Au Bon Climat owner and winemaker Jim Clendenen, Museum of Natural History President and CEO Luke Swetland, and Hartley Ostini Hitching Post owner Gray Hartley | Credit: Gail Arnold

On June 29, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History held its annual Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival. This is a lovely, refined event that is in a whole different league than your average wine festival. Contributing to the exceptional nature of this event are the premium quality and wide selection of wine and food, the prevalence of top winemakers and chefs, and the gorgeous, natural setting. The best part is that the estimated $115,000 in net proceeds support the museum’s nature and science education programs. It’s no wonder that the 900 tickets sold out more than two months before.

The spacious oak-shaded grounds along Mission Creek provided an idyllic, relaxed, and spacious setting to sample offerings from 60+ Central Coast wineries and 40+ area food purveyors. This year, the festival expanded to the recently renovated Museum Backyard, accessible via a lovely stroll alongside the new Sprague Butterfly Pavilion, with breathtaking views of these beautiful creatures in their garden.

Guests chatted with winemakers and chefs, including Jim Clendenen, who has missed only two of the festivals since its inception in 1982. Since he didn’t have his own wine ready to pour the first year, he poured for J. Carey Cellars, and has returned ever since, pouring his own Au Bon Climat. Clendenen related how because of the setting, this is the most beautiful tasting he does anywhere in the country.

Convivo Executive Chef and partner Peter McNee served a heavenly pesce crudo of raw ahi, avocado, and cara cara. Chef Michael Hutchings dished up delectable pan-seared farmed abalone with a white wine, mushroom, and tomato cream sauce as well as lobster and shrimp beignets. Starting August 30, Hutchings will be starring in a new show on Cox Cable, Santa Barbara Chef, that will reach nearly one million households. On the sweet side, highlights included Corazon Cocina’s coconut rice pudding with pineapple salsa and Renaud’s Patisserie & Bistro’s blueberry tart with white chocolate, whipped ganache, and cassis jam.

Founded in 1916, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has 6,450 members and about 125,000 visitors each year. Its collections cover every aspect of natural history— mammals, birds, marine life, geology, astronomy, paleontology, anthropology, and more. In addition to its extensive exhibits, it has a planetarium, research library, and art gallery on its 17-acre campus.

The museum’s 3.5 million specimens that embody the region’s natural history are used for research by 11 curators and by visiting scientists from around the world. Its education programs serve 20,000 children each year through school tours, classes, storytelling, camps, the Nature Collections Lending Library, and outreach.  A range of adult programming is offered as well.

The museum’s successful $20 million Centennial Campaign allowed for new exhibits, refurbished permanent galleries, improved accessibility, and landscape beautification, all of which was unveiled last year.

The recently opened Butterflies Alive! exhibit allows visitors to walk in a beautiful garden among nearly 1,000 butterflies. Another new exhibit, across the wooden bridges spanning Mission Creek, is the Prehistoric Forest, where visitors walk among handcrafted, moving dinosaurs created through animatronics by Kokoro Exhibits. Both exhibits run through September 2. The museum’s John and Peggy Maximus Art Gallery is displaying Strange Science, which features 18th-century engravings and taxidermy specimens, through September 2.

For more info, go to

Send invites to

Volunteer Pedro Magallanes, Special Events Manager Meridith Moore, and Lumen Wines owner/winemaker Lane Tanner
Longoria Wines owner and winemaker Rick Longoria and owner Diana Longoria
Bibi Ji Sous chef Frank Ibarra and owner Alejandro Medina
Nancy Hutterer, former museum President/CEO Karl Hutterer, and Maximus Gallery Curator Linda Miller
Trustee and docent Elaine Gibson and Jerry Gibson

Santa Barbara Chef Host Michael Hutchings and Director William Conlin. The show debuts on Cox Cable August 30.

Renaud’s Patisserie & Bistro Pastry Kitchen Manager Aaron Lesch
Sprague Butterfly Pavilion


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