story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 9/13/18
When California Wine Month rolls around each September, it’s a reminder that the best time of the year for wining has arrived. With the summer crowds gone, fall ushers in more elbow room in the tasting rooms and in the vineyards, and travel affordability goes up. Throw in California’s enviable autumn weather and the peak of the grape harvest season, and fall wine events become a must.
You’ll notice an uptick in wine event promotions during California Wine Month, now in its 14th year. A coordinated effort by wine regions throughout the Golden State – from Temecula to Lodi and Paso Robles to Sonoma – it aims to celebrate the nearly 11,000 growers and winemakers who produce 80% of the wine in the U.S. California is also the fourth largest producer of wine in the world.
Santa Barbara, of course, is special. Our easy access, our buzzy food scene, our gorgeous scenery – they all converge to make a wine country visit here almost magical. And events, both large and small, that allow you to connect with local viticultural treasures, abound. Consider these fall happenings:
|Hey, it's Bob Oswaks!|
Thursday, September 20: Usher in the season with the “Autumn Equinox Wine Dinner” at Les Marchands in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone. Chef Weston Richards will dole out a four-course meal of smoked local mussels, duck confit and grilled quail. Enjoy a local fig tart with homemade ricotta and honey for dessert. Featured wines, which are paired with each course, hail from Sardinia, Abruzzo, the Southern Rhone Valley and the Loire Valley. Dinner only ($50), or with wine pairings ($90), are served from 5:30pm, so you can make a reservation at the time that works best for you. This is part of Les Marchands’ ongoing Seasonal Dinner Series. lesmarchandswine.com.
Saturday, October 6: Los Alamos baker phenom Bob Oswaks hosts Central Coast winemakers the first Saturday of every month. The tastings, and the bevy of breads and hors d’ouevres prepped by the Bob’s Well Bread kitchen, are complementary and available from 1-3pm. These gatherings are super intimate, with plenty of one-on-one with the wine team, which makes them a great way to discover something new. Pence Ranch is the featured winery for October, one of the premier producers in the Sta. Rita Hills of pinot noir and chardonnay. And don’t leave without doing what I always do when I visit Bob: grab a few baguettes for the road. bobswellbread.com.
Wednesday, October 10: Many Santa Barbara winemakers have told me many times – making wine requires a lot of beer. The Tap & Pour Beer Fest at the Canary Hotel downtown will give your taste buds a break from merlot and reason to celebrate Oktoberfest. A bevy of locally crafted brews will be poured, and you’ll nosh on lots of German-inspired fare by Executive Chef Peter Cham – yup, housemade sausages and soft pretzels! The highlight at any of these Canary events, including upcoming next Sip & Swirl parties on November 23 and December 11, is the 360-degree view of beautiful Santa Barbara from the rooftop. nightout.com/events/tap-pour-beer-fest.
|My wife & I enjoyed an awesome stay & dinner at The Ballard Inn|
Saturday, October 13: Events-a-plenty during the Celebration of Harvest, the annual weekend fete thrown by Santa Barbara County vintners throughout the Santa Ynez Valley. After a recent stay and meal at the Ballard Inn – a magical time and superlative food – Chef Budi Kazali’s Saturday night dinner is the one event not to miss. He welcomes the Bien Nacido Vineyards team for an intimate meal at his Gathering Table Restaurant, and the pairings will surely wow. Seating is very limited, so I’d lock this one down now. The night begins at 6pm and costs $125 per person. ballardinn.com/events.
Saturday, October 20: I submit this: Los Olivos is the most charming town on the Central Coast. The annual Los Olivos Day in the Country is the quintessential community event, complete with family fun run (even dogs are allowed), parade, tractor show and a bevy of arts-&-crafts and food purveyors. Saunter in and out of the village’s dozens of tasting rooms, without missing Bien Nacido, Carhartt and Epiphany. This event is free and held rain or shine. Meet me at the flagpole! losolivosca.com/day-in-the-country.