United Airlines' Latest Move Makes Its Loyal Flyers Happy

by Gabe Saglie

April 6, 2020
 
As a frequent United passenger (and a million-miler 1K flyer), this news makes me happy: the airline is extending Premier status through January 31, 2022! This  protection is peace of mind for those of us who love to fly, and who are anxious to fly again, but whose up-in-the-air activity has been drastically slashed – or brought to a screeching halt – by the current #StayHome COVID-19 mandates.

You’ll find some of the other new benefits – including extended PlusPoint expiration for 1K and Platinum members for six months and usage of all electronic travel certificates for 24 months --  on United Airlines’ news hub.

Travel restrictions worldwide continue to impact all US airlines, which are being forced to – in the short term – reduce capacity; for example, United is slashing 90% of its international flights in the month of April. United is pivoting, though, by flying medical equipment for coronavirus testing and conducting about 40 cargo-only flights per week.

Once we’re on the other side of the coronavirus apex, and once we get that green light consensus that it’s OK to resume our travel plans and dreams, it’ll be interesting to gauge consumer behavior. How quickly we get back to flying, and with what frequency and at what comfort level, will drive how quickly airlines will bring aircraft back online and rebuild their schedules. Safety first, of course – although I do hope that it’s sooner rather than later... I miss flying a lot!

For now, some of pre-COVID in-flight pictures taken on my iPhone that are helping me reminisce...
 
(And be sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram!)
 



 

 
 
 
 
 
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Finding Opportunity in a Shutdown: How Santa Barbara’s Wine Industry is Taking on Coronavirus

by Gabe Saglie
story published in the Montecito Journal on 3/26/20

The grinding halt wrought by a virus sprinting across the globe has certainly not spared the Santa Barbara wine industry. These are businesses that depend on foot traffic, on one-to-one connections, on personalized experience. Shut that down, as the recent mandate by Governor Newsom (understandably) did, asking all wineries and tasting rooms to temporarily close, and that critical connection, and the revenue it inevitably generates, comes to a standstill.
 
Even the big players get hurt. Most Santa Barbara wineries, though, are individual endeavors, passion projects, and labors of love for many of our friends and neighbors. For them, the current reality is a scramble to stay afloat until we’re all on the downward slide of the coronavirus curve.
 
And to that end, local winemakers are doing everything but standing still.

Riverbench used a 2-camera setup to livestream its virtual tasting on
Facebook last week and then archive the video on YouTube
This week, Riverbench Vineyards launched a virtual tasting of the wines in their latest wine club shipment, which went out to thousands of club members in early March. The tasting was led by the winery’s Director of Hospitality, Danae Smith, and was broadcast live on Facebook. Those who tuned in got insight into, and tasting notes for, Riverbench’s 2018 Estate Chardonnay, 2016 Reserve Pinot Noir and 2017 Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine, all grown from grapes on the label’s Santa Maria Valley property. They also got to sip with others, of course, which is always better than drinking alone.
 
A second DSLR camera recorded the session, which allowed the team to upload the video to YouTube.
 
“We didn’t want to something just for tomorrow,” says Riverbench communications director Wil Fernandez. “If we’re going to create content, let’s think long term, let’s do something we’ll continue to do [even after the coronavirus scare] because it just make sense.” Indeed, moving forward, Riverbench is planning on doing virtual tastings in conjunction with all wine club shipments, which go out three times a year.
 
Riverbench is hosting a virtual tasting of library wines on April 4th, a virtual vineyard tour on April 8th and a virtual Easter egg hunt on April 11th. Check out Riverbench's Facebook page.
 
Keeping wine club membership engaged is key for a company like Riverbench, whose club accounts for about a third of its business. The other two-thirds are almost entirely driven by visitation to its two tasting rooms in Santa Maria and in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, which remain shuttered. Third-party retail, a very small portion of the business under usual circumstances, is being ramped up now to offset the fallout, with distributors in states like Missouri and Kansas, along with California, pushing Riverbench wine into grocery store chains like Ralphs.
 
