History in a Bottle “Ranchos de Ontiveros” is Nine Generations in the Making
By Gabe Saglie   |   January 31, 2023

“The wine bottle – it’s the only time machine that works!”  Just one of the many colorful one-liners delivered by wine whiz Wes Hagen, as a small group of wine buffs gathers around the table inside the rustic The Maker’s Son eatery in downtown Los Alamos last month. An authority on all things Santa Barbara […]

The Many Flavors of James Sparks: Local Winemaker Behind Multiple Premium Labels
By Gabe Saglie   |   December 27, 2022

It was a very personal turn-of-life event that led James Sparks to the world of wine creation – and consumption. One of a dozen children raised in a small, rural Idaho town, he left the Mormon religion a little over 15 years ago. The road to a new way of life led to Santa Barbara […]

Bubbles and Glitter Riverbench Bubblies Come in Bottles that Shimmer
By Gabe Saglie   |   December 6, 2022

All that glitters may not be gold. But when it comes to these sparkling wine bottles – glittering and bursting with color – the flavors definitely shine. Just in time for the holidays, Riverbench Winery is bringing back this unique festive packaging for its full line of sparkling wines. The “Glitter Bottles” are fully covered […]

The Ultimate Paddle Party: Santa Barbara Vintners’ Charitable Gala Returns
By Gabe Saglie   |   November 8, 2022

Winemaker phenom Bryan Babcock is throwing open the doors to his Montecito estate. The exclusive invite includes a five-night stay for six people at what’s affectionally dubbed Villa Flora, a captivating property located just three minutes from Miramar Beach that features Mediterranean architecture and elegant gardens. Guests will also be treated to a Spanish-inspired dinner […]

Tried and True – and Brand New: Vintners Festival Returns, Spotlights Santa Barbara’s Wide Range
By Gabe Saglie   |   October 25, 2022

The Santa Barbara Vintners Festival made its post-pandemic return this month. It was a lovely Saturday in Solvang, with bright blue skies and temps in the low 80s, as dozens of regional winemakers took over the grounds of the historic Mission Santa Inés and popped hundreds of corks for a lively crowd. Guests were also […]

Wine Among the Windmills Solvang Now a Legit Draw for Oenophiles
By Gabe Saglie   |   September 20, 2022

I’ll be spending this coming weekend in Solvang, acting as emcee for a few of the events on the calendar for the 85th Danish Days festival, including the Danish Days Parade at 2:30 pm on Saturday afternoon. The three-day fête, Friday through Sunday, celebrates Santa Barbara County’s famous Scandinavian town, founded in 1911 by Danish […]

J Vineyards’ “Shifting the Lens” Series: Wine as an Agent for Change
By Gabe Saglie   |   September 13, 2022

On a recent afternoon, on the rolling grounds of Eastside Knoll Vineyard in Sonoma, falcons are on alert. With the 2022 harvest finally underway, and with the pinot noir grapes here quickly maturing toward optimum ripeness, the birds of prey have been employed as an eco-friendly alternative to netting to keep hungry starlings away. “It’s […]

Time in a Bottle Kimsey Vineyard’s 10-Year Retrospective Tasting
By Gabe Saglie   |   August 16, 2022

On a recent sunny afternoon, inside a cozy cabin enveloped by grapevines, a few dozen of us gathered to sip through 10 years of Kimsey Vineyard wines. “Not just any 10 years,” winemaker Matt Dees reminded us. “The first 10 years!” Indeed, sipping through the nascent decade of any wine project is a study in […]

The Power of Privacy: Private Clubs Add to Santa Barbara’s Residential Appeal
By Gabe Saglie   |   August 9, 2022

Among the unexpected silver linings of the pandemic? The fact that the appeal of living in Santa Barbara’s South Coast has surged, and surged in a big way. An enclave like Montecito is not all that far from the urban sprawl of Los Angeles, where a pandemic-inspired exodus continues. But, as so many residents and […]

Ultimate Chardonnay New Greg Brewer Release Marks Evolution of ‘diatom’ Label
By Gabe Saglie   |   July 19, 2022

