published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 1/29/15
For a village dating all the way back to the 1880s, Los Olivos remains a bastion for classic country living – quaint, friendly and unrushed. But as a modern-day culinary revolution sweeps across the Santa Ynez Valley, the business leaders in this town of 1000 residents are ready to polish off its image. Enter Wine Fest Los Olivos.
|The legendary Los Olivos flagpole along Grand Ave.|
On the calendar for February 28th, this inaugural fete aims to be Los Olivos’ annual wine event of record. With dozens of merchants set to participate, the focus will be on winemaker interactions, gourmet pairings and unique shopping experiences. There will be giveaways, and a hands-on seminar on world-famous Riedel glassware will add a special educational element.
Set amidst a bevy of destination towns aiming to leverage Santa Barbara’s recent rise as a bona fide culinary destination, it’s hard to ignore Los Olivos’ own remarkable growth. Today, more than 50 tasting rooms have a Los Olivos address. Most of them, about 35, are in the heart of town – a stone’s throw from the landmark flagpole at the corner of Grand and Alamo Pintado Avenues. The rest are set amidst sprawling vineyards and elegant estates nearby.
“So just in sheer numbers, we are not only the leading wine town in the Valley but in the entire county,” says Beate Halligan, executive director for the Los Olivos Business Organization, or LOBO, which is spearheading Wine Fest Los Olivos. That’s what’s helped lift international visitor numbers significantly in just the last couple of years, she adds.
|Some of the tasting rooms along Grand Avenue|
But as local residents and even local media and trade have focused heavily on this lovely town’s recent wine-centric explosion, perhaps we’ve overlooked something important: that this historic enclave remains a haven for approachable quality. Yes, some of our area’s finest wines live here – labels like Daniel Gehrs, Alta Maria, Epiphany, Tercero, Qupe, Consilience, Longoria and Carhartt. But the food, from Mattei’s Tavern to the Los Olivos Café, and the shopping, from Wendy Foster to the Los Olivos General Store, remain world class.
True, the infrastructure in Los Olivos still needs to play catch-up in various ways. And true, the tug-of-war between the push to keep it rustic and the push to make it fresh will continue. But what Wine Fest Los Olivos has the potential to do is to refocus attention, reinvigorate interest and remind consumers that this place is one-of-a-kind.
On February 28th, from 11am to 5pm, the township’s businesses will welcome visitors with complimentary wine and food samplings; strategically located hospitality lounges will help them find their way.
For $65 (or $75 day-of), guests can also go on a Mystery Tour of Los Olivos’ merchants, with retailers offering exclusive pairings, special winemaker interactions and special drawings for a variety of awards. At each prize drawing, prizes will include mystery keys that, at the end of the day, could open the door to the grand prize: an overnight stay at the Fess Parker Wine Country Inn (easily one of the top five places to stay in Santa Barbara County, in this writer’s humble opinion) and dinner for two at Sides Hardware – a brothers restaurant.
Consumers can also attend an educational seminar on Riedel glassware. The company is world-renown for expertly crafting its glasses to extract a specific wine’s every nuance, and tasting is believing. Tickets to this event, to be held at the Grange Hall, are $55 ($65 day-of) and participants go home with their own set of Riedel Veritas Stemware (a $138 value).
For more information and tickets, visit www.losolivosca.com/winefest.
|Downtown Los Olivos|
Los Olivos is cradled by Highway 101 and Highway 154, a beautiful 40-minute drive north of downtown Santa Barbara.