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Wine and Fire

Wine & Fire 2015 highlights Sta. Rita Hills' chardonnay, pinot noir and grilled meat

Wine & Fire 2015 highlights Sta. Rita Hills' chardonnay, pinot noir and grilled meat


Wine & Fire, the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers’ Alliance annual event, returns to the AVA this weekend, Aug. 14-17, with a barn party Friday evening, a namesake “fire” barbecue seminar Saturday morning and the grand tasting at La Purisima Mission late that afternoon. More than 40 of the SRHWGA vineyard or winemaking members will participate in the three main events, and most will also offer open houses and special tastings throughout the weekend.

The AVA comprises 30,720 acres, with 2,700 acres planted between 59 vineyards. Most common are pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, but 18 other cool-climate varietals also thrive. Visit for a map of the appellation.

Kimberly Spies Photography/ Guests at the 2014 Wine & Fire Barn Party relish the gorgeous view of the Sta. Rita Hills from the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard historic barn

Wine & Fire 2015 opens Friday evening with the Barn Party, held for the third year in a row at the old Sanford & Benedict barn, standing on a hillside in the historic vineyard on Santa Rosa Road. The venue offers a breathtaking view of some of the most celebrated vineyards in Santa Barbara County.

Friday’s event will feature large format and library wines from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, as well as fire-grilled pizzas from Bello Forno, and music by the Caverns.

Putting the “fire” back in Wine & Fire is the debut Saturday morning of the “BBQ Blast” seminar, also at the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard barn.

That event will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Joe Padilla of Terravant Wine Company is the master of ceremonies, said Barbara Satterfield, executive director of the SRHWGA. With the weekend’s renewed focus on grilling, four of the region’s hottest barbecue chefs will share with seminar participants their hot tips on four different wood-fire cooking techniques. The four are Steve Clifton, Rodrigo Gimenez, Frank Ostini and Matt Toll. Following the “fire” presentation, “wine” will be added to the mixture as select SRHWGA members team up with the four chefs to pair their wines with the barbecue for seminar guests.

The four teams:

Steve’s Rogue Vineyard Team: This team will be led by Clifton, the area’s local expert on everything Italian (via Palmina Wines), as well as world-class pinot noir and chardonnay (via Brewer-Clifton Wines), will “rock the art of wood-fired flat breads” with the use of his pizza oven, Satterfield noted. Pairings: Selected wineries.

Clos Pepe Vineyard Team: Born and raised in Mendoza, Argentina, Rodrigo Gimenez grew up enjoying fire-roasted meats. The Argentine barbecue technique was cultivated over hundreds of years by that nation’s gauchos. Pairings: Clos Pepe Vineyard wines produced by Ken Brown, Clos Pepe and Liquid Farm. Gabe Saglie, noted TravelZoo editor and writer and one of my wine-scribe compadres, will round out the team.

Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Team: Frank Ostini, owner and chef at the Hitching Post II Restaurant, specializes in open-pit red oak barbecue, a Central Coast classic style that is gaining attention nationwide. Ostini, co-owner with Gray Hartley of Hartley-Ostini Hitching Post wines, travels the country representing our local food and wine mecca when he’s not making wine or fantastic barbecue. Pairing: Wines from Stanford & Benedict Vineyard, led by winemaker Steve Fennell of Sanford Winery; Shawn Burgert, Wandering Wino blogger and radio host; and the wines from Hitching Post Wines.

Zotovich Vineyard Team: Matt Toll of Tollhouse BBQ focuses on the long, slow cook with his own dry rub spices and a big rig smoker. Timing is everything when it comes to smoking, Toll believes, and he’ll share with guests the trade secrets of the closed smoker, Satterfield said. Pairing: Zotovich Vineyard wines from Zotovich Cellars, and Transcendence Wines

Cargasacchi Vineyard Team: Cargasacchi Vineyard will feature Cargasacchi, Loring Wine Company and Siduri Wines to accompany winemaker Peter Cargasacchi’s barbecue sliders.

Kessler-Haak Vineyard Team: Representing this team will be Kessler-Haak and LaMontagne and its grilling team, headed by LaMontagne’s Theron Smith, who plans to serve up tasty treats. Joining this team will be Michael Horn from CRN Radio. Pairing: Kessler-Haak Vineyard wines produced by Kessler-Haak and LaMontagne wineries.

