iSociety: Rochelle Rose

[Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery from the event.]

Nearly 250 supporters enjoyed a mouth-watering celebration of chocolate and wine at the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center’s fifth annual Chocolate de Vine fundraiser, held at the Santa Barbara Woman’s Club in Mission Canyon.

The event featured a well-attended private VIP reception where guests sampled reserve wines and hors d’oeuvres while enjoying lovely harp music in the background.

Later, more guests poured in through the front entrance and experienced livelier music performed by local favorite R&B band Area 51. Attendees sampled a variety of wines from generous wine purveyors, including Beckmen Vineyards, Brewer-Clifton, Dierberg Estate Vineyard, Dogwood Cellars, Giessinger Winery, Imagine Wine, Oreana Winery, Palmina, Rideau Vineyard, Riverbench Vineyard & Winery, Star Lane Vineyard and Whitcraft Winery. Hearty fare, including carved roast beef, was served by Rincon Beach Catering.

“We have a goal of raising $45,000 at Chocolate de Vine, which is now in its fifth year,” Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center Executive Director Elsa Granados said. “Funds are used for prevention and intervention. Although rape is an issue area that may be hard to hear about, we can still have fun raising funds for it.”

The benefit offered fabulous blossom-themed chocolate creations from local chocolatiers and pastry chefs, including Brasil Arts Café, The French Table, Mama Ganache Artisan Chocolates, Piece of Mind, Renaud’s Patisserie & Bistro, Rincon Catering & Beach Club, Santa Barbara Fudge, Shaybu Chocolates and Sojourner Café.

The Outstanding Chocolate prize went to Shaybu Chocolates, owned by Ashley Platzek.

“I have two little ones at home so I wanted to do something so I could still spend time with them,” Platzek said. “I prepare my chocolates at Fresco and sell them online. Sales have been very good. Part of the name of my chocolate company — Shaybu — comes from my daughter’s name Shayla.”

Platzek was assisted at her nicely decorated booth by another daughter, and look-alike, Lauren Pitts.

A judged competition of chocolate creations was held by a panel that included Jean-Michel Carre from Chocolats du Calibressan, Indera Mortensen from Fresco Café and Lys Gabriella Poet, local private chef. Awards included Best Table Top Presentation, Renaud’s Patisserie & Bistro; Best Flavor Appeal/Chocolate: Shaybu Chocolates; and Best Flavor Appeal/Chocolate Dessert and Table Display: Renaud’s Patisserie & Bistro. The coveted People’s Choice Award went to Mama Ganache Artisan Chocolates.

Later in the evening, master of ceremonies and auctioneer Sean English put some luxurious items up for bid, including a special Hearst Castle getaway.

Sponsors included Venoco Inc., Union Bank, Easy Lift Transportation, Jacqueline Duran, ThinAir Concepts, Ghita Ginberg, HUB International Insurance, Susan Rose and Allan Ghitterman, The Towbes Group, Santa Barbara Women Lawyers, Mary Rose, Impulse Advanced Communications, the Frederic and Lundy Reynolds Foundation, Diane Murphy, Laura Lindsey and many more.

Erin Weber from the Orfelea Foundation headed up the event committee, which also included Kaleen Baker, Mary Cardozo, Charlotte Gullap-Moore, April Howard, June Martin, Sherrill Nickerson, Alex Ornelas, Tom Storm and Devon Vinsonhaler-Johnson, who coordinated publicity.

Also supporting the fundraiser were SBRC board president Mary O’Gorman and board members Amanda Lopez-Solis, Rosa Paredes, Ann Endress, Chris Horowitz, Jovannys Mejia and Cristi Michelon Vasquez.

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson also supported the cause.

“I have attended this event since it started,” she said. “In the 1970s I worked for the District Attorney’s Office. I prepared rape victims to testify at trial. In those days, it was very difficult for rape survivors. And, I was the only woman in the courtroom except for a court reporter.”

She shared photos of her new granddaughter, born on St. Patrick’s Day.

“We have an obligation to make things right for our children in this country,” Jackson said.

The Chocolate de Vine fundraiser benefits the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, founded in 1974 to support survivors of sexual assault. It offers a 24-hour hotline, crisis and long-term counseling, self-defense programs, and sexual assault prevention education programs. All services are offered, regardless of ability to pay, in English and Spanish.

For more information or to donate to the cause, click here or contact Executive Director Elsa Granados at 805.963.6832 or

Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at Follow her on Twitter: @NoozhawkSociety and connect with Noozhawk on Facebook and Pinterest.