And to support employees in the short term, the way business is done at Riverbench has also changed. Instead of outsourcing wine club shipments, which can take weeks, tasting room employees have taken on the task. And the winery’s phone number – 805-937-8340 – has been turned into a wine tasting hotline, meant to encourage customers to call in with orders, questions or “just to chat with someone else,” says Fernandez. Calls are forwarded to the cell phones of different employees, who are working from home now, each day, and average call times have gone from under two minutes to more than 15.
 
Virtual tastings have become the flavor of the day across the wine industry, with myriad wineries tapping their customer base through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, among other platforms. With the J. Wilkes Wines tasting room inside the Hotel Californian closed to visitors, for example, winemaker Wes Hagen launched daily 5pm virtual tasting and educational conversation on his Facebook page. And the Wine Militia, an LA-based marketing company, this week launched daily virtual tastings at 6pm on their Instagram account (@thewinemilitia), featuring a different Santa Barbara County label each day; consumers are linked to online shops to purchase featured wines ahead of time so they can sip along when they tine in.
 
Online commerce, of course, is the primary defense against the coronavirus consequence. Most every local winery is offering incentives to get imbibers to shop online, in lieu of visiting their tasting rooms in person. Shipping is either included or deeply discounted on most orders. And then you’ve got creative hustlers like Jamie Slone, who, after having to close his tasting room in Santa Barbara El Presidio neighborhood to visitors, is hand-delivering wines for free to doorsteps from Goleta to Ventura; check out the Jamie Slone Wines website.
 
I
The Tercero Wines tasting rooms is ground zero for shipping orders
n Los Olivos, Tercero winemaker Larry Schaffer, who can’t welcome visitors at his popular Los Olivos tasting room right now, admits he’s concerned about the next few weeks. “Margins, in the short term, will not be good,” he admits. But he sees opportunity during the coronavirus crisis, too, especially in the way wineries like his, which are driven by direct-to-consumer sales, are now able to focus on bolstering client relationships. “I’m sending longer handwritten notes along with each shipment right now,” he says, “and I’m not sending anything out until I’ve confirmed addresses on my mailing list on a one-by-one basis.”
 
Schaffer is gearing up for his own virtual tasting soon, and he’s including shipping and offering a 20% discount (30% for his wine club members) on all orders of six bottles or more, at tercerowines.com.

 
Cheers.
 

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The Bet on Rhone that Paid Off: Epiphany Cellars Turns 20

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
story published in the Montecito Journal on 2/6/20

When Eli Parker launched his pet project, Epiphany Cellars, 20 years ago, his dad had doubts.
 
“He was not thrilled with what he perceived to be a distraction at the time,” says the vintner, referencing Fess Parker, the Disney icon who launched his eponymous wine brand in 1989. Ten years in, the label, anchored on a sweeping 700-acre ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley that remains the family homestead today, had already won fame for a diverse portfolio of wines. A new label might dilute its visibility in the marketplace.
 
The new venture was timed right, though, thanks to several factors that had come into play in the 1990s; indeed, the family’s beloved patriarch would soon have a change of heart. Syrah, the flagship grape of the Rhone grape varieties – as in, originating in the Rhone region of France – saw a surge in popularity during the final decade of the 20th century. It meant, on the one hand, that the marketplace became flooded with cheap renditions of syrah. “Consumers embraced it at the $10-to-$12 price point but then couldn’t understand the other, more expensive end of the spectrum,” recalls Mr. Parker.
 
But the younger Parker’s own travels in the 90s to places like France, where Rhone wine production was well established, and Australia, where wines like syrah were getting a fresh new spin, solidified his love for all things Rhone.  “The more I drank those wines, the more I loved those wines,” he says, and he quickly came to the realization that “the Rhone set is really what I had a passion for.”
 
