Community is too often a bullshit word, cheaply thrown about to either make people work harder than they are getting paid to work feel better about their crummy jobs or to convince consumers what they're buying is somehow blessed with kindness and not just transactional.
And then there's the rare event like the Sixth Annual Women Winemakers Celebration held on Sunday, March 12 at Mattei's Tavern, Auberge Resorts Collection (that's not as bad as Francis Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula, at least). It really felt special, over 30 Santa Barbara county women winemakers, and 13 culinary participants, and women photographers and musicians and florists and press agents having fun, exhibiting terrific taste and talent, and welcoming all. Like magic the event even had blue skies in this sodden excuse for a Southern California winter that those of us who drove from the ocean side of the mountains figured was just more of the drizzly same.
In her moment before the attentive crowd co-organizer Karen Steinwachs of the terrific Seagrape Cellars said she was spurred into action by Patricia Arquette's call-to-arms Oscar speech in 2015 (this year's fest also happened to be on Oscars Day), and she realized "there are more women winemakers here than anywhere in the world--why not play that card?" Six years in Steinwachs and her team certainly have the play down perfectly, even if she jibed, "Trying to manage sold-out event is much more difficult than selling an event in the first place."
That sell-out was capped at a number that meant plenty of room to move, especially in the gorgeous outdoor grounds at the back of Mattei's (although it's crucial us tall folks duck heading under the scenic, yet low-beamed, water tower). The food-to-drink mix was as smartly designed and thoughtfully ratio-ed as the Santa Barbara Food + Wine Festival at the Natural History Museum back in the days when the wise Meridith Moore ran that delightful event. (And not surprisingly, she was brought in to help organize this one this year.)
The community reached across winemaker generations, with longtime stalwarts like Kathy Joseph of Fiddlehead and Lane Tanner of Lumen pouring alongside names new to me (at least) like Anna Clifford of Final Girl Wines and Alice Anderson of âmevive. And then a long list of some of our regions best winemakers no matter gender: Alison Thomson of Lepiane, Jessica Gasca of Story of Soil, Angela Osborne of A Tribute to Grace (Gasca and Osborne were at the same inspiring table, even), Amy Christine of Holus Bolus and The Joy Fantastic, Rachel DeAscentiis of Say When, Anna deLaski of Solminer. The list could go on and on. Simply put--if there's a wine you like locally, the odds are good a woman made it.
The utter creativity on display also impressed. Sure, you could have a special SRH Pinot at many a table, but then there was the refreshing zest of Dreamcôte's Prickly Pear Hard Apple Cider, or the winningly floral Grüner Veltliner from Camins 2 Dreams, or a tantalizing Sparkling Rosé Méthode Champenoise, in half bottles, of all impractical things as sparkling is just that, from Future Perfect.