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Winter Wine Classic Santa Barbara

Melinda Gandara pours a Lieff red for a group from the Coral Casino (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Melinda Gandara pours a Lieff red for a group of guests at the Winter Wine Classic (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Fine wine was flowing in Santa Barbara Saturday night at the California Wine Festival’s Fifth Annual Winter Wine Classic. Guests who gathered in the ballroom of the Fess Parker Resort were treated to tastes of reds and whites from up and down the state, as well as an array of tapas from local eateries.

Some of Santa Barbara’s best known brands were represented, including Brander, Alma Rosa, Zaca Mesa, Beckman and Melville. Several labels from the Santa Rita Hills were there, as well as some well-known Napa Valley labels, including Rombauer and Charles Krug.

An added treat was the several winemakers pouring their own wines. Sandra Newman of Cebada and Adam Henkel of Westerly Wines were there, along with Fred Brander’s son, Nick.

Lisa Osborn with Gretchen Lieff (Lieff Wines) and Melinda Gandara (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Lisa Osborn with Gretchen Lieff (Lieff Wines) and Melinda Gandara (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

My friend Gretchen Lieff was pouring her 2009 Lieff Cabernet Sauvignon from their Auberge Road Vineyard Rutherford.

“We are so excited to be part of the Winter Wine Classic and be able to help spread the growing enthusiasm and interest in California wines.” Said Lieff. “For the most part, the world of wine is a great deal of fun but it’s also a lot of hard work. It’s nice to meet the people who appreciate that effort.”

Gretchen, with her husband Robert, are growing grapes on their ranch at the San Luis Obispo/Santa Barbara border. They will release their first vintage from this vineyard next year. But, some of their grapes are already turning up in Santa Barbara wines, including vintages from Margerum and Brander.

Jenny & Leo drove up from Los Angeles to taste wines they might want to serve at their wedding (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Jenny & Leo drove up from Los Angeles to taste wines they might want to serve at their wedding (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

I also ran into an old friend, Bill Candela, who was pouring Sunstone wines, including a red that scored 90+ in Tasting Panel Magazine the Blue Review.

Blush was one of the Santa Barbara restaurants offering tapas (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Blush was one of the Santa Barbara restaurants offering tapas (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

The guests I spoke with were big fans of this event. Some were local, one foursome came from Nipomo and at least one couple came from out of state.

Tom and Diana, who used to live in Ventura County, came down from Seattle. They are big fans of the California Wine Festival, with the summer event (July 15-16, 2016 this year) being Diana’s all-time favorite.

“We get the pass for the weekend, and attend the VIP event on Thursday night,” she said. “That’s where they are pouring the (most) expensive wines and delicious foods.”

Another couple, Jenny and Leo, came up from Los Angeles, to sample wines that they might want to serve at their wedding.

Blush, I’A Fish Market & Cafe, Rodney’s Grill, Paxti’s Pizza and Georgia’s Smokehouse were among the local eateries offering small bites.

An open air photo booth made it easy for revelers to ‘strike a pose’ and take home memories from this special event.

Winter Wine Classic Santa Barbara

Photos from the California Wine Festival's Winter Wine Classic at Fess Parker Resort Santa Barbara, February 20, 2016

[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_nello.jpg]110Phogographer Ken Pfeiffer said Nello wines were one of his favorites of the evening (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_characters.jpg]20Striking a pose at the open air photo booth (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_cebada.jpg]40Winemaker Sandra Newman of Cebada Wines (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_madrone.jpg]60Pouring Madrone Wines (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_cielito.jpg]50Nosh from Cielito (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
(Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_westerly.jpg]40Winemaker Adam Henkel of Westerly Wines (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_press.jpg]60Lisa Osborn with Sue Foley and Lauren Bray of Ed Hat
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_girls.jpg]90
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_sunstone.jpg]50
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_couple.jpg]40
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_blush_0.jpg]40
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_lief-and-company.jpg]60Melinda Gandara, Gretchen Lieff, Lisa Osborn (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_gretchen-and-friend.jpg]70Gretchen Lieff of Lieff Wines with Kevin Speer, general manager of the Coral Casino (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_krug.jpg]40Pouring Charles Krug
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_crowd.jpg]40
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_son-and-friend.jpg]50Ashley with Nick Brander