“Diatom has been very positively disruptive in the marketplace since its inception,” says winemaker Greg Brewer, “because it blurs the lines with regards to style and grape variety.” Indeed, ‘diatom’ (capitalization rule ignored by design), a limited-production chardonnay-only label that Brewer launched in 2005, has always been a fan favorite. Describing its fan base as […]

Grill-Inspired: A Major BBQ Event – Plus BBQ Wines – for Summer
By Gabe Saglie   |   July 5, 2022

The Fourth of July this week has many of us thinking about one thing: the grill. Okay, two things: the grill and wine. For those who are lovers of all things fired and grilled, another major event is on the calendar this month. It’s a barbecue-inspired affair for wine lovers that is years in the […]

A Deliberate Approach to Making Wine
By Gabe Saglie   |   June 7, 2022

Michael Brughelli’s 2019 wines – out just last week – are more than just the second release of his eponymous label. They feel a lot like a rousing encore performance. The Brughelli wines received critical acclaim early. His inaugural launch, a 2018 pinot noir and a 2018 chardonnay, saw scores high in the 90+ stratosphere […]

Wine is Food, Too: Julia Child-Inspired Culinary Fête a Must for Oenophiles
By Gabe Saglie   |   May 17, 2022

Santa Barbara’s big culinary takeover next week is actually two years in the making. Taste of Santa Barbara, presented by the Santa Barbara Culinary Experience in partnership with the Julia Child Foundation, was originally scheduled for May of 2020, and then the world shut down. Rescheduled to this month – May 16 to 22 – […]

Finally, Pinot: New Releases Take Tercero Wines in New Direction
By Gabe Saglie   |   May 3, 2022

“People do tell me – ‘Wait, I thought you said you’d never do pinot!’” jokes winemaker Larry Schaffer. We’re chatting inside his sleek Tercero tasting room in downtown Los Olivos. And he’s pouring me his latest release: pinot noir. Schaffer’s Tercero label has always been a bastion for imaginative, thoughtful Rhône wines. And his approach […]

A Wine Guy Goes to Ireland: The Drink Industries Leading the Way on the Emerald Isle
By Gabe Saglie   |   March 29, 2022

This month marks a major milestone for travel to Ireland: one of the most popular European destinations for American travelers dropped all entry restrictions on March 7th and, last week, celebrated St. Patrick’s Day publicly for the first time since 2019. For a famously gregarious people, a momentous occasion indeed. I was there to cover […]

Sipping in Tune: The Merits of Pairing Wine with Music
By Gabe Saglie   |   March 15, 2022

Two of our favorite pastimes have plenty to offer on their own. Drinking great wine enhances everything from consumption to conversation. Listening to music we love can lift our spirits and set the mood. Both also make us feel good. But what about putting these two actions together? And I’m talking about beyond just turning […]

Mission Accomplished: New Rusack Visitor Center Redefines the Wine Tasting Experience
By Gabe Saglie   |   March 1, 2022

I’ve discovered the perfect afternoon sipper – Rusack Vineyards just released its 2021 Boundless Mission ($28), a wine that is, quite literally, history in a bottle. The mission grape was brought over to the Americas in the 1700s by Spanish Catholic missionaries who didn’t want to go without table and sacramental wine along the way. […]

A Dozen Rosés: You’ll Love These Pink Wines for Valentine’s Day
By Gabe Saglie   |   February 11, 2022

It’s all about skin contact! An apropos start of a story about Valentine’s Day, I guess. But we’re talking wine here, and those pink sippers that look and smell and taste so pretty, they’re sure to be our go-to thirst quenchers this Valentine’s Day. That seductive hue is, indeed, the product of calculated contact between […]

Calling All Pinot Lovers: Premier Wine Event Makes Santa Barbara Comeback
By Gabe Saglie   |   February 1, 2022

Pinot noir buffs from all over the world have their eyes – not to mention, their taste buds – set squarely on Santa Barbara. After a COVID-driven virtual-only experience last year, and a truncated live event at the pandemic’s onset in March of 2020, the World of Pinot Noir (WOPN) is making a big in-person […]

Sip Without the Buzz: Santa Barbara’s Miller Family Launches Alcohol-Free Wines
By Gabe Saglie   |   January 18, 2022

