Here are three other upcoming Santa Barbara wine events that also raise the bar high, and should earn your serious consideration:
Saturday, July 28th, 4-7pm
Full disclosure: the organizers of this event did flatter me by naming me honorary chair of this year’s event. Humbling, clearly. But I would be touting this event anyway, as it is easily one of the most astonishing wine auctions in the country for, if for nothing else, the sheer caliber of wines up for bidding. Community members reach deep into their personal collection of fine and rare wines and donate them to support St. Mark’s-in-the Valley Episcopal Church in Los Olivos and the astounding nondenominational asset it’s become. Groups meet here for free – from the valley’s Jewish community to 12-step recovery groups to theater ensembles – and everything from concerts to pre-school education is offered to all residents regardless of faith. The event itself offers delicious food, great wine and live entertainment on the beautiful church grounds. But what’s truly awesome is witnessing the thrill of the auction, which this year will feature dozens of landmark bottles, like the 1961 Chateau Haut-Brion and the 1947 Cheval Blanc, both 100-point wines. I attended last year’s event, which took in a record-setting $130,000 ($118,000 net after expenses) and it was truly an affair to behold and remember. Tickets are $100, though donors (fine wines to auction are still being sought) enjoy the event for free. Contact Steve Pepe (of Clos Pepe Vineyards fame) at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-735-7867.
Sunday, August 26th, 1-4pm
Full disclosure: I will be a judge at this year’s event, tasked with tasting through several local chefs’ version of this Provencal fish stew. Tough gig. But I’d be strongly suggesting you to attend this event anyway; consider the fact I insisted on taking my wife here the day after our wedding – our first full day as a married couple – right before embarking on our honeymoon! This is clearly one of the most anticipated food lovers’ events in our area, especially since it makes its triumphant return next month after a six-year hiatus. A bevy of bouillabaisse to taste and dozens of Santa Barbara’s best rosé wines to savor. The refreshing, soft-hued wine is considered the epitomic match for this traditional dish from the south of France, which features a variety of fresh fish in a broth of vegetables, herbs, olive oil and saffron, not to mention each chef’s proprietary extras. The setting is the beautiful Brander Vineyard in Los Olivos, which anchored by its landmark pink chateau winery and surrounded by grapevines. And the cause is a draw in and of itself: Hospice of Santa Barbara, which has long offered care for those facing a life-threatening illness or grieving a loved one’s passing. Tickets are $90; they can be purchased at www.hospiceofsantabarbara.org or by calling 805-563-8820.
Saturday, October 13th, 1-4pm
This remains the wine event of record every autumn, when the energy in our local vineyards is in crescendo. Winemakers take a break from the oft-grueling task of harvesting the season’s wine grapes to mingle with consumers and to share some of their most special wines. This is a chance to engage your favorite vintner in casual conversation, whether it’s the longtime heavy hitter like Ken Brown or Rick Longoria or the newer kid on the block, like Tessa Marie Parker (Tessa Marie Wines) Dieter Cronje (Pres’quile). I’ve attended this event solo or with my wife, Renee; but this fete does lend itself to friends traveling en masse to share in the exhilarating (though responsible) buzz of the quintessential outdoor fine wine event. Again, venue is key here, with the verdant rolling hills of the historic Rancho Sisquoc property in the Santa Maria Valley playing host to more than 100 producers, dozens of chefs and hours of live music. And the chance to extend the fun (the popular Vintners Visa allows you to visit several wineries over four days) creates even more memories. Tickets are $65 ($90 with Vintners Visa) and can be bought through www.sbcountywines.com or by calling toll-free 888-330-6744.
Gabe Saglie considers attending wine events to be vital research. He’s also senior editor for www.travelzoo.com. Email him at email@example.com.