Alfresco Peeps

Museum of Natural History Wine Festival Returns

Text and photos by Shannon Kelley Gould

When Meredith Moore called to invite me to the return of the Wine Festival— Santa Barbara’s original wine festival, which returned this year after a six-year hiatus — at the Museum of Natural History last Saturday, I had to consider. Now, as we’re all pretty much aware, it’s not that I have anything against wine, or nature, but my family was going to be in town to help me celebrate the first anniversary of my 30th birthday, and I wasn’t entirely sure they’d be into the idea. It turned out to be a pretty easy sell — my family’s response to the notion of an afternoon spent outside, wandering the museum’s beautiful grounds, while drinking wines from more than 30 local vintners and tasting all sorts of yummy snacks, was an unequivocal, “Well, duh!” We were in.

But around noon on Saturday, we found ourselves in a bit of a pickle. Ever since The Doghouse appeared on Milpas Street, it has become a major draw for the ol’ fam: I started getting emails with the subject line “Who let the dogs out??” from the Nor Cal-based Kelleys midway through the week, and I promised them we’d make it out for a dog. A mere two hours before the Wine Fest was to kick off, they began to chant: “Doghouse, Doghouse.” Thinking of how to settle them down, I told them, “Trust me, there’s going to be a ton of great food at this thing.” They were saddened, but ultimately conceded the point, and agreed to skip the wieners.

We arrived at the museum right as the event was getting rolling, checked in, and made our way outside, taking a left at the fork. The sight was mildly overwhelming: Cambria and Whitcraft and Foxen, oh my! It was like we’d stepped into Sideways’s Miles’s wet dream.

I pawned off my glass and plate to my non-working kin to do a little peeping, and rejoined the crew for a delicious brie, caramelized onion, and cherry quesadilla from Pure Joy catering, and a lesson in pinots from Kimberly of J. Wilkes winery. Our final stop in that area was at Au Bon Climat, where Jim Clendenen kept our laughs coming and our glasses full. The other side was equally spectacular: We found Jaffurs — where Matt Brady again hooked us up with the good stuff he’d stashed under the table — Sunstone, and Flying Goat, whose owner, Pam Yost, shares my birthday. (“That makes four of us!” we said in unison, a little Gemini humor.) Around that time, things began to get a bit silly; my sister and I left the group to hustle up some cheese, and returned to find my Dad chatting with Leona Mourad, an adorable, hilarious woman who can name the 80 popes, the 43 presidents, and the 58 counties of California, and was all too happy to do so. I did my best to convince her that she had a future on Jeopardy!, but she seemed content to bust out her cache of almanac-like knowledge at parties. (How many Pope Urbans have there been? Leona knows.)

And then, on our way out, we saw them. In the middle of this elegant affair, there they were: Tony and Vinny from the Doghouse, frying up mini corn dogs. It wasn’t a mirage, and before you could say sauerkraut, we were in dog heaven. The perfect ending to a perfect day.

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