Picture Perfect: Wine & Film Festival Wows at Grassini

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo

Grassini Vineyards, itself, played a starring role in the latest event produced by the International Wine Film Festival.  The sweeping property in Santa Barbara wine country’s Happy Canyon is gorgeous: Bordeaux grapevines and oak trees abound, and the picture-perfect lake is mesmerizing.  The intimate gathering took place on Saturday, on a 75-degree afternoon and under clear blue skies.

Some of Santa Barbara’s best winemakers made up an impressive cast of characters.  Ryan and Jessica Carr poured a delicious and dynamic 2013 cabernet franc; Kita’s Tara Gomez compared her 2012 and 2013 Camp 4 cabernet sauvignon; winemaker Billy Wathen, from Foxen, shared his yet-unreleased 2013 Volgenzang Vineyard cabernet, which was remarkably lively and luscious; and Christina and Michael Larner poured their jammy and yummy 2011 Ballard Canyon syrah.  Star Lane and Grassini also poured crowd pleasers.

The gourmet breads from Bob’s Well Bread were knock-out good; it’s becoming increasingly harder to deny that Los Alamos' Bob Oswaks has a real knack for this baking thing.  The cheeses and charcuterie from Buellton’s Industrial Eats were awesome.

Over the bridge and down the lane, at the threshold of a beautiful barn decked out in theater-style seating, Alta Maria’s vivacious Stephanie Varner manned the popcorn machine.  This is where guests came to catch the show – a loop of Australian films all about wine– and to taste the variety of Aussie wines featured onscreen.

“An all-sensory experience,” says Wil Fernandez, who launched the first ever Wine Film Festival this month.  The spotlight is squarely on wine.  And with the added chance to catch dozens of films from all over the world that cast wine in the lead role, the fest’s events create a unique educational experience for the consumer.

Foxen winemaker Billy Wathen poured his 2013 Vogelzang Vineyard cabernet
Stephanie Varner welcomed guests with Aussie wines and popcorn
Guests entered the barn at their leisure to catch looping films about wine from Down Under
Grassini's lake provided a beautiful backdrop
To promote maximum (and responsible) enjoyment, the Festival teamed up with Stagecoach Co. Wine Tours to provide transportation for most guests.  They were picked up and dropped off in luxe motor coach -- complete with air conditioning and tinted windows -- from their hotels in Santa Barbara, Buellton, Solvang and Santa Ynez.

Up next: a VIP event on March 2nd at Presqu’ile Winery in the Santa Maria Valley, featuring feature films produced by wineries ($75), and an movie awards ceremony hosted by Master Sommelier Fred Dame on March 6th, as part of this year’s high-profile World of Pinot Noir event at Bacara Resort.

For tickets and information on the first International Wine Film Festival, go to winefilmfestival.com

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