How many burgers have you eaten yet?
If you’d seen a printed version of the Santa Barbara Independent or Independent.com first thing yesterday morning announcing the launch of our fifth-ever Burger Week, you could have eaten two burgers for breakfast (there are two with eggs!), one for lunch, one for dinner, and one for dessert by now. As you may have read in last week’s Full Belly Files, I already had two under my belt before the week kicked off: the Surf and Turf from Mesa Burger and the Billy Goat from Padaro Beach Grill.
While I am certainly tempted by the Kalua Pork Burger at Live Oak Café and the spicy French-Ethiopian Croquette at Petit Valentien — among the dozen or so other $7 burgers on sale until March 16 — I’ll probably hold off on too many more burgers for now. For that, blame this past weekend of sheer indulgence at World of Pinot Noir, which was held at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara for the first time since the pandemic took hold.
My schedule was basically blurry-eyed early morning ’til exhausted bedtime on both Friday and Saturday. Highlights included attending a lunch hosted by Adam Lee, who was sharing his Clarice and Beau Marchais wines; speaking about the glories of the Sta. Rita Hills on a panel thrown by Walt Wines; moderating a funny while informative, two-hour, 10-wine Garys’ Vineyard panel; and emceeing the dinner focused on celebrating the S.L.O. Coast, which I’ve been touting since 2015. (More on that below.)
Given that the last live WOPN took place in March 2020 — the “beginning of the end” as we morbidly joked — this year’s event marked a symbolic return to a somewhat familiar reality. People were relaxed, most masks were gone, our smiles were genuine — and visible. It felt right to be back at the Bacara sipping on pinot from around the world as the pandemic finally lets most of us breathe a little easier. Hopefully that trend sticks and ushers in a year of many more chances to reconnect with everyone we’ve been missing.
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Raise a Toast to S.L.O. Coast
Back in 2015, just a year after I’d been hired as a contributing editor for Wine Enthusiast, I started reporting a story about the “S.L.O. Coast,” a loosely affiliated band of vineyards and winemakers who produced wine from San Luis Obispo County’s coastal areas. (I may have actually first learned of this group while writing this story in 2014 for the Indy.)
At the time, they were proposing to turn the S.L.O. Coast into an official wine-growing appellation, and I could see why. In a world where many wine appellations are based as much on politics and history as geography and climate, the S.L.O. Coast is a truly unique and unified terroir, with more than 400,000 acres smashed in between the Pacific Ocean and the western ridgeline of the Santa Lucia Mountains.
In 2016, I published this story, which focused primarily on the S.L.O. Coast but also on some spots in Santa Cruz and Carpinteria. I implied that the federal approval of the appellation was imminent, but I was wrong. In fact, the S.L.O. Coast Wine Collective wouldn’t even submit their application until July 2017 and then, well, everyone waited.
This week, almost five years later, thanks to COVID delays and administration changes, the federal government finally approved the S.L.O. Coast as an appellation, known in official-speak as an American Viticultural Area, or AVA. Here is my report on the news for Wine Enthusiast.
This region, which also includes the existing Arroyo Grande and Edna valleys, is very much worth your attention, because its mix of established and emerging brands is about as exciting as California winemaking can be. Though mostly pinot noir and chardonnay, it also includes plenty of aromatic whites and cool-climate Rhônes. The wines are fresh yet intense, a combination that ensures both immediate pleasure and long-term life.
For those interested in learning more, I’ll be moderating a couple panels up in Pismo Beach on April 2 as part of the S.L.O. Coast Wine Classic, which has events that entire weekend. Get tickets here.
From Our Table
In addition to Burger Week, this week’s paper and website includes the following food & drink articles:
- We got the exclusive on The Society: State & Mason, which is the new Santa Barbara headquarters for the Foley Food & Wine Society. It’s located inside the Hotel Californian, which financier-vintner Bill Foley bought last year. George Yatchisin serves us his scoop.
- In this week’s print rendition of The Restaurant Guy, John Dickson reports on a second barbecue joint to open in one week. The first was Goodland BBQ in Old Town Goleta, and the latest is Beans BBQ on State Street. Tune into John’s reporting here.
- And though not in print, this report on last Sunday’s Women Winemakers Celebration showcases some of the newer faces on Santa Barbara County’s food & wine scene. It’s also the first story filed by Santa Barbara native Vanessa Vin, who is the first recipient of our BIPOC Fellowship in Food & Drink Writing, sponsored by the Mickey Flacks Journalism Fund under SBCAN.
Also, not to get too confusing with Burger Week in our midst, but we also posted this story by Rebecca Horrigan on XO Santa Barbara’s XO Deluxe Burger. It will be in print at some point, but we need to give Burger Week some breathing room.