Eli Parker
At this time – the clock was quickly ticking toward a new millennium – the Fess Parker label was fine-tuning its own focus in earnest, thanks to new leadership from Tim Snider, an E & J Gallo alum who joined the family business in 1999 (and who’d soon become Eli’s brother-in-law). The brand’s hard pivot toward pinot noir and chardonnay cleared the way for Eli to focus on Rhone varieties in earnest: syrah, for sure, plus lesser-known red grapes like grenache and mourvedre, and whites like viognier, roussanne and grenache blanc. The first releases of wine under the Epiphany Cellars label were small lot experiments that Eli conducted with then-winemaker Brett Escalera (who’s with the Sanger Family of Wines in Solvang now), including the syrah-grenache amalgam known as Revelation ($49), which remains a flagship Epiphany blend to this day.
 
Twenty years later, Epiphany Cellars is one of the best vintage-by-vintage snapshots in all of Santa Barbara County, and in all of California, of the potential of Rhone grapes. The label produces various vineyard-specific syrahs, bottles rare finds like the red grape counoise on their own and produces phenomenal blends, including one of my favorites, Gypsy ($29). Grapes are sourced locally, including Rodney’s Vineyard on the family ranch for some of the best bottlings, and as far away as Napa. With Eli taking a more supervisorial role, the label is in the hands of winemaker phenom Blair Fox.
 
“He’s a Rhone fanatic, too, and we have similar palates,” says Mr. Parker. “If I had to hand over the program to anyone, Blair was a no brainer. His whole team is amazing.”
 
The Epiphany tasting room in downtown Los Olivos
Indeed, Mr. Blair and his crew handle winemaking for the Parker family’s entire production of more than 70,000 cases a year, including the Fess Parker label, the Fesstivity group of sparklers and the Addendum line of high-end Napa cabernet. The Epiphany lineup is available for tasting daily at its sleek, breezy tasting room along Grand Avenue in Los Olivos.
 
Epiphany’s 20th birthday will be celebrated February 29th from 6-9pm during a special event inside the Fess Parker Winery barrel room. Open That Bottle Night, an annual commemorative day launched by Wall Street Journal wine writers Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, encourages wine fans to – finally – open and enjoy that special bottle that’s long been sitting in their wine racks, awaiting a special occasion. At the Parker family’s event, library wines, including bottlings from throughout Epiphany’s 20-year history, will be poured, and guests are encouraged to bring their own special wine to share. The event is limited to 80 people, so get your tickets at epiphanywineco.com. I’ll see you there!
 
Cheers!
 
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More Than Just Food: Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Weeks Target Wine Lovers, Too

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
published in the Monteicto Journal on 1/23/20

Have you seen all the promos for Restaurant Week? It’s a national phenomenon throughout the winter season, actually: destinations leveraging the appeal of their top chefs (and the allure of value) to entice consumers and beef up foot traffic during a historically slow travel time of the year. Santa Barbara’s Restaurant Week returns February 21 through March 6 and will feature prix-fixe menus at top-tier eateries all around town; in Montecito, they’ll include Lucky’s and the Biltmore’s Bella Vista.
 
The $20.20 3-course menu at Solvang's First & Oak includes
a chocolate mousse dessert w/dulce de leche &crisp honeycomb
(credit: Tenley Fohl Photography)
The one I’m really excited about is the one happening throughout the Santa Ynez Valley right now. It’s Restaurant Weeks, actually – plural – since its run from this past Sunday through January 31st will have offered hungry travelers almost two full weeks of tasty savings. The promotion screams “staycation,” by the way, with several hotels offering discounts and free upgrades during the Weeks’ run.
 
Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Weeks launched in 2010 and has successfully spotlighted the remarkable dining that the zone’s six towns – Buellton, Solvang, Ballard, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez and Los Alamos – have to offer. To be sure, though, it’s a dining scene that’s an offshoot of the viticulture that’s been flourishing there for decades.
 
