Sunday, August 21, 2011


Celebrating The 10-year anniversary
of the American Virticultural Area

Russ and I kicked off the Wine & Fire Weekend Friday night at D'vine Wine Bar in Lompoc. We got to try some fantastic wines from six of the local winery's and some delicious tapas (a variety of small savory dishes shared communally amongst friends) to complement our wine tasting experience. Chef A.J. prepared some interesting food combinations that were really quite delicious. For example, at Saturdays grand tasting event, he served a Grenache  chocolate torte topped with candied applewood smoked bacon - Who does that? Well Chef A.J.,  and it was out of this world. I had to sample three just to make sure I really liked it! LOL
The Saturday morning setting for the symposium was in the iconic El Jabalí Vineyard at Alma Rosa. It consisted of a diverse panel of pioneers and newcomers, that gave us some very interesting history on the Sta. Rita Hills, and how it has evolved over the past 40 years.  As we sat there sampling some of the finest wines form the area, I could actually feel "the Pacific Ocean fighting with Summer." We got to hear from Richard Sanford (the "Grand Daddy of Sta.Hills") Rick Longoria, Kathy Joseph, Bruno D'Alfonso, Morgan Clendenen, Ryan Zotovich and Ryan Carr. I had heard about "the magic" of the Sta. Rita Hills and how it produces superior wines, but it was nice to hear the story from Richard Sanford himself, and how he discovered this remarkable geographic anomaly. The area owes this magic to an unusual mountain range that runs east to west, from the vineyards to the Pacific Ocean. This passage allows an ebb-and-flow between the mountains and the sea, making it uniquely susceptible to the oceans cooling influence. A typical day in Sta. Rita Hills starts with marine layer clouds and fog, which eventually burns off and then few hours of sunshine until the on-shore winds pick up, cooling things down again. If you are from this area, then you are very familiar with the early morning fog burning off mid-morning and the wind coming up later in the day. We may not love the weather at times but apparently the grapes do. The micro-climate, along with the sedimentary soils, make it one of the most diverse grape growing regions in the world. Although the movie "Sideways" put this area on the map for it's exceptional Pinot Noir, I think the future will see more varietals from this area. They are already planting some smaller crops of Syrah, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Voignier, Pinot Blanc, Grenache and Sauvingnon Blanc just to name a few. In 1997 there was 14 vineyards totaling 500 acres. Today there is approximately 59 vineyards totaling 2,686 acres. I am looking forward to the future of Sta. Rita Hills and all that it will bring to us wine lovers. All I can say is, Napa move over!     

Avant was the restaurant of choice for the venue and for lunch we had a choice of vegetarian, roast beef or chicken salad. I chose the chicken salad with cranberries and candied nuts (so good) served with delicious home-made potato salad. I made a mental note to self to make sure Avant Tapas and Winery, was our first stop on Sunday to try their brunch. 
The Grand Tasting Saturday evening at La Purisima Mission, consisted of over 25 wineries pouring their favorite Sta. Rita Hills selections and various restaurants serving grilled appetizers and deserts. We sampled savory foods from: The Hitching Post, Avant, (with their yummy seared ahi taco's), D'Vine, Ballard Inn, (that served a sumptuous pan seared duck breast and sweet potato puree), Floriono's, Homegrown Cowboy (with his delicious beans), and Rooney's Irish Pub, (that was serving Sta. Rita raised roast suckling pig). Russ and I enjoyed every bite and the weather couldn't have been more cooperative. Our passport allowed us complimentary tastings at many of the local winery's. We wanted to take full  advantage of the great opportunity but first stop was Avant Tapas and Wine in Buellton. After a wonderful brunch we headed out to try a few of the wineries on our list. What a fantastic weekend! Barbara Satterfield, who spear-headed the entire event, did a such a fabulous job and everything went off without a hitch. In fact Russ said and I quote "this was one of the best weekends we have spent together as a couple", "it was an orgy of food and wine!" Who could ask for more; great wine, wonderful food, excellent company, beautiful weather, and doing two of the things we enjoy most…photography and wine tasting. 

I will be adding pictures and blogging Avant in my next blog since we really enjoyed our visit and meeting Joe Padilla the general manager.

The 3-Day Passport was $100 per person which included the "Grand Tasting." A combo ticket including the seminar was $175.

Participating wineries in the various events were: Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards, Ampelos Cellars, Cargasacchi, Carr, Clos Pepe Estate, Cold Heaven, D’Alfonso-Curran, Demetria, Dierberg, Dragonette Cellars,  Fiddlehead, Flying Goat Cellars, Foley, Foxen, Gypsy Canyon, Hilliard-Bruce, Hitching Post, Huber Cellars, Ken Brown, Kessler-Haak, Lafond, Liquid Farm, Longoria, Loring Wine Company, Pali, Prodigal, Seagrape Wine Company, and Sweeney Canyon. 

Russ and I would highly recommend attending next years event which is hosted by the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance. It is not just fun and entertaining but also very educational. I know we are planning on being there! :) 


  1. A good story, photos of very beautiful crystal glasses

  2. Thank you Toni! I checked out your blog and your photography is spectacular!