When the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association decided not to host a large harvest festival tasting in October, longtime winemaker Morgan Clendenen felt like “it left a hole” in the community. So she decided to organize the Pioneers of Santa Barbara County event, at which more than 20 wineries dating back to the early days will be pouring under one roof.
“The pioneers who started here in the 1970s and early ’80s put their money, blood, sweat, and tears into the belief that this was a premiere wine-growing region of the world,” said Clendenen, who invited Sanford, Foxen, Babcock, Zaca Mesa, and a number of other now-famous brands to participate. “Everybody else has stood on their shoulders. They’re the glue to this region.”
There are a few exceptions, but they each have deep ties, including Drake Whitcraft, whose late father started their family’s brand long ago; Lumen Wines, whose winemaker Lane Tanner was the second female vintner in town; and Kitá Wines, whose winemaker, Tara Gomez, is a Chumash descendant. “The Chumash were here before any others,” said Clendenen. “That has significant historical grab to me.”
The ex-wife of Au Bon Climat founder Jim Clendenen, Morgan started her own viognier-focused brand, Cold Heaven, in 1996. But she’s taking a two-year hiatus from that to focus on a family property in North Carolina, which gave her a tiny bit of spare time to start this event. She wants to make it semi-annual and even take it on the road in the future.
For this premiere event, food will be provided by The Lucky Hen Larder, proceeds will go to Arts Outreach of the Santa Ynez Valley, and there will also be a VIP reception with bubbly. “It will be real Champagne,” said Clendenen. “And we will take a moment to cherish the people whom we’ve lost, like Seth Kunin.”
The Pioneers of Santa Barbara County event is Saturday, November 11, 2-5 p.m., at the Solvang Veterans’ Hall (1745 Mission Dr., Solvang), with a VIP Champagne reception following. Tickets are $38 in advance or $45 at the door, and the VIP reception is an additional $35. See pioneersofsantabarbaracounty.com.