Kimberly Spies Photography/ Wines poured during the 2014 Wine & Fire Barn Party. This year's Friday event will feature large format and library wines

The band The Luck will provide music following the education seminar and during the tasting portion of the event.

One of my favorite spots, the beautiful and peaceful La Purisima Mission, will once again host Saturday evening’s grand tasting, which runs from 5 to 8 p.m. Join more than 40 winemaking members of the SHRWGA, sizzling local chefs and farmers for an evening of chilling and grilling

Avant, Babe Farms, Campbell Farms, Central Coast Specialty Foods, Homegrown Cowboy, The Hitching Post II, Los Amigos BBQ, RGC Argentine BBQ, Tollhouse BBQ, Scratch Kitchen and the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers will offer an amazing selection of local food favorites.

Providing live music will be father-daughter duo Country Heart.

Many SRHWGA members will also offer open houses and specials throughout the weekend. See for complete details on ticket sales, participating wineries, restaurants and food vendors, a list of open houses and more.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for


Wine and Fire highlights Sta. Rita Hills with wines, food and camaraderie

Wine and Fire highlights Sta. Rita Hills with wines, food and camaraderie


Joe Mozdzen Photos Winemakers Rick Longoria and Kris Curran at Friday evening's Barn Party. Another Wine and Fire weekend has come and gone. The sell-out crowds sipped and savored new and favorite wines, and listened and learned about soil, climate and grape vines growing in the Sta. Rita Hills from the producers who make the wines.

Warm weather and no fog Friday evening accentuated the carpet of green vineyards lining the diatomaceous-earth hillsides across from Sanford & Benedict Vineyard's hilltop barn, site of Friday's soiree.

Alma Rosa's Richad Sanford chats with a guest Friday at the Barn Party

This year was Wine & Fire's second using the Barn for Friday's gathering, and the location is breathtaking — especially early in the evening, as the setting sun infuses the air with gold.

The Sanford & Benedict Vineyard barn, elegant yet rustic, provides a panorama like no other

Winemakers walked among guests, pouring both current and library releases.

Saturday saw the return of Wine & Fire's annual seminar to another barn — this one at Kathy Joseph's Fiddlestix Vineyard, just west of Sanford & Benedict across Santa Rosa Road.

Moderator Josh Raynolds of Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar returned for a fourth year to moderate a two-part panel, "The Dirty Truth," featuring four chardonnays, four pinot noirs (two each section) and their respective winemakers, and a look at the farming methods each practice.

The fountain at La Purisima Mission was a gathering spot during Saturday's Grand Tasting

Leading off the first section was guest speaker Jeff Newton, with 30-plus years of vineyard management work at the helm of Coastal Vineyard Care Associates. Responding to a query from the audience about the timing of this harvest, he said "this one is the earliest I've ever seen."

In addition to being early, the current crop is a large one — and for the third year running, Newton noted. That in itself is unusual, for two record-high tonnage years (2012 and 2013) have typically been followed by a year with lighter yields. "This one is a very unique growing year," he added.

"We didn't know how large 2014 was until about three weeks ago, when the berries sized up," Newton said. Many of the vineyards his company works have had to do "lots of thinning" to reduce the per-acre crop load and to drop any clusters not evenly ripening.

Fiddlehead Cellars' Kathy Joseph described the current year as "like no other" in terms of volume. "We had to drop 30 percent of the crop (here at Fiddlestix), and that hurts."

All of the winemakers participating Saturday noted that they farm sustainable, with several certified "Sustainable in Practice," or SIP Certified. None are certified organic or biodynamic, although Newton noted that other vineyards in his portfolio utilize those methods.

Alvin Cabral of Lompoc's Homegrown Cowboy served at the Grand Tasting Saturday

"All three methods (conventional, sustainable, organic) are way better than what we had in the 1950s," Newton said. "Grapevines communicate (their needs); the best growers listen, and act accordingly."

Lindley Wines' Jake Lindley talks to a guest during the Grand Tasting Saturday evening at La Purisima Mission

While the eight producers varied on aging methods, clone choice and case production, each circled back to the belief that "wine expresses place."

Closing the seminar, Raynolds emphasized how Sta. Rita Hills' wines express purity, and showcase the soils in which grapes are grown: "The dirt shows in the glass."

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press