The 15th annual California Wine Festival saw an array of wineries, breweries and food purveyors gathered amidst a classic summer day in sunny Santa Barbara. Taking place in downtown Santa Barbara, literally steps from the beach, the festival attracted a fun-loving crowd that perused from tent to tent, different tastes in tow every step of the way.
Many familiar labels and storefronts from years past returned for repeat performances, accompanied by a few new faces. And as the festival’s name reveals, wines were the star of the show, with free-flowing red, white, rose, champagne and sangria. Wineries included 3 Steves, Miner Family Winery, Ferguson Crest, One Madrone, McGrail Vineyards, Rutherford Wine Company, Wood Family Vineyards and Vinemark Cellars among many others.
Beer lovers found themselves right at home as well, with breweries gaining a stronger presence year after year. Everything from Mexican lagers and red ales to hoppy IPA’s and avocado ginger compilations made for an intriguing and palate-pleasing addition to the wine scene. Featured brewers included Unibroue, Santa Barbara Brewing Company, Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Island Brewing Company, The Brewhouse in Santa Barbara, Firestone Walker and M. Special.
While food isn’t a namesake feature of the festival, a scattering of culinary vendors kept libations in check. Enterprise Fish Co., Hippy Pop Popcorn, Oat Bakery, Hoppy Fused Food, and Santa Barbara Woodfire Catering represented some of Santa Barbara’s local food scene, joined by larger brands such as Kerrygold and Gelson’s.
Be on the lookout for the next California Wine Festival, with events taking place across Southern California year-round. Visit CaliforniaWineFestival.com for more info.
Art Beyond the Glass, a cultural celebration of all things cocktails and the bar staff who make them, brought together a myriad of mixology talent at Silver Lake’s Los Globos nightclub. Raising funds for the Women’s Center for Creative Work, this charity event featured not just masterfully-created cocktails, but singing, dancing and fine art from the bartenders themselves.
This year’s celebration placed a special focus on Southern California’s top women in the industry. Bartenders such as Emily Alexander [The NoMad, DTLA], Adele Stratton [Jayne’s Gastropub, San Diego], Valerie Erickson [Bar Mercado, LA], and Gigi Dail [UNION, Mid-Wilshire] were just a few of a long list who poured drinks that stretched the brink of liquid creativity. Joining them were colleagues that showcased additional artistic talents, such as photographer/bartender Christina Russo [Castaways, Burbank], painter Kecia Hook [Little Sister, DTLA], and burlesque dancer Evalee Gertz [Las Perlas, DTLA].
Creativity flowed as freely as the drinks themselves, with Aviation Gin’s ‘flight attendants,’ Bacardi’s canned cocktails and Edinburgh Gin’s ‘La Croix Boys’ as just a few of the event’s visual and experiential focal points. Additional sponsoring brands included Ilegal mezcal, Lillet wine, Born & Bred vodka and Mulholland Distilling whiskey. For more information, visit ArtBeyondTheGlass.com
The Santa Clarita BBQ and Beer festival saw continued expansion in its third year, building on its namesake food and drink with an elevated entertainment focus. Country music star Billy Currington headlined the two-day festival, bringing with him a sea of cowboy hats, plaid shirts and leather boots that gave the festival a true identity for the first time, and one that will inevitably take it further down the country route for years to come.
Another part of the festival’s remodel was the addition of an ‘a la carte’ program to Friday’s bottomless beer offering. Two tents hosted dozens of breweries featuring endless pours, as well as additional stands throughout the venue that worked on a drink ticket system. In both cases, the crowd had no shortage of options. Several local favorites highlighted the lineup—Brewery Draconum, Wolf Creek Brewery, Pocock Brewing Co. and The Dudes’ Brewing Company—showing some exciting development in Santa Clarita’s beer scene. Lagunitas, Shock Top, Firestone Walker and Angel City Brewery were just a few major players on the festival’s growing list of purveyors.
Barbecue was, of course, ever-present. Carter’s Smoked BBQ dished out their heavenly pulled pork and jaw-dropping grande nachos, while Ambience Catering served up some mean hot links and tri tip. Panchos Nachos and Tacos prepared some excellent bbq beef made especially for the event, accompanied by street tamales and other south-of-the-border favorites. Burt’s garlic fries were certainly a crowd favorite, their aroma bringing in a steady stream of patrons
The festival drew its biggest crowd to date, with a venue nearly four times the size compared to years past. The concert stage, previously tucked away in a corner, took its place front and center this time around, majestically flanked by the hilly landscape. Two enormous fields in Santa Clarita’s Central Park were more than enough to accommodate all the cowboy-clad shenanigans that took place, and you’re always pleasantly reminded that you’re in a family-oriented town when you leave a beer festival and there’s a youth soccer game taking place on the other side of the fence.
For more information, visit bbqandbeerfestival.com
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.