Thursday, June 7, 2018
Let Those Without Tickets Start the First Whine
I've been writing about the Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival for 11 years, which sounds like a long time, but that only means I've been covering it for slightly more than a third of its history. A mainstay, and fundraiser for the education programs, of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, the SBW+FF has been around so long it even was not at the museum for a couple of years--think of that period as the Avignon Papacy of the festival (yum, Rhone wines!).
Fortunately for the event, and even more so for us, it's been in the incredibly capable hands of organizer Meridith Moore for the last many years, somehow ever out-doing itself. It obviously has a headstart with its setting, the oak groves behind the museum on Mission Creek. You get to feel like a sylvan wood nymph as you enjoy tastes from 50 fine wineries, mostly from SB County, with well-curated space found for a few makers from further north like Toucan and Tablas Creek. Even better, since so many of the region's founding winemakers have been part since the beginning, they've got a sense of loyalty to the event--once it was the only tasting of its type in town (can you imagine? it seems like there's a festival every other weekend anymore). So that Longoria might likely be poured by Rick Longoria, that Alma Rosa by Richard Sanford, that Ken Brown by, oh, you get it by now. It's not one of those, "I'm just a volunteer--I know nothing about wine, let along this wine. I'm just waiting for my pouring shift to end so I can get looped," kind of festivals.
As for that loopiness, if that happens you can only blame yourself, for few such events offer so much food, wait, make that ridiculously delicious food. If I counted correctly there's almost 40 food purveyors (and 50 wineries), and somehow Meridith just keeps adding the hottest spots in the region each year--new adds for 2018 include Blue Water Grill, Goa Taco, and The Little Door. And anyone who went in 2017 has to wonder what Bear and Star will do to outdo itself from last year. From Barbareno to Via Maestra 42, it's a culinary delight; that's why they added Food to the name last year.
I'm not going to praise the event too much, though, as I left the bad news for last...while it happens Saturday, June 30, 2-5 pm, it sold out yesterday. So if you don't have tickets, you're not going to be there. You see, they limit the number, too, to keep it at a buzzy happy size and not a "I hope I get to the front of 5 wine lines this hour" size. It's that good.
Here's a bunch of other times I've written about this, if you need to read up:
Natural History Never Tasted This Good
Away from State Street for Solstice
A Festival from the Winery's Perspective
Under the Oaks
A Museum-Quality Wine Festival