Not Horsing Around: Wine Festival Expands

By Steven Libowitz   |   July 19, 2018
Hundreds of California wines will be poured at Beachside Wine Festival, from 1 to 4 pm Saturday, July 21, on the ocean side at 236 E. Cabrillo Boulevard

Last year’s departure of the Chase Palm Park carousel after being ensconced in the prime location directly across the street from the ocean and just two blocks from Stearns Wharf for decades was a rude shock to families and others who delighted in taking a turn on the classy merry-go-round. But for others, it’s nothing to whine about.

Make that “wine” about.

For oenophiles, at least, the escape of the up-and-down equines means an enlargement of the middle event of the California Wine Festival’s (CFW) three-day takeover of Santa Barbara, which celebrates its 15th festival in town this weekend. The Sunset Reserve & Rare Wine Tasting, which takes place 6:30 to 9 pm on Friday, July 20, finds winemakers dusting off some of their most exclusive bottles to give wine lovers an opportunity to sip the good stuff, while a few chefs from local eateries serve hot and cold gourmet appetizers. 

This year, though, there will be an extra emphasis on Pinot Noir, as six of Santa Maria Hills top producers takeover what’s now being called The Carousel House to pour their favorites.

It’s an exciting new twist, said CWF executive director Emily Kaufmann, adding that guests will be greeted upon first entering the new space, with a taste of Letitia wine and a sampling of a gourmet bite prepared by Montecito private chef Robin Goldstein. “We’re calling it Fist Sip/First Bite Friday night,” she said. “It’s a great way to get greeted in the Carousel House. And we’ll also have an oyster and champagne pairing there.”

Outside in the horseshoe-shaped plaza, guests can enjoy the usual assortment of Napa trophy cabs, rare bottles from Sonoma, wines from the high Sierras, and the best from California’s Central Coast and Santa Barbara County.

The traditional Old Spanish Nights Tasting, which takes place on opening night, Thursday, July 19, at the historic Presidio De La Guerra adobe courtyard, once again focuses on Spanish wines as well as many other California varietals, and offers a spicy array of appetizers, while Flamenco dancers step it up to hot Latin sounds from Santa Barbara local Tony Ybarra. Then the three-day affair comes to a close with the biggest bash of them all: the Beachside Wine Festival, from 1 to 4 pm Saturday, July 21, on the ocean side at 236 E. Cabrillo Boulevard. Literally hundreds of premium California wines are served up along with the best of the regional microbreweries – almost a dozen from Santa Barbara and beyond this year, Kaufmann noted, as a change of pace from those who might want an alternative to fruits of the vine – plus a lot more food from caterers, restaurants, and more, and vendors of all things related to wine, plus music all day from Santa Barbara Carribbean/reggae band Upstream.

Despite economic downturns following the Thomas Fire and Montecito debris flows, Kaufmann said the CWF is stronger than ever as it marks the milestone festival. “We’re seeing the strongest tickets sales we’ve ever had,” she said. “I think we can credit our success to the fact that people who come have the ability to taste wines from all over California in one location. And of course, the ocean-front gorgeous location doesn’t hurt.”

While three-day passes are sold out, tickets are available for each of the individual events. Call call 1-(800) 936-3126 or visit


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