<strong>BUBBLE FEST:</strong> Gabi Larkins of Villa and Vino Divino disgorges a bottle of Potek bubbly as Wine Cask's Branden Bidwell watches.

Courtesy Photo

BUBBLE FEST: Gabi Larkins of Villa and Vino Divino disgorges a bottle of Potek bubbly as Wine Cask's Branden Bidwell watches.

First Bites @ The Mill

Located at the corner of Haley and Laguna streets, The Mill is Santa Barbara’s next stab at a shared food and drink space. Dave Potter’s Potek Winery opened over the summer, Justin West’s Wildwood barbecue restaurant opened quietly last week, and Kristopher Parker’s Third Window Brewery should be pouring beer by January. Expect lots of collaboration between this craft-minded, triple-threat crew, three examples of which I experienced over five recent days.

St. Barbara wine & beer dinner, Dec. 4: Parker cut his brewing chops working with friend Patrick Rue of The Bruery in Orange County, where last year they concocted the Bierbara ale based on an ode to St. Barbara, who is celebrated in the Levant with a dish called “burbara” that, like the beer, combines barley with raisins, apricots, and exotic spice. This year’s version, which uses some of Potek’s ice wine, was served with smoked lamb shank by Wildwood.

Wildwood’s soft opening, Dec. 7: West’s sleek new digs feature a big kitchen, tight bar, and plenty of outdoor seating, where three of us went a little crazy ordering the brisket, pork ribs, shrimp and grits, braised market greens, Frito pie, jalapeño-cheddar sausage, two orders of coleslaw, and a slice of wild berry pie. Go with a group, and share it all is our best advice.

Potek’s sparkling wine demo, Dec. 8: In what will hopefully be for a recurring series of educational events, Potter hosted a select few beverage directors, restaurateurs, retailers, and journalists to taste his full range of sparkling Potek blanc de blancs, from the current 2012 release to the 2015 base wine. That was followed by a quick nip of his forthcoming blanc de noirs and then the chance to disgorge, cork, cage, and take our own bottles home.


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