What could get more California Wine Festival, Santa Barbara edition, held this past weekend, than this view? How much could anyone argue with that?
True enough, there's so much going on--vendor booths hawking clothes, cakes, candles and more, a "Best Tri-Tip in the 805" competition, live Caribbean music from the band Upstream, booths offering beer--its emphasis is almost more on fest than wine. But wine ultimately is all about good times, making memories, enjoying. So the Festival had that down.
Not to downplay the wineries present. The event really does span the state, from Navarro Vineyards in Anderson Valley all the way to a host of wineries from Temecula with a stop at the Tri-Valleys tasting table (that's Livermore, btw), so you could taste all sorts of varietals. It does provide a kind of odd portrait if you hope to make some more conclusive opinions about the vinous state of our state, but there was plenty delicious to be had, from old faves like Navarro and Napa's Cuvaison and Paso's Austin Hope to newer discoveries (at least for me) like Mizel Estate, in the Malibu AVA, or Goldschmidt Vineyards, pouring elegant, built for aging Bordeaux varietals from Alexander Valley and Oakville.Call me a homer, but of course some of the best showing pours came from right here in Santa Barbara, and I could have happily camped at the Santa Rta. Hills Wine Alliance table, which kept bringing out different wonderful gems as the afternoon went on, from Loubud sparkling to Pinot Noir from Dragonette, Brewer-Clifton, and Montemar. When I wind up turning one down as it's just an SRH and not a Radian Vineyard, well, we are pretty lucky, you know?
The main section of the fest certainly offered plenty for carnivores, what with all the samples for the tri-tip contest right inside the gate (each festival-goer got a vote). Other food was dotted throughout the spaciously laid out area in Chase Palm Park, giving people plenty of room (even if there's always somebody who parks himself--yes, it's generally a dude--at the front of the wine sample line to chat and drink through, folks behind him be-damned). Some you could buy--those cakes at SiSi Cakes sure looked delicious--and some you could sample, as they lured you into a purchase, like the super tasty crackers at Savory Bites.
We were lucky enough to score VIP tickets, and that section of the festival offered even more upscale eats, even better, more from Santa Barbara, too. (OK, I really am a homer.) From Blue Owl's fried rice to Finch & Fork's wheat blini with Santa Barbara Smokehouse salmon, green olive, agro dolce, and bachelor button, many a taste tempted. Special credit to Finch & Fork for making something you could just pop in your mouth--people don't think through the ease of eating issues for festivals enough. Sure, it's great be generous, but if half the bigger bite you prepared ends up on my shirt, I won't think super kindly of you, restaurateur.