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Laurie Jervis: Wine & Fire to Celebrate Cool-Climate Grapes, Fire-Grilled Foods

The Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance is pulling out all the stops for the annual weekend event, kicking off Aug. 5

Winemakers Adam Lee of Siduri Wines and Kimberly Smith of LaMontagne Wines, seen at the 2015 Barn Party kickoff event, will pour their wines Friday and Saturday evenings for this year’s Wine & Fire weekend.
Winemakers Adam Lee of Siduri Wines and Kimberly Smith of LaMontagne Wines, seen at the 2015 Barn Party kickoff event, will pour their wines Friday and Saturday evenings for this year’s Wine & Fire weekend. (Laurie Jervis / Noozhawk photo)

The annual Wine & Fire weekend, Aug. 5-7, will celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Sta. Rita Hills’ AVA with a focus on the vineyards lining Highway 246, the northern edge of the celebrated region.

“We are pulling out all the stops for a weekend of world-class wines and wood-grilled specialty foods,” said Barbara Satterfield, executive director of the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance, which sponsors the event.

With a total area of 30,720 acres, the Sta. Rita Hills AVA is home to more than 59 vineyards, totaling 2,700 acres planted to pinot noir, chardonnay and 18 other cool-climate wine grape varietals.

Wine & Fire weekend opens Friday evening with a tasting of large-format and library wines, continues Saturday morning with an educational seminar and culminates Saturday evening with the grand tasting.

Many winery members of the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance will offer their own special events or tastings throughout the weekend. Satterfield urged those interested to check the alliance website for updates by clicking here.

There’s a new venue this year for the Friday evening Barn Party and Saturday morning’s seminar — Hilliard Bruce Vineyard, off Highway 246. The winery, open to the public by appointment only, recently named longtime award-winning Sta. Rita Hills vintner Greg Brewer, former winemaker at Melville Winery and co-winemaker of Brewer-Clifton Wines, as general manager. Hilliard Bruce is owned by John Hilliard and Christine Bruce, husband and wife.

Satterfield, who has organized the annual event since 2011, said early this week that tickets remain available for all three sections of the weekend, but they're limited so that “guests are guaranteed an intimate wine and food experience.”

Friday evening’s Barn Party will feature fire-grilled pizzas from Bello Forno, a cheese buffet from Central Coast Specialty Foods and live music by Peter Feldmann and the Very Lonesome Trio.

Single tickets to Friday’s Barn Party or Saturday’s seminar are $85, and tickets to Saturday’s grand tasting are $110. A combo ticket for both the seminar and grand tasting events Saturday is $160. State sales tax and a handling fee apply to all purchases. All tickets are available by clicking here or via the alliance website by clicking here.

In addition, those who purchase either the combo ticket or the Saturday grand tasting ticket will receive a “Wine & Fire Weekend Passport” redeemable at select wineries during the weekend, Satterfield noted.

The seminar from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday will be co-moderated by Philip Carpenter and Wes Hagen, two of the most devoted and enlightened fans of Sta. Rita Hills wines. The seminar will focus on the vineyards that line Highway 246 on the northern edge of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA and offer a retrospective of the region since it was formally designated in 2001.

The Saturday morning seminar, which showcases winemakers and their various wines, will take place this year at the Hilliard Bruce Vineyard.
The Saturday morning seminar, which showcases winemakers and their various wines, will take place this year at the Hilliard Bruce Vineyard. (Bottling Branding photo)

Hagen, winemaker and brand ambassador for J. Wilkes Wines and the former longtime winemaker for Clos Pepe, was one of the vintners who researched the region’s soils, geography and climate before petitioning the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in 1997 for designation as an AVA.

“The Sta. Rita Hills continues to fire the imagination of wine lovers everywhere — it impresses everyone who tastes these wines, and it excites and drives the imagination of serious wine geeks everywhere,” he said.

“If there is a domestic wine production region with more cache with sommeliers and wine writers, I don't know of it. J. Wilkes Wines, based in Santa Maria Valley, now makes a Sta. Rita Hills AVA pinot noir, so my relationship with the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance gets to continue, which I'm thrilled about.”

Hagen’s co-moderator, Carpenter, a California native and writer who currently resides in Witney, Oxfordshire, England, described himself as “honored and excited” to lead the panel.

“Wes has played a major role in my discovery of passion for the Sta. Rita Hills, and the Santa Barbara wine community as a whole. I've always strived to promote the Sta. Rita Hills and to support the AVA and their winemakers in any way possible,” Carpenter said.

The seminar panelists and the vineyards they will represent include Steve Clifton of Machado and John Sebastiano vineyards, Bryan Babcock of Babcock Winery & Vineyards, Karen Steinwachs of the Hibbits Ranch Vineyard, Aaron Walker of Pali Wine Co., Dan Schuler-Jones of Zotovich Vineyards and the host, Hilliard Bruce Vineyard, presented by Bruce.

The Hitching Post II restaurant will prepare a fire-grilled lunch following the seminar, and The Luck will entertain guests with music.

Come Saturday evening, the beautiful and historic La Purisima Mission will again be the setting for the grand tasting, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. More than 40 Sta. Rita Hills wineries, local food vendors and farmers will serve samples of local food specialties and wines, and the Santa Rosa Band will provide music.

Alliance winery members also will be hosting open houses and special events throughout the weekend.

Click here for more details about the event and for ticket information.

— Laurie Jervis blogs about wine at www.centralcoastwinepress.com, tweets at @lauriejervis and can be reached via [email protected]. The opinions expressed are her own.

Guests mingle during the 2015 Barn Party kickoff event at the old barn atop the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard. This year’s event will take place at Hilliard Bruce Vineyard off Highway 246. Click to view larger
Guests mingle during the 2015 Barn Party kickoff event at the old barn atop the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard. This year’s event will take place at Hilliard Bruce Vineyard off Highway 246. (Laurie Jervis / Noozhawk photo)

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