Santa Barbara Wine Festival guest George Hammerlie Bernard enjoys a chardonnay tasting from Sandra Newman of Cebada Vineyard & Winery. (Rochelle Rose / Noozhawk photo)

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iSociety: Rochelle Rose

It’s hard to pop a cork these days without hitting a wine festival on the Central Coast. But the Santa Barbara Wine Festival is a cut above the rest. In fact, Santa Barbara’s first wine festival just celebrated its 25th year.

Saturday’s skies were a little cloudy so the temperature was mild for the 900 attendees who made up the sold-out crowd at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s oak tree-studded grounds along Mission Creek. By the end of the afternoon, some raindrops were felt by the satiated supporters.

Everyone from Alma Rosa to Zaca Mesa was there in the vintner department, often with the winemakers themselves pouring.

“I was here for the first festival and here I am today, over 20 years later,” Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat told Noozhawk. “I am proud to be part of this festival.”

There were vintners participating from all ends of the spectrum. As an example, Clendenen decided along with Adam Tolmach to start a winery dedicated to Burgundian varietals in leased quarters. Through careful reinvestment from its own production, Au Bon Climat has grown to more than 50,000 cases annually. Au Bon Climat sources fruit from several of the most highly regarded vineyards in the Central Coast. These include Clendenen’s own Le Bon Climat Vineyard and estate plantings at Bien Nacido Vineyard — both in the Santa Maria Valley — Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in Sta. Rita Hills, Los Alamos Vineyard (Santa Barbara County) and San Luis Obispo County’s Talley Vineyards.

Along with many other honors, Clendenen was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America” in 2007.

Also participating was new winemaker Sandra Newman, who is the proprietor and winemaker of Cebada.

“I got into winemaking because is am a horticulturist,” Newman said. “I love to make things grow. I have grown berries and many other things. But growing grapes gave me the opportunity to make a wonderful product wine. Cebada now produces pinot noir and chardonnay. I am doing marketing to promote my vineyard and winery in Lompoc and my tasting room in downtown Santa Barbara.”

Among the 63 participating wineries were Alexander & Wayne, Andrew Murray Vineyards, Arthur Earl, Avelina Wine Co., Babcock Winery, Beckmen Vineyards, Bedford Winery, Black Sheep Finds/Holus Bolus, Blair Fox, Brander Vineyard, Brewer-Clifton, Buttonwood, Byron, Cambria, CORE, Crawford Family Wines, Daniel Gehrs Wines, Dierberg Estate Vineyard, Epiphany Cellars, Falcone Family Vineyards, Feliz Noche Cellars, Fess Parker Winery and many others.

Joining the wineries were more than 30 food purveyors, from Arch Rock to Truffle Gateau. Ca’ Dario’s Foodie Award–winning sage-butter ravioli was presented, as well as scrumptious desserts from Jessica Foster Confections, Renaud’s Patisserie & Bistro, Coveted Cakery and others.

Prior to the public tasting, museum staff hosted a small VIP reception. President and CEO Luke Swetland thanked the sponsors who covered the event costs.

“One hundred percent of the Wine Festival proceeds support museum programs,” development director Caroline Grange told Noozhawk. “Our goal today is to raise $65,000 or more. We are so grateful to our generous purveyors who donate the wine, refreshments and food tastings.”

The Santa Barbara Wine Festival was sponsored in part by Mission Wealth, Riviera Insurance Services (represented at the VIP reception by Barbara and Chris Hill), Real Water, Classic Party Rentals, Noozhawk and many others.

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History — which includes both the museum, at 2559 Puesta del Sol, and the Sea Center on Stearns Wharf — serves the southern and central coast of California, including the counties of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura. In addition, the museum and Sea Center host approximately 20,000 K-12 students annually and 45,000 students off-site through its Nature Collections lending library.

Click here for more information about the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, or call 805.682.4711. Click here to make an online donation.

Click here for a related article from Noozhawk columnist Judy Foreman.

Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.