It’s a weekend for wine lovers, with three major tasting festivals across Santa Barbara County and a winemaking supergroup publicly unveiling its cutting-edge project in the Funk Zone.
BACON & BARRELS: When Holly Holliday of Create Promotions decided to pair bacon dishes with wine, beer, and liquors made in wooden barrels, she struck food-fest gold — not only were most of the vendor slots claimed within 24 hours, but the entire 1,200-person event sold out within two weeks, with the $200 VIP tickets the first to go.
“We wanted to create, build, and maintain a marquee event for the Santa Ynez Valley,” Holliday recently told me as we sampled a bacon ’n’ panzanella salad (by Sides Hardware and Shoes), a kurobuta pork belly roast (Ballard Inn), and “papitas gravitas” (a Spanish potato-bacon dish by Louise’s Kitchen Table) alongside bottles from participating pourers including Saarloos & Sons (the host venue), Cold Heaven, Liquid Farm, Refugio Ranch, Sunstone, Figueroa Mountain Brewing, and Ascendant Spirits. Altogether, there are nearly 40 beverage purveyors and more than 20 restaurants serving on Saturday (noon-5pm) at the Saarloos & Sons Field in the Santa Ynez Valley, where chefs will test their mastery of the bacon arts to be crowned the “Jefe del Porko.” There’s also a mixology competition, music from the Mother Corn Shuckers, and an all-ages piggy petting zoo. “You can see where your food comes from,” said Holliday, who almost went into hog brokering as a career (really), “and cuddle with it.”
CHARDONNAY SYMPOSIUM: For 40 years, world-class chardonnay has been coming out of Santa Maria Valley vineyards, and this fourth-annual conference mixes eye-opening education with gourmet indulgence to focus on the region’s past, present, and future. It’s a must-do for fans of inspired white wine, and if you’re still stuck in the anything-but-chardonnay crowd, a chance to throw off those chains of yesteryear.
This year includes a Friday-night tribute dinner to Au Bon Climat founder Jim Clendenen, with Chef Rick Manson cooking and winemaking buddies Bob Lindquist, Rajat Parr, and Gavin Chanin on hand at the historic Bien Nacido Adobe; Saturday-morning panels presided over by Wine Enthusiast editor Steve Heimoff, who’ll lead a discussion on clones at the Santa Maria Radisson; and Saturday’s Grand Tasting at Byron Winery, where more than 50 wineries will pour their top chardonnays.
CALIFORNIA WINE FESTIVAL: In its 10th year, the California Wine Festival kicks off Thursday night with a tasting at Santa Barbara’s Casa de la Guerra, fittingly featuring some Spanish wines, flamenco dancers, and Latin music. On Friday afternoon, Bordeaux varietals get dissected as part of a “cab clinic,” moderated by yours truly and featuring members of the CAB Collective from Paso Robles. That evening, a rare and reserve tasting takes over Chase Palm Park Plaza with trophy bottlings from Napa and Sonoma to the Sierra Foothills and Central Coast. The big event is Saturday’s Beachside Food & Wine Fest (noon-4pm), where hundreds of wineries converge with microbreweries, top chefs, and more.
GOODLAND WINES TACO PARTY: A couple of harvests ago, an all-star team of wine-industry pros teamed up to put Santa Barbara County’s various appellations on individual pedestals. What Matt Dees (Jonata), Dave Potter (Municipal Wine Company and Fess Parker Winery), Ruben Solorzano (Coastal Vineyard Care), and Chris Snowden (Snowden Vineyards) developed was Goodland Wines, which simply lists the area that the grapes were grown on the label rather than the grape varietals themselves. For example, the Ballard Canyon Red is actually a syrah, the Sta. Rita Hills White is a chardonnay, and so forth, much in the manner of Old World wines. “Our aim is to show off what works best in each region,” explained Solorzano, who’ll cook tacos on the grill this Sunday evening, July 21, when the public gets a chance to meet some of these wines at Municipal Wine Company, 22 Anacapa Street, in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone.