On June 24, more than 1,000 food and wine aficionados gathered on the beautiful grounds of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History for its Wine + Food Festival, now in its 30th year. As always, top winemakers personally poured their vintages, but new this year was an emphasis on the food component, as well. Thirty-two food purveyors, many with their chefs on hand, joined 67 wineries (65 from Santa Barbara County). The event raised around $100,000 for the museum’s exhibits and education programs.
The spacious oak-shaded grounds along Mission Creek provided the perfect backdrop for this refined and fun affair. While guests certainly enjoyed the wine being poured by iconic winemakers such as Richard Sanford (Alma Rosa Winery), Jim Clendenen (Au Bon Climat), Doug Margerum (Margerum Wine Company), Fred Brander (Brander Vineyard), and Rick Longoria (Longoria Wines), there was also a lot of buzz about the exquisite and bountiful culinary offerings. Chef Michael Hutchings’s cultured abalone with dill and tomato chardonnay butter was heavenly, so too were Barbareno’s avocado gazpacho, Finch & Fork’s scallop crudo, and private chef Scott Wallace’s risotto with New Zealand wild boar, herbed lamb, and wild mushrooms. For fans of bubbly, there was a section called “Sparkling Way,” complete with its own culinary delicacies.
Richard Sanford related how he has never missed this event over its more than 30-year history. He reminisced about how shortly after he started Sanford Winery, he hadn’t gotten around to designing a label, so he humbly poured at the first festival from unlabelled bottles. As a former boardmember, Sanford has a special place in his heart for the museum.
Jim Clendenen, who has missed only one of the 30 events, has a similar level of enthusiasm for the festival and the museum. According to Clendenen, the festival is a beautiful tasting in a phenomenal setting, where he gets to visit with old friends and support a museum that is so valuable to the community.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, with 6,200 members and more than 100,000 visitors each year, has 10 indoor exhibit halls focusing on regional natural history including astronomy, birds, insects, geology, mammals, marine life, paleontology, plant life, and the Chumash Indians. The museum also has a planetarium, research library, and art gallery. Its outdoor facilities, spread about its 17-acre riparian oak woodland campus, include a nature trail, a Chumash garden, a Butterfly Pavilion, and a blue whale skeleton. The museum also includes the Sea Center on Stearns Wharf.
The Museum has an extensive Education Division. Its School and Teachers Services Division brings more than 20,000 K-6 Central Coast students annually to the museum for a two-hour onsite program. Five other divisions provide a wide array of programming for children, teens and adults.
The museum does preservation and research work with a collection of about 3.5 million objects that embody the region’s natural history. There is much excitement about the museum’s latest exhibit, Bugs …Outside the Box, featuring giant bug sculptures that allow viewing the creatures without a microscope. For more information about the museum, go to sbnature.org.
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