La Lieff Wines: A Community Gathering Spot for All

By Jamie Knee   |   November 7, 2023
Gretchen Lieff of La Lieff Wines provides a space for unity and inclusivity at her Funk Zone tasting room

Nestled in the heart of Santa Barbara’s vibrant Funk Zone is La Lieff Wines, a place where wine meets community and everyone is welcomed with open arms. I had the pleasure of sitting down with my close friend Gretchen Lieff, the proprietor and owner of La Lieff Wines, to delve into her journey, the challenges she faced, and the remarkable transformation of La Lieff into a community haven.

The earth goddess Gaia plays an important role in the message and mission behind La Lieff Wines

Gretchen Lieff’s impetus for starting La Lieff was born during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when the need for community was acutely felt both personally and on a broader scale. In the vibrant city of Santa Barbara, known for fostering creativity and innovation, she embarked on this journey. Her commitment to community is evident in her initiation of several projects, including the Lutah Maria Riggs Society and multiple 501(c)(3) organizations, such as her involvement with the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network.

“I wanted a place where we could microphone some of the issues where women lifted women up, a place where people could come, and community could thrive,” shared Gretchen. La Lieff Wines has grown into much more than a wine company; it’s become a meeting place for various organizations, including Planned Parenthood, Women’s Economic Ventures, Women Architects of Santa Barbara, and the Wildlife Care Network. It’s a space where people can feel comfortable, safe, and part of a welcoming community. 

A distinctive quality of La Lieff Wines lies in its unwavering dedication to being women-centric. This goes beyond mere women-orientation; it genuinely revolves around the empowerment of women. It’s a mission that Gretchen wholeheartedly champions, as she explains, “I wanted to help define that and be one of the places that helped define that.” Her commitment to uplifting women has deep roots, as she has always been a supporter of the underdog, extending a hand to those in need. Gaia, the Earth goddess, plays a central role in this mission, her welcoming embrace adorning the winery’s walls and even gracing the wine labels. Gaia’s presence is a powerful symbol of La Lieff’s resolute dedication to unity and inclusivity. Gretchen’s passion is all about forging a comfortable space where people can discover their inner strength through collective solidarity.

The tasting room provides a warm welcome to all, especially the many female-focused organization around the area

The journey to La Lieff Wines wasn’t without its challenges. Gretchen started her career in broadcast journalism, later delving into the food and hospitality industry. She transitioned from communications to food and hospitality and founded However, the dream of owning a physical space had always eluded her until La Lieff.

The tasting room provides a warm welcome to all, especially the many female-focused organization around the area

Gretchen Lieff emphasizes that La Lieff Wines is about embracing and uplifting people. It’s a place where everyone, regardless of background, is welcomed with open arms. The space is known for its inclusivity, with the slogan, “Dogs Drink for Free,” making it the ultimate dog-friendly tasting room.

Gretchen takes immense pride in the organic growth of La Lieff Wines, highlighting that they haven’t relied on fancy PR campaigns. Everything has evolved naturally, aligning with the message of the brand. The wine label received the most meaningful wine label award from Santa Barbara Edible Magazine, a testament to the genuine journey of La Lieff.

One of the standout features of the tasting room are the remarkable Rosé wines, which have quickly become fan favorites. The La Lieff 2021 Gigi Rosé of Grenache is a testament to the winery’s dedication to crafting high-quality Rosés. This particular wine is a delightful expression of Grenache, known for its bright and refreshing character, perfect for warm California days and relaxed gatherings.

For those who appreciate the deeper complexities of Rhône varietals, La Lieff 2021 Grenache Reserve and La Lieff 2021 Syrah are exceptional choices. The Grenache Reserve embodies the essence of grenache grapes with its lush fruit flavors and elegant structure, while the Syrah offers a bold and robust character that showcases the depth and intensity of this classic Rhône variety.

It’s clear that Gretchen Lieff’s vision for La Lieff Wines is a message of unity and inclusivity. The establishment represents a safe haven in a tumultuous world, where conversations can flow freely, and people can be themselves without judgment. In these divisive times, La Lieff Wines stands as a shining example of unity and comfort, reminding us all that we can indeed come together and make a difference. Gretchen Lieff has taken her vision and turned it into a reality, creating a place where everyone, regardless of their background, is part of a larger family. La Lieff Wines is not just a wine company; it’s a symbol of community, resilience, and the power of inclusivity. With Gretchen Lieff at the helm, it is clear that the wine flows, the conversations are meaningful, and the embrace is warm.  


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