Taste, Sip and Enjoy | Food, Wine and Travel

Heat Wave Coming to the Santa Rita Hills!

Heat Wave Coming to the Santa Rita Hills!

August 18th to the 20th we hope there will be only be one heat wave in the Santa Rita Hills.  At the annual Wine and Fire, the heat created will come from the rush of the profusely flowing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  If these are high on your list of special varietals in your wine cellar,  you must reserve your space now!  This is the premiere event, on the Central Coast of California, at which these can be sipped and enjoyed during a gathering of wineries from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA.

Friday evening, a Barn Party at Dierberg Star Lane will truly be a unique experience. Only at this event, large format bottles and small production wines will be shared by members of the Sta. Rita Hills Wine Alliance.   Bello Forno will provide pizzas and antipasti and Central Coast Specialties will tempt guests with their cheese buffet.

Santa Rosa Road vineyards will take center stage on Saturday morning at El Jabali Vineyard.  A sparkling reception at 10 AM will be followed by a focused tasting. This will be led by Matt Kettmann from the Wine Enthusiast.  He will be our guide as he provides us with a “virtual” tour through well known vineyards of Santa Rosa Road such as Rita’s Crown, Sanford and Benedict and Rio Vista. Matt will again recap the vineyards as we enjoy lunch and sip Rose wines from the Alliance members.

It would be advantageous to take a little rest, without snacking, before the 5:00 Grand Tasting.  At La Purisima Mission, be prepared to sip wine poured by forty wineries.  In addition, chefs and farmers will be preparing small bites of food.  We tasted their food last year and I guarantee, you will be pleased with the exciting flavors.

On Sunday, the 20th, many of the wineries and tasting rooms will be offering specials.  This provides Wine and Fire attendees with the opportunity to travel through the Santa Rita Hills and visit their favorites.

Last year’s Wine and Fire centered on the 1,220 acres of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyards on the Highway 246 corridor. As a result the opening night party was held among the rolling hills of Hilliard Bruce Winery.



Background music filled the garden setting……..


as large format wines were poured throughout the evening.  We particularly enjoyed our sips from La Voix….


and Ellen’s from Kessler Haak.


What fun to pair our wines with the Bello Forno pizzas.


The thin crust and yummy toppings spurred us on to try all the varieties.




Central Coast Specialty Foods provided us with an exciting opportunity to sample their spectacular cheese creations.




Saturday morning we returned to Hilliard Bruce.  A portion of the Leed Certified winery was set and ready to receive the guests for a seminar and lunch.


During our seminar we would taste six Chardonnays….


followed by six Pinot Noirs.


Throughout our seminar, hosts, Philip Carpenter and Wes Hagen, led a lively discussion.  As they questioned the six panelists, we learned about the cool climate varietals, the acreage planted, and details of the sandy soil with veins of limestone and clay loam.  Panelists were Christine Bruce, Hilliard Bruce Vineyard; Bryan Babcock, Babcock Vineyard; Dan Schuller-Jones, Zotovich Vineyard; Aaron Walker, Pali Vineyard; Steve Clifton, Machado and Sebastiano Vineyards; and Karen Steinwachs of Hibbits Ranch.  Each related stories unique to their vineyards and often suggested food pairings to use with their wines.


During the discussion a visitor arrived……….


and decided to take the plunge and enjoy a sip!  Everyone loves the wine from the Sta. Rita Hills!


Looking at a sign……


we knew Hitching Post II had prepared a fabulous lunch.


What a fantastic assortment!  Something for everyone!


During our meal Wes Hagen surprised us with a very special, thirty seven year old treat.  A bottle of 1979 Sanford and Benedict Pinot Noir!


Take a look at the color.  Which is the 1979?  The right or left glass?


Filled with incredible wine and marvelous food we had only a few hours to rest.  The time flew by and we were off to the historic La Purisima Mission, in Lompoc, for the Grand Tasting.  The grounds provide a peaceful setting as we strolled to the tasting, past the Mission’s various animals.


Everyone was in search of yet one more new wine……


or revisiting the wines that had become their favorites.



Part of the experience, as one sips, is being able to speak with the winemaker.


Of course, we could not leave without a little bit more food.  Campbell Farms…….


and Babe Farms always provide us with their fresh fruit and vegetable creations.



One might even learn about smoking meats from the local expert, Tollhouse BBQ.


It had been a weekend of not just food and wine, but of making new friends.  Spending time with them, debating the pros and cons of a certain varietal, is not only educational, but great fun!

It is important to put Wine and Fire 2017 on your calendar now!  Attend one event or the whole weekend.  It is the perfect opportunity to spend three days exploring wine and food in the delightful Sta. Rita Hills.  Go now to this website: http://www.staritahills.com/wine-fire.  Purchase the tickets that fit your schedule before they are sold out.  We will see you at the Barn Party!  (I can already taste the Bello Forno pizzas!)


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