Seaside Sipping: Tasting Series at “The Biltmore” Focuses on Santa Barbara Locals

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 6/22/17
photos by Rachel Rock

Update 7/21/17: Here's the link for the upcoming Summer Tasting Series events

“I wanted to do this for the locals,” says Koji Akaboshi. The Food & beverage Director at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara is telling me about the Summer Tasting Series, which is back by popular demand this summer. The lineup of luxe sip-and-graze events combines luxury and fun, and it gives visitors unique access in more ways than one.

The second annual series, which will host three more events through September, is actually part of a refreshing renaissance of the Biltmore food scene. New executive chef Marco Fossati is improving menus, libations are being invented, restaurants are being reinvented – and a movement to reintroduce this legendary resort to its neighbors is definitely on. One of Akaboshi’s contributions has been these monthly Friday-night tasting experiences, held throughout the resort and featuring quality brands.
 
June's POP! Bubbles event was a sell-out
“I wanted to get away from the traditional sit-down wine dinner, which doesn’t always allow guests to speak casually with winemakers and purveyors,” Akaboshi says. “These tastings are meant to be more accessible, less stuffy and formal, and to give guests the chance to meet with local producers.”
 
May's event focused on bourbon
This summer’s series kicked off in May with “Master Distillers,” which paired local vodka and bourbon with house-made pastas, signature seafood dishes and dry-aged carpaccio, and which allowed guests to mingle with distillers. This month’s “Pop! Bubbles”—a sell-out – showcased high-end rosé sparkling wines from around the globe, along with oysters chucked to order.
 
Each of these classy gatherings is held at a unique locale throughout the Biltmore’s opulent 22 acres – a chance for the resort to showcase its various dining rooms, outdoor spaces and event venues. “These are locations usually reserved for weddings or private events,” says Akaboshi, “so it allows guests to discover new spaces and see something totally different.” On July 21, for example, the “Red, White & Brew” tasting will takes place on the Monte Vista Lawn, a lush garden with sweeping views of the Santa Ynez Mountains; a gourmet barbecue will accompany seven local breweries, including Telegraph, Island and Brass Bear.
 
On August 11th, the resort puts on the Ferragosto Festival, celebrating a bevy of local Italian white wine varieties and an Italian-inspired fritto misto bar; guests will get a rare chance to descend on the oceanfront Coral Casino, with its famous million-dollar views. And on September 22nd, the series culminates with a Harvest Crush on the hotel’s Palmera Garden, an intimate lawn decked out in flagrant flowers and shady palm trees; Santa Barbara winemakers will pour to celebrate the 2017 vintage while resort chefs take on a traditional pig roast.
 
May's bourbon tasting also featured Chef Fossati's dry-aged carpaccio
Akaboshi, who’s been at the Montecito property for two years and has worked at nine different Four Seasons resorts over the last 20 years, is looking to make the Summer Tasting Series a model for Biltmore events moving forward. “Fun, relevant and approachable, but high quality at the same time,” he says. And he put the spotlight back on locals, who present an ongoing and germane opportunity for a landmark resort like this to grow its clientele.
 
“They are fans of these winemakers, brewers and distillers, and fans of these local products,” he says. “By bringing them together here, it reminds them what a great spot this is to host an event, have dinner or just hang out and have a drink.”
 
The views come standard.
 
Each event is priced at $78, or bundle the remaining three events in the Summer Tasting Series for a discounted $187. Call 805-565-8232 for tickets. And check out fourseasons.com/santabarbara.
 
 
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