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Santa Barbara Wine Industry Ages Well

Santa Barbara County adds another AVA with Los Olivos, bringing the total number of distinctive wine growing areas to six. (Photo Traffic411)

Santa Barbara County adds another AVA with Los Olivos, bringing the total number of distinctive wine growing areas to six. (Photo Traffic411)

We’re barely into 2016, and it’s already been a good year for Santa Barbara wine industry.

In January, the federal government awarded Los Olivos its own AVA (American Viticultural Area). The designation recognizes a wine-grape growing region as being distinct from surrounding areas in climate, soil and geographical features.

Tune-in to my podcast with Fred Brander of Brander Vineyards and Morgen McLaughlin of the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association

“I think each place in the Santa Ynez Valley has its own right area for different varietals,” said winemaker Fred Brander. The owner of Brander Vineyards led the decade-long effort to achieve the AVA designation for Los Olivos.

“Bordeau varieties mainly do well (in Los Olivos), certainly Sauvignon  Blanc…. the reds have been longer to perfect, namely Cabernet Sauvignon…. it’s a matter of applying some really careful viticulture.” Brander, who has a background in chemistry, was one of the first winemakers to plant grapes in the Santa Ynez Valley 40 years ago.

Fred Brander, owner of Brander Vineyards, was one of the first winemakers to plant grapes in the Santa Ynez Valley 40 years ago.

Fred Brander, owner of Brander Vineyards, was one of the first winemakers to plant grapes in the Santa Ynez Valley 40 years ago.

“When Cabernet is grown right, it can make some great wine,” added Brander. “Of course it has to be grown in Los Olivos. You can’t probably make the best Cabernet in Santa Rita.”

Brander explained the new Los Olivos AVA covers “the area between Happy Canyon and Ballard Canyon with the Santa Ynez River being the southern boundary, and for the northern boundary we picked the 1000 foot elevation.”

“It’s very exciting to have a new AVA, because it provides more clarity and more spotlight on our unique growing region,” said Morgen McLaughlin, executive director of Santa Barbara County Vintners Association. “Santa Barbara is one of the most unique growing regions in the world. Having a new AVA helps us to better tell the story.”

McLaughlin explains that Santa Barbara County is different than other California wine countries. “Most regions are more similar, in that they have one or two signature wine grape varieties. We are blessed in Santa Barbara in that we have more than 50 varieties that do so well.”

Anyone who has spent much time in Santa Barbara County has probably noticed that wines have become big business, and a tourist magnet. A new economic impact report revealed that the wine industry adds more than $1 billion annually to the Santa Barbara County economy.  McLaughlin says even she was surprised by the eye-popping number.

“The report shows that our wine and grape industry provides…. $1.7 billion annually to economic vitality to the county……  That’s not only from wine making, but it’s also from grape growing, tourism, the restaurant business, those who sell and pour Santa Barbara County wines, retailers, tour companies. There’s a lot of different small businesses that benefit from the wine industry in the county.”

“Santa Barbara remains the most exciting wine country area in all of California,” said Brander.

Los Olivos becomes the sixth AVA for Santa Barbara County, distinguishing itself from Santa Ynez Valley, Happy Canyon, Ballard Canyon, Santa Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley wine growing areas.

Interested in staying strong and healthy?  Subscribe to my new podcast Lisa.FM Thrive! on iTunes, Blubrry, Stitcher, Libsyn, or listen on Tune-In and AromaThrive.com. Thanks in advance for sharing this podcast with your friends, rating the podcast and posting reviews!

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SB Fork & Cork Classic

guy hamilton and crowd

2nd Annual Santa Barbara Cork and Fork Classic at the Montecito Country Club (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

good time

Enjoying the beautiful day (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

The weather was perfect for enjoying an afternoon of world class sips and bites at the Santa Barbara Fork and Cork Classic, presented by Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.

