Harvest in 4-D: Multisensory Event Showcases "Vintage 2014"

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo

Wil Fernandez has been obsessed with the 2014 wine grape harvest in Santa Barbara County.  So much so, he’s captured every moment of it.  And, Wednesday night, he’s showing it off.

Wil Fernandez, photographer (credit: Jeremy Ball)
Fernandez’ approach has been ambitious and motivated from the get-go.  It’s been a multimedia endeavor that has included multiple cameras at key vineyard spots that captured 2014 from bud break - -literally, from the moment grape leaves emerged from their buds – to harvest.  It’s included professional photography and public events – including several under-the-radar culinary gatherings and pop-up wine tastings countrywide – that have put grape growers and winemakers face-to-face with consumers.

This project – Vintage 2014, it’s called, and it’s taken myriad social media channels by storm – has included podcasts, too.  And that’s how I got to know Fernandez.  When I saw the passion and energy behind his vision, I gladly volunteered to host several podcast interviews with top players in this year’s Santa Barbara wine grape harvest: Dick Dore and Bill Wathen from Foxen, Michael Larner, Ryan Carr, Karen Steinwachs from Buttonwood, Jonathan Nagy from Byron,  Laura Booras from Riverbench and Wes Hagen from Clos Pepe Vineyards.  The off-the-cuff and insightful conversations, dubbed “Dirt Don’t Lie" and recorded in Buellton at one of the coolest recording studios I’ve ever seen, are available at www.dirtdontlie.com.

Vintage 2014 is not for the faint of heart.  It’s been grueling, all-consuming.  It is, in fact, a fascinating form of marketing, under an umbrella Fernandez calls Central Coast Wine & Food. Fernandez once told me that the only way for Santa Barbara to emerge from the shadows cast by Napa and Sonoma is to get creative and innovative, to break ground.  So, yes, this has bucked the way the local establishment has been accustomed to promoting itself; it’s made some uneasy, even, about embracing this type of multimedia promotion platform.  But therein may lay Vintage 2014's greatest endorsement.

Fernandez uses a camera mounted on a drone helicopter to film a vineyard (credit: Jeremy Ball)

Fernandez is a former, very successful advertising executive from L.A.  Past clients who’ve entrusted him with multi-million dollar campaigns include BMW, Sit ‘n Sleep and several banks and pharmaceutical companies.  But when, five years ago, his creative energy craved something fresher, he took the wheel of a Winnebago and hit the road.  No permanent address for years, as he traversed the country.  And then, one day, he drove through the canyon pass that separates downtown Santa Barbara from the vines.

“When I first went over the hill and saw the Santa Ynez Valley, I got all tingly.  I just found something special.  I was blown away,” he told me earlier this year.  “Stress melts away when I go over that mountain.  It’s a little paradise.  And it’s like a yo-yo.  No matter where I’ve been… I keep finding myself back here."
This year, Fernandez’ Winnebago has been parked at a mobile home park in Buellton as he’s driven Vintage 2014 from beginning to end.  He’s managed to capture moments – in intimate fashion and from the perspective of the most significant of players – that define a challenging, very early, robust vintage.  And the fruits of his labor, in all their multimedia glory, are now available for the public to experience.

“Vintage 2014: An Evening of Wine, Food and Film” takes place Wednesday night, October 29th, at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, from 6:30-8:30pm. Some of Santa Barbara’s top winemaking talent will be there, and bites and sips will be interspersed with intimate clips from this year’s harvest, captured like never before.  For tickets, go to www.vintage2014sb.eventbrite.com.

See you there!


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