The Taste of Spring theme was beautifully tied together – from the elegant location to the exquisite chocolate and fabulous wine. Lively and fun music by Nanda and John Douglas & Friends set the mood while guests enjoyed delicious food provided by Rincon Beach Club & Catering, satiating wines from some of California’s top wineries, among them Rideau Vineyard, Imagine Wine and Palmina and delectable chocolate creations from local chocolatiers & pastry chefs including Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, Twenty-Four Blackbirds Chocolate, Sweet Emily’s Bake shop and Rincon Catering.

During the VIP reception, guests delighted in food and wine pairings: Star Lane Vineyard poured their 2009 Sauvignon Blanc which was paired with Rincon Catering’s delicious Halibut Casablanca. Dierberg Estate Vineyard poured their 2008 Pinot Noir paired with Jessica Foster’s truffles.

Chocolate de Vine featured a judged competition of the chocolatiers’ creations, including the following categories: Best Tabletop Presentation, Outstanding Flavor Appeal-Chocolate Desserts, Outstanding Flavor Appeal-Chocolates, and People’s Choice. The judging was performed by chocolate experts: Jessica Foster, owner of Jessica Foster Confections, Mark Broillard, owner Fresco Santa Barbara @ Five Points, and Lys Gabriella Poet, private chef. Guests voted for their favorite dessert, the People’s Choice award, as they continued to sample delicious wines from local wineries such as Brewer-Clifton, Tercero Wines and Oreana Winery.

Daniel Sampson, Executive Pastry Chef, and Zi Nugen, Pastry Chef from Bacara Resort and Spa, took home the People’s Choice award as well as Outstanding Flavor Appeal-Chocolate Desserts for their Chocolate Banana Crunch comprised of Almond Chocolate Cake and Apple Roasted Banana Brulee.

Best Table Top Presentation was awarded to Renaud’s Patisserie & Bistro’s Renaud Gonthier, owner and Executive Pastry Chef, and Jien Jeanot, Pastry Chef.

Tom Neuhaus, owner and chef of Sweet Earth Chocolates from San Luis Obispo took home the award for Outstanding Flavor Appeal-Chocolates.

As guests sipped wines from Whitcraft and Giessinger, they bid on a variety of auction items including wonderful getaways to Puerto Rico and Spain.

The Chocolate de Vine event benefits the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center (SBRCC). Founded in 1974, the SBRCC supports survivors of sexual assault by providing a 24-hour hotline, crisis and long-term counseling, self-defense programs, and sexual assault prevention and education programs. All services are available in English and Spanish.

The event was a great success, thanks to generous donors and helpful volunteers. Guests walked away with a commemorative wine glass, full stomachs, and bright smiles. This is an event not to be missed next year.


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