Driven by Beauty: Babcock Winery Event Aimed at Enthusiasts of All Things "Vintage"

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 8/13/18

At Babcock Vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills, near Lompoc, the wine is the main attraction. Bryan Babcock, who’s been growing wine here since the early 1980s, is easily considered one of the top winemakers in Santa Barbara County. The wines he produces, wines like pinot noir and chardonnay, are lauded by consumers and colleagues alike.
 
Some of the vintage attractions in the Babcock tasting room
Something interesting happens, though, when visitors step up to the tasting bar. What surrounds them, wows them. And if it’s the wine that brought them here, it’s often the décor that inspires them to stay.
 
The look and feel of the Babcock Winery tasting room is an ever-evolving canvas for Lisa Boisset, Mr. Babcock’s wife for more than 26 years. It’s a menagerie of vintage finds, antique treasures and special, iconic, fascinating pieces that, each one, tells a story and strike a chord.
 
The tasting room is, actually, a warehouse. Mr. Babcock stacked his fermentation barrels here, floor to ceiling, until the notion struck his wife that this vast, cavernous space had way more potential. That was eight years ago. Today, the floors that embrace the tasting bar are as much a space for retail as a showroom for special acquisitions.
 
“I don’t have a design or a plan for every nook and cranny – there’s no recipe,” says Ms. Boisset. “And, because of that, it feels authentic.”
 
Truth be told, the winemaker’s wife has professional pedigree that totally ligitimizes her knack for design. Her formative years were spent traveling all over the world, thanks to a father who worked in the airline industry. “Few distractions, almost no TV and lots of adventures,” she says, are what helped fuel creativity, curiosity and an open mind.
 
She says, “I learned to appreciate other cultures and art and music in a free-spirited way. I think that’s why I’m a pretty fearless person. I’d rather be creative and go for things – not hastily, but with purpose. If you have great intuition and creativity and see an opportunity… there’s no harm in trying it.”
 
After college, Ms. Boisset delved into fashion and into retail, going on to spend more than 30 years as a buyer of contemporary fashions for Bullock’s, the once-mighty department store chain. Merchandising for a bevy of other companies followed, Forever 21 most recently.
 
“So I understand retail,” she declares, “and I like being creative and I like creating experiences.”
 
Much of that, these days, is channeled into the Babcock tasting room, which she outfits with random yet wonderful finds made on the road, at estate sales, specialty shows, bazaars and flea markets all over the world. “I’ll go anywhere and everywhere,” she says.
 
The tasting room treasures change all the time and range from cards, books and jewelry to furniture, works of art and collectibles from myriad eras. “They’re things that resonate with me,” says Ms. Boisset. “And I also have a good sense of what our customers will appreciate.”
 
For Ms. Boisset, these unique pieces mean a whole lot more than the price tag they don, of course. They represent a potential for discovery – “People find things here they never thought existed!” – and for an emotional connection.
 
“There’s a soulful quality to the acquisition of objects that mean something to us personally,” she says, adding with emphasis, “and, there’s also something meaningful about purchasing from an individual who is also colorful and interesting to you."
 
The latter point – the point about the people who sell interesting items – that’s what inspired Ms. Boisset to host a special event this weekend that’ll feature more than 20 antiques and collectibles vendors. Some are local, some are flying in from far away – all people Ms. Boisset has met during her own personal experiences curating relics and mementos.
 
“Taste + Savor + Relish” takes place this Saturday and Sunday (August 18 & 19, 2018) from 10am to 5pm. The event is free and open to all ages, though there will be an assortment of Babcock wines and fare from the popular Scratch Kitchen in Lompoc for sale. The celebrated band, Tina Schileske & The Graceland Exiles, performs a grand finale concert Sunday at 3pm. And, of course, there will be hundreds of treasures for the finding – furniture, clothing, artwork, photography, lighting, textiles and ceramics, all in styles ranging from mid-century modern and industrial to Farmhouse and Bohemian.

“Just like wine tasting is sensual – you taste, you talk about it, you think about it – this is also,” says Ms. Boisset. “People get caught up with routine. This is about experiencing something new. Fun music, good food, interesting people, seeing amazing things – it’s going to be a feast for the senses, an opportunity to be open and to appreciate beauty.”
 
To view some of the items that'll be for sale, check our Ms. Boisset's new Instagram venture for all things vintage, @soulstruckvintage.
 
When friends & I visited Babcock to celebrate my wife Renee's birthday, we loved the wine... and the décor!
And for those prone to wandering – for those who find themselves venturing toward a different kind of "vintage" – they’ll likely notice that Ms. Boisset has had quite the effect on her husband’s vineyard, too.  “Agristhetics,” Mr. Babcock says. It’s a word he coined to describe his own agricultural push away from what is routinely practical and towards what is aesthetically pleasing.
 
“I cut grape production in half a few years ago,” he says. “I planted 65 oak trees and I’m using one of my hillsides to plant milkweeds and different flower species for butterflies.”
 
Dovetailing from his wife’s own penchant for what’s attractive to the eye, and calling it an endeavor that’ll last “the rest of my life,” Mr. Babcock aims to “wow guests as soon as they enter the property.”
 
And he adds, with an enthusiasm that would make Ms. Boisset smile, “it’s all driven by beauty.”
 
Babcock Winery & Vineyards, 5175 E. Highway 246, Lompoc. 805-736-1455. babcockwinery.com.
 
 
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