Full Belly Files: Santa Barbara Wine Shines at Super Bowl

Plus: A Glimpse at the Wine Star Award


This edition of Full Belly Files was originally emailed to subscribers on February 11, 2022. To receive Matt Kettmann’s food newsletter in your inbox each Friday, sign up at independent.com/newsletters.


Santa Barbara Wine Shines at Super Bowl

The Paring, The Hilt, and Jonata are just some of Santa Barbara County brands that will be dominating the menu at Sofi Stadium during this Sunday’s Super Bowl. | Credit: Courtesy

A few weeks ago, I made a half-hearted attempt to get a free ticket to see my San Francisco 49ers play the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship. I’d been invited earlier in the season to see a game at SoFi Stadium due primarily to their impressive list of wines. Most of those are owned by Stan Kroenke, who also owns the Rams (and the Denver Nuggets, and the Colorado Avalanche, and Arsenal Football Club in London, and — no, really, the list does go on and on). 

I thought, “Hey, maybe they’re hosting wine media again and just forgot to send my invite.” They weren’t. In fact, they really couldn’t — when it gets to the playoffs, the seats are mostly owned by the NFL organization. 

That meant my option was buying a ticket somewhere around $650, which I’d prefer to spend on dinner for two (like I am doing this week at Six Test Kitchen in Paso Robles!). So I passed, instead watching on TV as the Niners almost beat the Rams to reach the Super Bowl in a most unlikely season. 

I didn’t bother asking for Super Bowl tickets, but maybe I should have. It turns out that Santa Barbara County wine is now one of the big game’s headliners. 

On Tuesday, I got a press release proclaiming that SoFi Stadium’s culinary operator Legends just unveiled a new wine program that’s dominated by Santa Barbara producers — a full 65 percent of the list. Some of those are the Kroenke brands, such as The Paring, Jonata, and The Hilt, but there are plenty more. They’re grouped into pioneers such as Sanford and Au Bon Climat, trailblazers like Andrew Murray and Lane Tanner, and next-generation brands such as Holus Bolus, Tyler, Chanin, and Deovlet. 

All told, six of the county’s appellations and 21 of our grape varieties will be represented at the Super Bowl this year. 

“Santa Barbara County is a diverse and dynamic wine region that goes head-to-head in quality and artisanal craftsmanship with any wine region in the world,” explained Ryan Tawwater of Legends. 

SoFi’s leadership was equally effusive, as managing director Jason Gannon said they challenged Legends to build a wine program that was as unique to Southern California as the stadium itself. “The program Legends created will introduce a large audience to groundbreaking wines from just north of us in Santa Barbara County,” said Gannon. “We look forward to our guests sampling the unique flavors local to Southern California.”

Most of the remaining wines are coming from California as well, including names like Kosta Browne, Turley, Kistler, Paul Hobbs, and Screaming Eagle, the latter of which Kroenke also owns. On the global front, those with the money can find Gaja, Penfolds Grange, and Dom Pérignon, among other top-shelf brands. 

Maybe next year for me, but I’ll make sure to let you know how Six Test Kitchen goes — hopefully as stunning as this time I visited back in 2016 when chef-owner-visionary Ricky Odbert was cooking out of his parents’ Arroyo Grande garage.

Wine Star Award

Credit: Courtesy

The Super Bowl showcase caps off a big week for Santa Barbara County wine. On Monday, at the Eden Roc resort in Miami, a contingent of winemakers and representatives from Santa Barbara Vintners accepted the Wine Star Award for Wine Region of the Year from Wine Enthusiast

As you know if you’ve ever read this newsletter, I cover Santa Barbara (and the rest of the Central Coast and SoCal) for the magazine. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend this year’s black-tie gala award ceremony for the first time ever due to a scaled-back attendee COVID protocol. That said, I wrote the award article and also wrote the speech that was given on Monday night. 

Of course, I was disappointed not to be able to toast this important award that we all fought so hard for over the years, especially at a venue and city that I’ve come to know well in repeated visits. It was almost surreal to see the photos of my wine colleagues in fancy dresses and slick suits gathered around the shimmering pool, drinking Au Bon Climat, hoisting their glass award high — and not to be there myself. 

But I was also somewhat relieved not to fly across the country at this moment. Plus, I got to hit Mammoth over the weekend instead. My legs still feel that. 

Cheers to Santa Barbara County wine! Hopefully we can throw a party here in the near future. 

From Our Table

Credit: Ashly Othic 

Sticking with the wine theme, in this week’s paper, I finally published my story on Intermezzo by Wine Cask, the upscale dining-yet-casual, rock ’n’ roll concept spearheaded by owner John O’Neill and Chef Josh Brown in this hallowed Anacapa Street restaurant space. 

When they say you can go there and get pizza and a beer, or go there and do a big wine blowout dinner, they’re not joking. The menu hits all the price points, but with all the creativity and care of a white tablecloth situation. Check it out. 


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