At the 13th annual California Wine Festival held July 14-16, wine lovers enjoyed three major wine-tasting events that featured more than 70 wineries representing every wine region in California and several microbreweries, as well.
Santa Barbara wineries were well represented by Beckmen Vineyards, Westerly Wines, Alma Rosa Winery, Melville Winery, and many others. A contingent from Napa included Rutherford Wine Company, Rombauer Vineyards, and Peju Province Winery.
The signature event was the Saturday-afternoon Beachside Wine Festival at Chase Palm Park, where 2,600 oenophiles swirled, sipped, and enjoyed a perfect seaside setting. Upstream provided lively Caribbean music, and many restaurants offered gourmet appetizers.
A few winemakers were on hand Saturday and eager to share the stories behind the wines they were pouring. Carol Shelton from Carol Shelton Wines in Sonoma County related how she loves this event because of the nice, mellow crowd and good mix of wineries from all over the state.
When asked about this year’s harvest, she explained that there was an early bud break in her Sonoma and Mendocino vineyards and she is expecting an early harvest. The heavy rains caused some mildew issues that may reduce the crop size somewhat, but she is otherwise optimistic about the harvest.
Steve Ziganti, one of the winemakers and owners of 3 Steves Winery in Livermore, was pouring his zinfandels and other varietals. He noted that after four years of drought, he is quite pleased with the significant rainfall his Livermore vineyards received this past winter and is expecting a very good crop this year.
The festival kicked off Thursday evening with a much more intimate event, the Old Spanish Nights Wine Tasting held in the historic Casa de la Guerra courtyard. While sipping wines and enjoying generous appetizers from food purveyors, guests were treated to a flamenco dance performance and Latin sounds from Ybarra Flamenco Dancers and Music.
The Sunset Rare & Reserve Tasting held Friday evening featured tastings at the carousel at Chase Palm Park along with gourmet appetizers and music by Rocky’s Revival. The event also included a silent auction, which raised $5,000 for the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.