One of Santa Barbara’s most prolific wine producers just expanded its impressive portfolio. Miller Family Wine Company, with brands from high-end Bien Nacido to mainstream Butternut, premiered the Hand on Heart label earlier this month. What makes these wines unique is the alcohol – there isn’t any. Hand on Heart inaugural wines, with a launch […]

Year in Review: Wine
By Gabe Saglie   |   January 4, 2022

Wine Pioneer Jim Clendenen Passes Santa Barbara County lost one of its most prominent champions in 2021. Jim Clendenen passed away May 15 at age 68. His ebullient, electric personality was certainly a Clendenen calling card, much like his undulating blond hair and steady parade of loud shirts. “It’s funny, I always think that winemakers […]

A Stirring Holiday Affair
By Gabe Saglie   |   December 21, 2021

The Martini. The Old Fashioned. The Manhattan. Names steeped in cocktail lore, each a classic, stirred cocktail (despite a famous, suit-wearing movie spy who requests his martini shaken, not stirred). As the temperature dips and the holiday gatherings commence, I find myself reaching for a spirit-forward, stirred sip that livens the tastebuds and hastens the […]

Wine on the Road: A Visit to Paso Robles
By Gabe Saglie   |   December 14, 2021

“We are a community of dreamers,” Anthony Yount tells me as we sip al fresco on the Denner Vineyards patio, overlooking a landscape of green, undulating hills and dozens of acres of proprietary vines. I’d asked the winemaker what he feels makes the Paso Robles wine world unique. He went on to find a silver […]

Fess Parker’s Addendum Label Showcases Stellar Cabernets
By Gabe Saglie   |   November 23, 2021

Some of the best Napa Valley cabernet I’ve had in a long time comes from right here in Santa Barbara. The merits of Addendum, a high-end boutique label launched by the Fess Parker Winery team in 2014, hinge on its fruit sources. Fact is that the Los Olivos-based winery has forged relationships with some of […]

Nothing Short of a Miracle: Santa Barbara’s Pearl Social Transforms into the Ultimate Christmas Pop-Up
By Gabe Saglie   |   November 22, 2021

One of the sexiest cocktail bars in Santa Barbara just became the merriest. Pearl Social — a consistently great place to sip and be seen in the heart of Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone — is now part of what’s become a global Christmastime phenomenon. They call it Miracle. And it officially makes Acme Hospitality’s landmark […]

Pairing the Turkey: Thanksgiving Wine Tips from the Local Food Scene
By Gabe Saglie   |   November 16, 2021

After all the holiday gatherings that were cancelled last year, Thanksgiving will take on extra special meaning in 2021. More pressure, perhaps, to find that perfect wine to pair with turkey and all the trimmings. But a sigh of relief, for many, that someone else is willing to do the cooking. Here are a few […]

Game of Clones: Rusack Vineyards Launches New Lineup of Wines
By Gabe Saglie   |   October 19, 2021

The appeal of Rusack Vineyards’ brand new 2019 Sauvignon Blanc ($26) has a lot to do with a clone called musqué. Referred to as “clone 27” in the biz, it’s well-known for its powerful perfume. “We’re going for a really aromatic white wine style,” winemaker Steve Gerbac told me this week. “We want you to […]

Turning Tide: New Wine Label Spotlights Sustainability
By Gabe Saglie   |   October 5, 2021

Her new label, Turning Tide, marks a significant shift for winemaker Alisa Jacobson. As director of winemaking for 19 years for the mega producer Joel Gott, she oversaw the production of some 1.6 million cases of wine a year. With her new pet project, she’s spearheading a far smaller output of right around 1,000 cases […]

Supreme Tribute: Montecito Importer’s New Wine Honors Justice Ginsburg
By Gabe Saglie   |   September 21, 2021

A Montecito importer is commemorating Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death with the launch of a limited-edition wine. The 2018 “Ruth” Special Edition Roussanne is an organic white wine produced in France. It’ll officially become available on September 18, to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the passing of the revered Supreme Court justice. Justice Ginsburg served […]

Wine Parties Are Back: California Wine Festival Signals Post-Pandemic Return
By Gabe Saglie   |   September 14, 2021

