2018 Women Winemakers Dinner
Participants in the 2018 Women Winemakers Dinner included most of Santa Barbara County’s pioneering and younger producers. (Deborah Chadsey photo)

The third annual Women Winemakers Dinner returns to celebrate working women with a reception and seated dinner on International Women’s Day on March 8 at K’Syrah Catering and Events in Solvang.

More than 20 winemakers will pour their wines in a pre-dinner tent reception that will include passed appetizers and a cheese table. During the wine-paired meal, a four-course feast will be prepared by some of the region’s best female chefs, restaurateurs and food crafters, among them Chef Brooke Stockwell of K’Syrah, Chef Golzar Barrera with All Purpose Flower, Chef Louise Smith of Louise’s Kitchen Table and To-Go at The Castle, Good Seed Coffee Boutique, Sweet Baking Co., and more to be announced as the date nears, according to Anna Ferguson-Sparks of Stiletto Marketing.

“We expect to seat about 140 for the dinner. The event has sold out in advance during the past two years,” Ferguson-Sparks noted in an email.

A VIP-level ticket for this year’s event will include both the tasting tent and the seated dinner, where guests will be treated to wine pairings by, and conversation with, an exclusive selection of some of Santa Barbara County’s female winemakers. A dessert reception will follow the seated dinner.

The tent reception will begin at 5:30 p.m. and the dinner at 7:30 p.m.

As in prior years, the evening’s proceeds will benefit the Women’s Fund of Northern Santa Barbara County, a giving circle whereby individuals combine money and/or time so that they can have a bigger impact on the causes most important to them. In the past three years, the Women’s Fund of Northern Santa Barbara County distributed $140,000 in grants to organizations serving women, children, the arts and the community.

Karen Steinwachs, winemaker and general manager at Buttonwood Winery & Vineyard in Solvang and owner/winemaker of her own Sea Grape Cellars, co-founded the Women Winemakers Dinner and participates as a winemaker.

“Excitement (in the event) is growing, as are the increasing number of young and upcoming women in winemaking,” she said.

Gretchen Voelcker, owner/winemaker of Luna Hart Wines and the winegrower at Martian Ranch & Vineyard in Los Alamos, said she looks forward to returning to participate for a second year.

“Last year was a really great opportunity for me to get some exposure with people who don’t yet know Luna Hart,” she said. “My booth wasn’t all that busy since I am still lesser known, but the people who did come to taste seemed very surprised and pleased, and I felt very honored to be included.

“It also felt great to finally have Luna Hart Wines recognized as a brand that should be included with the likes of the others represented by the event.”

Lane Tanner is a Santa Barbara County winemaking pioneer and the first independent female producer on the Central Coast. Like Steinwachs, Tanner has been a participant since the event debuted. I asked how she feels seeing so many younger women following in her footsteps.

“I am happy there are so many; it was very lonely for so very long,” she said. “The increase in female winemakers has made it impossible for people to think a good wine from a female is a fluke — or something special. Both are such putdowns.”

Tanner co-owns Santa Maria-based Lumen Wines with Will Henry.

Tanner said she is especially fond of the Women Winemakers reception and dinner because “we have time to talk one on one with many of the people. The guests are more energized at this function than at any function I have attended,” she said. “I love this event! As soon as I get Karen (Steinwachs’) email, I answer ‘yes’ — like within three minutes.”

International Women’s Day has been celebrated worldwide since 1909. In a working environment that sees about 10 percent of the global wine industry as female winemakers, Steinwachs said, “Santa Barbara County boasts a much higher percentage of women winemakers than most places in the world, with nearly double the average.”

Among the participating winemakers and wineries confirmed to date are Steinwachs, Voelcker and Tanner, Alison Thomson of Lepiane Wines, Adrienne St. John of Rideau Vineyard, Angela Soleno of Turiya Wines, Brit Zotovich of Dreamcôte Wine Co., Helen Falcone of Falcone Family Vineyards, Kat Gaffney of Spear Vineyards & Winery, Sarah Holt Mullins of Rancho Sisquoc Winery, Marisa Matela Beverly of Bevela Wines, Sandra Newman of Cebada Wine, McKenna Giardine of E11even Wines, Anna Clifford and Jill DelaRiva Russell of Cambria Wines, Dana Volk of D. Volk Wines, Annie Smith of CNagy Wines and Laura Roach of Loubud Wines.

Click here for tickets. Tasting Tent Tickets, which include appetizers and wine tastings, are $50 per person (plus tax and online processing fees). VIP tickets, which include the tasting tent and the seated, four-course dinner with wine pairings, are $125 per person (plus tax and on-line processing fees). VIP level ticket seating is limited. Advance ticket purchase is required.

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