primarily funds research and scholarships for professional culinary training as well as other activities in the fields of gastronomy and the culinary arts.

Among the highlights this year is a special Saturday Night Grand Dinner & Reception with Kurt Russell featuring GoGi Wines, Hudson Bellamy Wines (inspired by actress Kate Hudson), and Ampelos Cellars. Russell will tell the stories behind the wines, their inspiration and their unique qualities driven by how they are grown and blended in the renowned Sta. Rita Hills AVA and there’s also a VIP access-only wine reception with live music followed by a four-course “ranch to table” dinner with his wine pairings.

Also on tap for the event is an educational lunch with Los Angeles power couple and celebrity chefs, Suzanne Goin (Lucques, AOC & Tavern) and David Lentz, chef/owner of Santa Barbara’s The Hungry Cat; cooking classes with famed chefs and cookbook authors, including Jim DodgeAnne Willan and Virginia Willis; a Neighborhood Tasting & Market that explores Santa Barbara’s top up-and-coming food regions, including Los Alamos, Arts District and the Funk Zone and while lot more.

For more information and to purchase tickets visit

Kurt Russell, photo by Isaac Hernandez

Kurt Russell, photo by Isaac Hernandez

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

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: Movie-Inspired Sips and Savories

The Lark is one of many restaurants offering specials to honor the 30th anniversary of SBIFF. Photo courtesy of The Lark.

The Lark is one of many restaurants offering specials to honor the 30th anniversary of SBIFF. Photo courtesy of The Lark.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

It’s easy to get the star treatment during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF). As part of a special Film Feast promotion, all sorts of local watering holes and restaurants are offering movie-themed specials during the Film Festival (January 27 – February 7).

Here are a few of my faves:

Get in the mood for a sweep at the Oscars (my prediction) with a Birdman Martini at Ty Lounge at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara (1260 Channel Dr.). Made with 10 Cane Rum, Galliano, Gran Gala and lime, I recommend trying this one outside on the patio at sunset. Other specials include an Outstanding Carell Collins and a Cousteau Margarita. All come with an excellent view of Butterfly Beach.

The Lark (131 Anacapa St.) also has a special SBIFF Fizz Cocktail made with Cutler’s Gin, Santa Barbara Blood Oranges and Pimm’s.

Margerum M5

Margerum M5

If you prefer wine to cocktails, one of the newer tasting rooms in the Wine Collection of El Paseo, Jamie Slone Wines (23 E. De La Guerra St.) is doing a salute to As Good as it Gets. They’ve partnered with C’est Cheese (Hello? Wine and cheese pretty much are as good as it gets!) to offer $20 wine and cheese pairings, along with screenings of the Jack Nicholson film daily at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. (pairings are available from noon – 6 p.m. daily).

Another great movie—Vino Veritas  (“In Wine, the Truth”) —is screening at Margerum Wine Company Tasting Room (813 Anacapa St.), which is in the Wine Collection of El Paseo as well. Also in that same charming paseo is Happy Canyon Vineyard‘s “A Good Year” Tasting Flight One, featuring a Staffords Chocolate Truffle paired with 2013 Happy Canyon Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 Happy Canyon Vineyard Barrack Blanc, 2010 Piocho, 2009 Barrack Brand and 2010 Barrack Ten-Goal.

The other Wine Collection of El Paseo tasting rooms—Au Bon Climat and Grassini—also have special film fest deals going on, so feel free to make a double- or triple-feature of it.

Also down the street at Armada Wine & Beer Merchant (1129-A State St.)  is the James Bond Globe Trotter Flight, where you can sample three wines from around the globe, as a tribute to the festival of course!