“We’ve had incredible wine crafted in the Santa Ynez Valley for over 50 years, but our burgeoning culinary scene is relatively new,” says Shelby Sim, President and CEO of Visit the Santa Ynez Valley. “Restaurant Weeks is a great time to sample all that we have to offer at an unbeatable price: at $20.20 for a three-course meal, you can visit several restaurants over the two weeks without breaking the bank!”
 
The $20.20 3-course menu at Los Alamos' Cisko Kid includes
a Smoked Lamb Pozole Verde w/Santa Ynez Valley heirloom corn
(credit: Visit Santa Ynez Valley)
More than 30 restaurants are participating this year. At Cecco Ristorante in Solvang, home to what is probably the best pizza crust in all of Santa Barbara County, Chef David Cecchini’s special three-course menu features starter options like a seared diver scallop crudo and smoked salmon carpaccio and entrée selections like Risotto al Mercato, Pizza Bianca and Bistecca al Vino Rosso; everyone gets Affogato for dessert, that sumptuous espresso-gelato treat. A mouthwatering deal, indeed, at $20.20.
 
First & Oak in Solvang, which nabbed special recognition in Michelin’s California guide last year, has a trio of courses that includes a wild mushroom risotto main and chocolate mousse for dessert; they’re also doing a four-course menu for $40.20 and a five-course meal for $58.20. And at the Los Olivos Café in the historic haven of Los Olivos, the $20.20 prix-fixe main options include sage fettuccini, buttermilk fried chicken and rock shrimp risotto.
 
“Chef Conrad Gonzalez at Cisko Kid [in Los Alamos] will use locally sourced heirloom corn to take his dishes to the next farm-to-table level,” Sim told me, “while Luca Crestanelli and his team at S.Y. Kitchen [in Santa Ynez] will offer dishes not part of the regular menu, like Zuppa Celestina, which features a clear beef broth with thinly sliced crepes.”
 
In Buellton, Jeff and Janet Olson of Industrial Eats continue their annual charitable push with a culturally-inspired menu which, this year, features recipes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) and whose proceeds benefit humanitarian causes in that Central African nation. Down the street, at the Hitching Post II, beef buffs get to choose from a top sirloin steak, a New York steak or sirloin-and-quail combo, along with chicken, pork chops and fish dishes; there’s bittersweet chocolate tart with whipped cream for dessert and, as a bonus, special pricing on their popular Hometown pinot noir.
 

In Buellton, the Hitching Post Wines team -- Frank Ostini & Gray Hartley -- are offering
special pricing on lunch &wine during Santa Ynez Valley's Restaurant Weeks
In fact, wineries and tasting rooms are taking part in Restaurant Weeks, too. At their new wine tasting room right next door, the Hitching Post team is offering a special $20.20 pricing on bottles of their outstanding Santa Maria Valley pinot, along with an exclusive lunch-with-wine menu. At nearby Alma Rosa Winery, the pet project by wine pioneer Richard Sanford, a special $20.20 tasting fee adds their delicious bubbly to the regular lineup, and guests enjoy artisan cheeses. At their Gaviota tasting spot off Highway 101, Folded Hills is offering a charcuterie board accompanies the wine tasting. And at sprawling Pence Vineyards off Highway 246, on the way toward the coast, $20.20 is the price for wine sipping with cheese and charcuterie, as well as a vineyard tour.
 
Here’s the bottom line: some of the best eating in California exists in the Santa Ynez Valley. If a promo like Restaurant Weeks succeeds in filling seats during low season with lovers of food and wine who would have otherwise missed out, then it’s a win-win to be sure. Check out the menus and plan your visit at DineSYV.com.
 
Cheers!
 
Want more wine, food & travel stories? Follow me on Twitter & Instagram!
 
