Sunday, October 4 , 2015, 7:50 pm | Partly Cloudy 60º

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Uncorks Wine Festival

80 wineries + 20 restaurants + 1,000 guests add up to a fun-filled evening for the museum's benefit

Online wine seller Teri Love of Gioia Wine at her favorite booth location for the annual Santa Barbara Wine Festival at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
Online wine seller Teri Love of Gioia Wine at her favorite booth location for the annual Santa Barbara Wine Festival at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.  (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

By Melissa Walker, Noozhawk iSociety Columnist | @NoozhawkSociety |

The overcast skies cleared and a sparkling sun highlighted the natural beauty of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History grounds for the Santa Barbara Wine Festival fundraising event on June 25.

More than 1,000 attendees joined together for creekside sipping from more than 80 Central Coast wineries at the sold-out sixth annual event. Proceeds benefited exhibits and education programs at the museum, 2559 Puesta del Sol Road.

Adult-only guests were shuttled in to the museum for free from local school and church parking lots. The museum was closed to the public on this special day and a designated driving program was also part of the positive vibe.

Underneath shady oak trees, guests were offered a glass and a reusable bag to visit various booths and sample from wineries that included Alma Rosa, Au Bon Climat, Cold Heaven, PasoPort, Qupé and Sanguis.

Food samplings from more than 20 local restaurants, caterers, bakers and chefs were also part of the offerings available to attendees along Mission Creek. Some popular food booths were provided by Brophy Brothers, Ca’ Dario, Cupcakes in Wonderland, Via Maestra 42 and Village Modern Foods.

And for a donation of only $20, attendees were provided with an opportunity to win a variety of prizes in “raffle cork” drawings. The delectable prizes included bottles of wine, gift baskets from food vendors, tickets to next year’s Santa Barbara Wine Festival and a Natural History Museum membership.

The highly sought-after raffle gifts were displayed in a temporary “Wine Cellar” created by Bella Vista Designs.

“We wanted to give visitors the idea of being in an Italian grotto,” said Easter Moorman, marketing and public relations manager for the museum.

Lavish maroon drapes hung from the ceiling with yards of chiffon draped to look like a rock wall and large wine barrels positioned around the room succeeded in enhancing the visitors experience.

The raffle sold out in less than an hour and more than 60 items were offered with every “cork” a winner of an average prize of $50. Lucky raffle participants left pleased with their prizes and the opportunity to contribute toward the museum’s fundraising goals.

Attendees and wine connoisseurs basked in their winnings and strolled from booth to booth as they sipped and savored delicious wines and food with the accompaniment of live jazz music by the Montecito Jazz Project, Margie Nelson’s Hungry Girl and solo guitar by Marc Irving Weber, who sat on a railing under the oak trees strumming tunes.

The Wine Festival Committee and more than 150 volunteers donated their time to organize and run the festival. Final fundraising numbers were not yet available, but all signs point to another successful event.

The Wine Festival was started in 1978 by Chris Whitcraft and Jim Fiolak as a fundraiser for the Save Our Seas Foundation and the Museum of Natural History. In later years the festival gained support from Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat and Thekla and Richard Sanford of Alma Rosa who provided the encouragement to grow the festival into its current form.

In this era of difficult budget cuts for California public schools, the museum’s school and teacher services programs annually reach more than 64,000 school children who benefit from ongoing educational programs while the public also benefits from special exhibits, such as the popular Butterflies Alive!

Teri Love of Gioia Wines has been a Santa Barbara Wine Festival vendor for the last four years promoting her Paso Robles specialty wines that she sells over the Internet and to restaurants and specialty stores. Love says the festival is a perfect venue for generating new business.

“I’ve gotten so many great customers from the festival who order from me month after month,” said Love. “The people who come here are terrific and I’ve met so many people here over the years that are now my friends.”

The Santa Barbara Wine Festival wishes to thank Riviera Insurance Services LLC, The Berry Man Inc., Bella Vista Designs Inc., Jana, The Tent Merchant, Whole Foods, the Santa Barbara Independent, Cox, KEYT-3, the Santa Barbara News-Press, Edhat, KDB 93.7 FM, K-LITE 101.7, Live 105.5 FM, Rewind 95.9 FM, Ventana and VC Reporter.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews, and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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