When Travelzoo surveyed its 16 million U.S. member base early this summer, gauging comfort levels around events and activities, 34% said they were ready to attend a wine festival. And as the summer’s rolled on, and as vaccinations have increased, that number, even while tempered by the emergence of COVID-19 variants, has grown. That’s a […]

Dinner with a Side of Polo: New Fieldside Grill Offers Distinctive Culinary Experience
By Gabe Saglie   |   September 9, 2021

One of the newest spots to eat in town is a longstanding destination all its own. The Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club is one of the oldest of its kind in the U.S., and its polo season, which runs May through October and lures a sophisticated crowd to both play and watch from all […]

Through Different Eyes: New Collaboration Showcases Famous Vineyard in New Light
By Gabe Saglie   |   August 24, 2021

Much of the storied reputation of Bien Nacido Vineyards stems from the scrupulous involvement of its owners. Brothers Bob and Steve Miller planted Bien Nacido — “well born” in Spanish — in 1973, a rolling plot in the Santa Maria Valley whose rocky soils and cool climate would go on to create one of the […]

Drink Red and Chill: Cooling Down Some Red Wines Has its Benefits
By Gabe Saglie   |   August 19, 2021

Winemaker Sherman Thacher prefers to chill some of his reds and to use them, even, to shift between courses at dinner. “If you’re going from appetizers to something heartier, and maybe going from a white wine to a red, and you’re sitting outside, maybe barbecuing, a chilled red can really be a great transition,” he […]

A Sense of Belonging: Private Clubs Add to Santa Barbara’s Residential Appeal
By Gabe Saglie   |   August 12, 2021

Among the unexpected silver linings of the pandemic? The fact that the appeal of living in Santa Barbara’s South Coast has surged, and surged in a big way. An enclave like Montecito is not all that far from the urban sprawl of Los Angeles, where a pandemic-inspired exodus continues. But, as so many residents and […]

“The World’s Best Undiscovered Brand” Montecito Couple’s Label Delivers Stellar Wines
By Gabe Saglie   |   July 29, 2021

As I make my way through the private gated community, and up the driveway that snakes through Kimsey Vineyard, the wind begins to pick up in earnest. It’s 3 pm, and the breeze, in its crescendo, is making the vines sway in the bright afternoon sun. This is a regular phenomenon, it turns out — […]

From the Miramar’s Cellar to Yours: Resort Launches Fine Wine Club
By Gabe Saglie   |   June 17, 2021

A new club launched by the wine team at the Rosewood Miramar Beach is aiming to elevate your at-home quaffing experience. The new Miramar Collective is a chance for fans of the Miramar experience — and any fan of fine wine — to access bottles whose premium caliber mirrors the wine list at Caruso’s, the […]

‘Patience and Persistence Paid Off’: San Ysidro Ranch’s Wine Collection Returns to its Glory
By Gabe Saglie   |   May 27, 2021

For the wine program at the San Ysidro Ranch, 2021 has been a very good year. The lucrative wine selection at the landmark luxury resort was completely destroyed when mudslides roared across the Montecito foothills in 2018. Millions of dollars in some of the world’s very best wine — more than 12,000 bottles and a […]

In Memoriam: Jim Clendenen, Au Bon Climat Wine Legend, Remembered as ‘Larger Than Life’
By Gabe Saglie   |   May 18, 2021

The Santa Barbara wine industry — and the wine world as a whole — lost one of its superstars when Jim Clendenen died over the weekend. He passed away at his home in Buellton, in his sleep. He was 68. Wine aficionados who did not know him personally certainly knew his wine, especially his flagship […]

Pop the Cork, Hold the Booze: Local Winemaker Launches Alcohol-Free Wine-Inspired Drinks
By Gabe Saglie   |   May 13, 2021

As we begin to push out of this pandemic, and as the light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter, many Americans are taking stock of how their drinking habits have changed over the last year. As one would guess, the angst and anxiety wrought by many months of lockdowns, restrictions, and Zoom calls […]

Everything’s Coming Up Rosés These Pink Wines are Perfect for Spring
By Gabe Saglie   |   April 22, 2021

Timing has a lot to do with rosé. That pink color – an alluring hue that can range from salmon to blush – is the by-product of grape juice and grape skins coming in contact for a few hours, or for a day, maybe two or three, until just enough tint bleeds into the wine. […]