Wine & Fire: Sta. Rita Hills Puts on Party of the Year

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
photos courtesy of Wine & Fire 2014

Sta. Rita Hills – the buzzing wine growing region on the western stretches of Santa Barbara wine country – is about to throw its annual party of record.

Wine & Fire 2015 is slated for August 14 and 15 with a series of one-of-a-kind wine and food events.  They will, of course, highlight many of the wine grape varieties that thrive in this region – world-class pinot and chardonnay, for sure, along with pockets of syrah, viognier, sauvignon blanc and others.  And the winemakers with roots in this region will star, too: Richard Sanford, Bryan Babcock, Rick Longoria, Peter Cargasacchi, Brian Loring, Kathy Joseph, Karen Steinwachs and Ken Brown, to name a few.

On fire: my friend Rodrigo Gimenez (photo courtesy of Rodrigo)
But the Wine & Fire spotlight is also on food.  In fact, the titular “Fire” refers to a sizzling BBQ seminar and tasting event on Saturday that aims to showcase grilling talents, share cooking tips and please the palate all at once.  That event, dubbed “BBQ Blast,” takes place at the Sanford & Benedict Barn (the historic vineyard dates back to 1971) and highlights the marvels of cooking by flame in four different styles.

I’m lucky enough to join the team of Rodrigo Gimenez, the Argentine BBQ phenom who’s created a cult following of sorts among Santa Barbara foodies by employing generations-old gaucho meat-grilling techniques.  After Rodrigo works his magic, our team will pair with the wines of Clos Pepe's Wes Hagen, as well as Ken Brown Wines and Liquid Farm.  Ours will be a tough pairing to beat!

But the competition will be formidable: my friend Frank Ostini from Buellton’s Hitching Post II Restaurant will showcase the classic open-pit red oak BBQ skills that have made him famous; winemaker Steve Clifton, a pizza oven authority, will be crafting a slew of wood-fired flatbreads; and Matt Toll, of Central Coast-based Tollhouse BBQ, will be showing off his meat smoking prowess by using his big rig smoker and proprietary dry rub spices.

The Saturday Morning Seminar BBQ Blast takes place from 10:30am to 1:30pm and will also feature live rockabilly/folk/blues music by the two-woman Americana band, The Luck.

Bookending Wine & Fire this year are two deluxe events aimed at lovers of wine and lovers of the unique vineyards that produced the award-winning wines of Sta. Rita Hills.  On Friday night, from 5 to 8pm and also at Sanford & Benedict Barn, the Kick Off Barn Party will feature rare, library and large format wines from top producers like Pali Wine Co., Flying Goat Cellars, Gainey Vineyard, Hartley-Ostini and Siduri.  Wood-fired fare by Bello Forno and live rock music are also on the menu.

This yearly fete comes to an end Saturday night, from 5 to 8pm, with the spectacular Wine & Fire Grand Tasting at La Purisima Mission.  The sweeping, historic venue is alluring enough.  Add wines poured by dozens of wineries and gourmet fare prepped by some of the area’s premier chefs and caterers, and this is a culinary feast that’s tough to beat.

Look for open houses and special pouring events throughout the weekend, too, at places like Babcock Winery and Zotovich Cellars.  Loring Wine Co. will be pairing wine with cookies and cheese while Kessler-Haak will be hosting a Sunday brunch (including sparkling mimosas!) in the vineyard.

For more information and tickets, check out  Follow the Sta. Rita Hills on Facebook (/StaRitaHillsWine) and Twitter, @PinotAVA.



  1. Kinda pathetic Gabe. BBQ'd domestic livestock? That shtick is old. It's been done so many times that they're even doing it in South America now. Our team, Cargasacchi, Loring and Siduri, has been working with geologists in the Arctic Circle to create a menu that's fresh from the permafrost. Siberian baby Wooly Mammoth. Pure Paleo Bitches. When they chiseled it out of the block of ice, it still had fresh clover and buttercups on its lips. You can't top that because we got the only one. Please don't cry my little Buttercup...

  2. This is a great place organize an event; they have great staff and great events put on here! I had nothing but great times and great conversations at Chicago event venues. They served slider and shrimp cakes as appetizers with chicken skewers, and eggrolls that had veggies on the inside and some kind of creamy fruit sauce on top.