The Kobe beef meatballs prepared by chefs from the Four Seasons were hard to beat. But, ravioli from Via Maestra 42, a Santa Barbara local favorite, was over-the-top yum!

Industrial Eats served salmon tacos, cut from the whole fish. Los Arroyos, Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar, Sama Sama Kitchen and Paxti’s Pizza were there, too.  There were also plenty of sweet treats.  

Fish tacos don't get much fresher than this, from Industrial Eats in Buellton (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Fish tacos don’t get much fresher than this, from Industrial Eats in Buellton (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Many of the area’s best winemakers poured some of their crowd-pleasers, from Richard Sanford’s Alma Rosa to Zaca Mesa.  Carpinteria’s Island Brewing Company featured two beers, including its Island Blonde, on tap.

The 'cork' in this year's Cork & Fork Classic, winemaker Blair Fox (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

The ‘cork’ in this year’s Cork & Fork Classic, winemaker Blair Fox (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Island Brewing Company, a Carpinteria staple, broke up the wine cartel serving two beers on tap. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Island Brewing Company, a Carpinteria staple, broke up the wine cartel, serving two beers on tap. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Chef Justin West of Julienne and winemaker Blair Fox of Blair Fox  Cellars were event honorees, recognized for their support of the SB Foodbank and the local community. 

West told me how he raised more than $14,000 for the SB Foodbank.  Much of that money came from a $10,000 grand prize from a contest held by the James Beard Foundation. The competition involved gathering the most social media posts. Chef Justin himself convinced the most diners to take a pic and post online, he even had to educate some Julienne guests about what a ‘hash tag’ was. For many, it was their first social media post.

Chef Justin West of Julienne  in Santa Barbara, was this year's chef honoree. He roasted two whole pigs for the event. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Chef Justin West of Julienne in Santa Barbara, was this year’s chef honoree. He roasted two whole pigs for the event. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

West said he was astonished that he won, because his restaurant was the only Santa Barbara restaurant in the competition, and he was up against multiple big-city restaurants from coast to coast. “Sometimes when  you’re smaller it’s easier to galvanize people,” he said. 

Judging by the sold out attendance, with most silent auction items going for their market value, this was a successful event for the SB Foodbank, who serves more than 300 local non-profits.

Spirits were high on the upper lawn of the Montecito Country Club as guests sipped, noshed and danced to the classic hits from the Temptations to Lynyrd Skynyrd, courtesy of Music by Bonnie.

Groovin' to the DJ tunes on a gorgeous Sunday (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Groovin’ to the DJ tunes on a gorgeous Sunday (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Bonnie and her DJ from Music by Bonnie entertained the crowd with a soundtrack of classic hits. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Bonnie and her DJ from Music by Bonnie entertained the crowd with a soundtrack of classic hits. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

This may just be my new favorite Santa Barbara area food & wine event, because it wasn’t overwhelmingly large. It was easy to get around and sample many of the offerings, see friends and enjoy the beautiful weather.

Photographer Eric Roland working overtime to get a bunch of great shots (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Photographer Eric Roland working overtime to get a bunch of great shots (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Me and super-photographer Ken Pfeiffer, enjoying the day.  (Photo Eric Roland)

Traffic411 ‘super-photog’ Ken Pfeiffer and me, enjoying the day. (Photo Eric Roland)

With PR whiz Kerry Allen at the Fork & Cork Classic, to benefit the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County (photo Ken Pfeiffer)

PR whiz Kerry Allen with Lisa at the Fork & Cork Classic, to benefit the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County (photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Prisciilla of "Santa Barbara Seen", who is usually behind the camera, lifts a glass with me at the SB Fork and Cork Classic. (Photo by Ken Pfeiffer)

Prisciilla of “Santa Barbara Seen”, usually behind the camera, raising a glass (and fork) with me at the SB Fork and Cork Classic. (Photo by Ken Pfeiffer)

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