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Seasonal Suds: Santa Barbara Sparkling Wines Abound

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
story published in the Montecito Journal on 12/12/19

Sales of sparkling wines are on the rise right now, historically soaring between the Thanksgiving and New Year’s holidays. Sparklers connote celebration, of course. They’re a great option to have on hand for rich holiday meals, too, since the effervescence in every sip cleanses the palate of the richness in every bite.
 
The French and their fancy Champagnes give us plenty of options, of course, as do the Italians with their prosecco, the Spaniards with their cava and the Germans with their sekt. Napa and Sonoma producers have fantastic alternatives, too. But why go any further than Santa Barbara County?
 
Mirroring a surging consumer demand for all things sparkly, the number of Santa Barbara County wine producers dabbling in bubbly has popped in recent years. My own rudimentary county puts the number at close to 50, which means about a third of our region’s wineries have decided that the extra mile they must go to produce wines awash in tiny pearls is well worth it. The newest entry comes from a true original, Santa Barbara Winery, the county’s very first winery, established by architect-turned-vintner Pierre Lafond in 1962. I admire the way this recognizable brand continues to run on a family-driven ethos: when I visited their downtown winery last month, Mr. Lafond himself was on site, inspecting the day’s shipments, along with daughter Michelle and son David, as well as several longtime employees. Granddaughter Madeleine was there, too; it was her social media post a few days earlier that had alerted me to the release of their first-ever sparkling wine.
 
“It felt like it was time,” winemaker Bruce McGuire told me as he handed me a bottle of the 2017 Sparkling Rosé ($49). McGuire has been making wine here since 1981, and his new foray into bubbles was driven by the Lafond family’s desire to add something new and special to their remarkable portfolio of wines.  The sparkler is made with pinot noir from Burning Creek Ranch in the lauded Sta. Rita Hills region near Lompoc. The still wine was made first and then shipped to a Sonoma facility called Rack & Riddle that took it through the traditional methode champenoise to bring the bubbles to life. Periodic samples were sent down to Mr. McGuire throughout the nearly two-year process, until he made the ultimate call that it was ready for bottling. The Lafonds tasted it for weeks before the call was made in November that the bubbly was ready for release.
 
Only 200 cases of the 2017 Sparkling Rosé were made, split evenly between the Santa Barbara Winery and sister Lafond Winery brands. Regardless of label, this wine is Champagne-inspired and refreshing and delicious at once, with red berry aromas, clean citrus flavors and a dry, elegant, lip-smacking finish. Buy it at the tasting room at 202 Anacapa Street, just down from State Street, or online.
 
The Santa Barbara Winery/Lafond Winery team welcomes their new bubbly, including founder Pierre Lafond (far left) and winemaker Bruce McGuire (second from left)
Folded Hills' new bubbly
The sparkler from Folded Hills is new, too. Their 2017 Sparkling Lilly Rosé ($65), from winemaker Angela Osborne, is a tribute to matriarch Lilly Anheuser and the six generations of formidable Anheuser-Busch women since.  Zesty, crisp and brimming with berry notes, this bouncy bubbly is made with grenache grapes grown on the family’s sprawling Santa Ynez Valley estate near Gaviota, just off Highway 101. Folded Hills officially launched the Sparkling Lilly Rosé during a wine club members-only affair at its Coast Village Rd. tasting room in early December.
 
Other regional producers of sparkling wines of note include winemaker Norm Yost’s Flying Goat Cellars, which launched its Goat Bubbles lineup of sparkling wines 10 years ago; Yost, who now makes five distinct sparkles each year, and all by hand at his Lompoc winery, is considered the first serious sparkling wine producer in Santa Barbara County. Fess Parker Winery impresses every year with its own traditional expressions of the bubbly stuff; their Bubble Shack in downtown Los Olivos is a haven for seekers of all things fizzy. And Riverbench Winery, which sources pinot noir and chardonnay from its Santa Maria Valley vineyards for its annual sparkling wine releases, puts out consistently great bubblies, too.
 
Cheers!
 