The food side of the film feast also has some fun options. Here are some highlights:

The Pasta Shoppe, in Santa Barbara Public Market (38 W. Victoria St.) has a special $30 prix fixe menu in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The special Italian-film-themed menu includes “Under the Tuscan Sun” Insalata dell casa with arugula, shaved red onion, teardrop tomatoes and house made grapefruit vinegrette; plus a choice of: “The Big Night” spinach, Ricotta Gnudi, pomodoro, pecorino; “Lady & the Tramp” bucatini with beef and pork bolognese, fresh herbs and parmigano; or “American in Rome” wild mshroom gnocchi, with herbed white wine sauce truffle oil. I tried the gnocchi recently and it was amazing! Don’t miss out on this one.

The Pasta Shoppe's

The Pasta Shoppe’s “American in Rome” wild mushroom gnocchi, with herbed white wine sauce and truffle oil. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Also saluting the festival is “I Am Prawns!” at Crocodile Restaurant and Bar at the Lemon Tree Inn (2819 State St.). This prix fixe menu is inspired by the 2009 Italian film I Am Love. Take 1: Bacon wrapped prawns, paired with Rusack Sauvignon Blanc. Take 2: Filet mignon with portobello mushroom demi glaze, garnished with blue cheese, served with grilled vegetables and truffled mac n’ cheese; paired with Qupe Syrah. Take 3: Triple layer chocolate mousse cake paired with Robert Hall Vintage Port. This is well-priced at $35 per person or $50 per person with wine pairings. Give them a call, as reservations are recommended.

Enjoy the fest and the feast! Cheers!

Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on January 30, 2015.

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.”





Don’t Miss Small Business Saturday in Downtown Santa Barbara

Small Business SaturdayKicking off the holiday season this is a relatively new retail holiday: Small Business Saturday (November 29). Nestled between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday encourages people to shop at small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

This year, Downtown Santa Barbara is promoting Small Business Saturday as a way to kick off the Holiday season.

 A complete list of participating locations are listed on the Downtown Santa Barbara website ( As of press time, participants included: 33 Jewels at El Paseo (814 State), Aveda (304 Paseo Nuveo), Bella Rosa Galleries (1103-A State), The Book Den (15 E. Anapamu), Churchill Jewelers (1015 State),The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (811 State, #A), Crazy Good Bread Co. (38 W. Victoria), Culture Counter (38 W. Victoria), Distinctive Framing ‘N’ Art (1333 State), Flagstone Pantry (38 W. Victoria, #108), Foragers Pantry (38 W. Victoria) and  Green Star Coffee (38 W. Victoria).

Courtesy Downtown Santa Barbara

Courtesy Downtown Santa Barbara

Also participating are Hampstead Village (1100 State), Harlequin’s Theatrical Supply (17 W. Gutierrez), Imagine (11. W. Canon Perdido), Indigo Interiors (1321 State), Industry Home (4 E. de la Guerra), Italian Pottery Outlet (929 State), Kernohan’s Toys (18 W. Anapamu), Kitson (651 Paseo Nuevo, #101), Oliver & Espig (1108 State), Plum Goods (909 State), Salt  Cave Santa Barbara (740 State), Salt Boutique (1-A W. Canon Perdido) and Samy’s Camera (530 State).

Additional participants include:  Santa Barbara Arts (1114 State, #24), Santa Barbara Public Market (38 W. Victoria), Santa Monica Seafood (38 W. Victoria), Sojourner Cafe (134 E. Canon Perdido), State & Fig (1114 State, #18), The Pasta Shoppe (38 W. Victoria, #122), Viva Oliva (651 Paseo Nuevo, #207), Wendy Foster State Street (833 State), Whistle Club (819 State. Suites A + B) and Wine + Beer (38 W. Victoria)

DSB staff will be on hand at Marshalls Patio (900 State), giving out Shop Small tote bags, balloons and dog bandanas. “We’re encouraging Shop Small customers to post or tweet where they are shopping or dining throughout the day, using #shopsmall and #DowntownSB,” says Kate Schwab, Downtown Santa Barbara Marketing & Communication Director.

“We have such a diverse and unique blend of small businesses downtown. It is a pleasure to support our many small business in Downtown Santa Barbara and give them an opportunity to show off great places to shop, eat or visit.”

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on November 26, 2014.