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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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Wine & Art Fans Love Santa Barbara’s “2nd Saturdays”

Oreana Winery & Marketplace on Anacapa St. hosts a parking lot party during the Funk Zone Art Walk. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Oreana Winery & Marketplace on Anacapa St. hosts a parking lot party during the Funk Zone Art Walk. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Looking for a fun one-day getaway on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner? Check out “The Funk Zone Art Walk” in Santa Barbara.

It takes place on the second Saturday of every month in the ‘Funk Zone,’ a renovated industrial area that’s now home to galleries, artist lofts, wine bistros and restaurants.

The Santa Barbara Art Foundry hosted a wine reception during the Funk Zone Art Walk in August. I enjoyed looking at their artwork, including several Erte statues. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

The Santa Barbara Art Foundry hosted a wine reception during the Funk Zone Art Walk in August. I enjoyed looking at their artwork, including several Erte statues. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

The Art Walk features an array of unique exhibits, as well as live music, wine, craft beers and more.

When I was there in August, The Arts Fund Gallery hosted a super cool interactive exhibit called “Ruckus,” where guests could create colorful moving images using our voice and body. It was fun experiencing a gallery where you’re actually encouraged to touch the artwork 🙂

Visitors to the Funk Zone Art Walk sample boutique wines at AVA Santa Barbara. The wine bistro is a passion project of winemaker Seth Kunin of Kunin Wines. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).

Visitors to the Funk Zone Art Walk sample boutique wines at AVA Santa Barbara. The wine bistro is a passion project of winemaker Seth Kunin of Kunin Wines. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).

The Funk Zone is located just off of State Street in downtown Santa Barbara. It’s a few blocks from the beach, and a short walk from the Amtrak Station. There are plenty of restaurants, and the ‘main drag’ of State Street is nearby, so if you enjoy walking, there’s plenty of things to see.

And, since the Pacific Surfliner hugs the coast (when you get north of Camarillo), there’s plenty of pretty scenery along the way. This is a fun train adventure for wine and art lovers from Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura and San Luis Obispo.

Pali Wine Co. is one of many comfy spots in Santa Barbara's Funk Zone to relax and enjoy a favorite beverage. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Pali Wine Co. is one of many comfy spots in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone to relax and enjoy a favorite beverage. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Upcoming (2nd Saturday) Funk Zone Art Walks: September 13; October 11; November 8. Click this link for further dates & more information.

Traffic411 Insider Tip: Make your Amtrak reservation in advance, trains get crowded on Art Walk Saturdays.

Distance from LAX: 96 Miles

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