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Bye-Bye Bottle: Wine in Aluminum Cans is Becoming All the Rage


by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
story published in the Montecito Journal on 10/31/19

I enjoyed a lovely rosé wine over the weekend. It was refreshing, with a pretty light pink hue, a delicate fizz on the tongue and yummy flavors of red berries and citrus. The finish was especially quenching – dry, perky and clean.
 
There was one thing about this wine that was especially remarkable, though: it came in a cute little aluminum can.
 
To be sure, many avid wine drinkers will think twice about the idea of a fine wine in a tin can, if not reject it altogether. We tend to be traditionalists, we understand the glass bottle, and we’ve learned how to extricate the wood cork like pros. Isn’t the fact that we’ve expanded our minds to accept the proliferation of the screwcap progress enough?
 
Fact is, wines in a can, which have been an increasingly pervasive part of the wine marketplace for the better part of the last decade, are quickly becoming a consumer favorite. According to Nielsen, canned wine sales surpassed $69 million in 2018, way up from the $2 million they netted in 2012. Their convenience, their no-frills attitude and the fact that better wines are going into these little aluminum vessels these days are giving this sector of the industry an ever-larger piece of the consumer pie.
 
The wine I supped this weekend is new – Nomikai, a Northern California-based brand named after the Japanese word for drinking parties. The wines come in 187-ml. cans, or the same as one-fourth of a regular 750-ml bottle (or what many of us call, a glass of wine). The Frizzy Rosé is made up of various white grape varieties, plus grenache. There’s a California Red, too, which I did not like as much because of the sweet-leaning fruit character; however, for those who like zing in their reds and who like the idea of sipping it chilled on a warm afternoon, by the pool perhaps, this wine might fit the bill nicely. The wines are sold in 24-pack singular or mixed cases, or the equivalent of six bottles, for $96 on the Nomikai website.  A growing number of retailers carry it, too, though none yet (ironically) in California.
 
You will, though, find plenty of other canned wine options at your local wine shop or supermarket, since the movement is being driven by some of the industry’s largest players, like E. & J. Gallo. Foley Family Wines, founded by magnate and former Santa Barbara resident Bill Foley, announced earlier this year its lineup of rosé, chardonnay, pinot gris and pinot noir in 375-ml. cans under the Oregon-based Acrobat label; a project like this coming from the same folks who put out myriad top-tier California labels, including Foley, Lincourt and Firestone in the Santa Ynez Valley, is promising for consumers. I’ve tasted nice wines from Union Wine Co. in Oregon, whose quarter-million-case output of the canned Underwood label wines last year accounted for more than half of its total production. Canned wines from Alloy Wine Works in Paso Robles are worth a few yanks of the pull-tab, too.
 
One of the great canned adult beverages in the marketplace now is Rosalie, a half-wine/half-beer experiment from Firestone-Walker Brewing Co. that sees both components – chardonnay, viognier, sauvignon blanc, riesling and muscat grapes plus hops and pilsner malt – fermented together.  Hibiscus flowers are added to create a drink that appeals to wine and beer lovers alike: it’s wine upfront, with a bouncy mouth feel and flavors of berries, and it’s beer on the back end, with a subtle hops essence and a refreshing effervescence. At 5% alcohol per volume, it’s prime for multiple pours, too. Target sells a six-pack of 12-ounce Rosalie cans for $9.99.
 
The approachability of aluminum cans, and their affordability, make this packaging appealing, or at least intriguing – and not only for a new wine audience, but even for fervent wine consumers looking for that sweet spot where value and quality converge. It’s still hit and miss overall, but the growing market is bound to show at least a few new stars.
 
The Nomikai folks tout the eco-friendly angle, too: their cans are 99% recyclable and while four cans equal one glass wine bottle in volume, the waste they produce weighs 13% as much. So drinking red, it turns out, can help you go green. Check out drinknomikai.com for more information.
 
Cheers!

 
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Wine Through the Lens: New Hardcover Book Spotlights Santa Barbara Wine Industry

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
story published in the Montecito Journal on 10/10/19

“There are plenty of photography books on how wine is made, and by whom, and what tasting rooms look like,” declares George Rose, who happens to be a real whiz behind the lens, himself.
 
“I set out with the idea of showcasing where the grapes are grown. This is about the land and the people – it’s about the place.”
 
George Rose
Rose’s latest coffee table book is, in fact, a beautiful tribute to Santa Barbara County’s wine region, delivered in sweeping, moving images. The hardcover “Wine Country: Santa Barbara County” ($80, including California sales tax and shipping) is almost 200 pages long, weighs more than three pounds and takes full advantage of its 11-by-14-inch format. “I wanted to present the pictures as if people were walking through a gallery,” says the photographer. “When you turn the page, and that image doubles in size – it makes an impact.”
 
Rose’s style makes the various vineyards depicted in the book look downright spectacular, like a sun-drenched stretch of Stolpman Vineyards along Ballard Canyon, or the starry harvest sky above Dierberg-Star Lane Vineyards near Lompoc, or a blanket of fog hugging the vines at Grassini Vineyards in Happy Canyon. Portions of the book guide the reader through several wine growing hot spots, like the pinot noir haven that is Sta. Rita Hills, the much warmer Los Olivos District and the Foxen Canyon Trail.
 
But Rose’s book goes well beyond the wine, reaching for that sense of place he mentions, capturing the people who live in the towns that make this particular portion of California special. “There’s a very Western flavor to Santa Barbara County that makes it unique and different from Napa and Sonoma,” says Rose, who published a similar book on Sonoma County’s wine region in 2017.
 
Solvang is represented by the young ladies doling out aebleskivers during Danish Days, the dancers twirling down Mission Drive during the 4th of July parade and the legendary Rancheros Vistadores traversing the open range on horseback. Buellton, Lompoc and the Santa Maria Valley star, too. And even Santa Barbara gets a chapter, with big pictures of families at dinner, friends out on bikes and plenty of smiling sippers in the Funk Zone. “I’ve been fascinated watching the wine tasting idea in an urban setting really explode,” says Rose.
 
One of the book’s most poignant sections is its spotlight on the women and men who work the vineyards. Dozens of photos capture the oft-grueling physical task of harvesting grapevines – plucking and sorting thousands of berries by hand, and often in the cold, dark hours between midnight and dawn. “I feel strongly that California is rooted in agriculture,” says Rose. “There’d be no wine industry without these people --  they are critical to the success of California wine. And it’s very important that we keep hitting on that topic. With all the politics today, that message gets lost.”
 
 
 
Photos from George Rose's "Wine Country: Santa Barbara County”
Rose, who moved from Healdsburg to Solvang six years ago, brings a lifetime of behind-the-camera experience to his new tome. He was in his 20s when he worked as a staff writer at the L.A. Times and, soon after, as an in-demand freelancer for Newsweek, Time and Rolling Stone. More than 13 years followed, as an official photog for the NFL. Serendipity stepped in when Rose was offered a job in wine industry marketing, a job he held for 25 years with companies like Fetzer and Kendall-Jackson. But Rose, who never stopped honing his shooting skills, decided to return to photography full-time in 2012, and he’s been gazing at vineyards through his lens ever since. “I realized quickly,” he says, “that my style worked well with vineyards’ own growing social media needs.”
 
“Wine Country: Santa Barbara County” is self-published by Rose, who secured funding from myriad tourism groups, like Visit Santa Barbara and Visit the Santa Ynez Valley, and local wineries, including Zaca Mesa, Foxen and Bien Nacido. The book is available at all sponsor tasting rooms, as well as Rose’s own website, georgerose.com.
 
An art exhibit featuring many of Rose’s recent landscape photography, titled “Santa Barbara County & Beyond,” will open at the Wildling Museum in Solvang on November 16th.
 
Cheers!
 
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