Dr. Joel M. Fisher’s From the GrapeVine: Santa Barbara Celebration of Harvest

Dr. Joel M. Fisher

The day was beautiful for  the 2011 version of the 2011 version of the Santa Barbara Celebration of Harvest at the vast Rancho Sisquoc Winery located near Santa Maria and Orcott California north of Los Angeles. 

At the vast Rancho Sisquoc Winery located near Santa Maria and Orcott California north of Los Angeles.  Joe Wehinger, driver of record, and I drove slowly down the long approach to the venue.

I started looking for Jim Fiolek, the energetic and friendly Executive Director of the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association when we could see the registration and glasses tables.  I couldn’t spot either him or Fran, his longtime PR colleague, and we were waved through and around to the handicapped parking to the back of the area.

Then we headed down toward the vista of tents filled with wineries and exhibitors. From 50 feet away I could see Nan Helgeland, of Martian Ranch and Vineyard, who in return spotted us and waved us over to where she and her crew of ladies were just setting up to pour.  Old friends from her participation with Dan Fredman and multiple events, I was glad to try a couple of her wines –particularly her Viognier and Syrah.  Yes it was early, and I had not eaten prior to tasting, but the two wines went down nicely.  I returned later to sit behind the table and taste one of her whites.

Santa-Barbara-Celebration-HarvestThen for much needed refueling, we went looking for food.  The Hitching Post Restaurant crew, from Buellton, had meat on the fire but were not ready to serve. Located next to them was the Bistro Restaurant Bacara Resort handing out a lovely tapa type dish with lots of fresh avocado.

I wandered up top Rex Pickett‘s booth where he was selling his second book. I had bought that piece at the Pinot event in Santa Monica months ago.  I had also invited him to do his stuff at the Fest last summer, but found out he was to be in New York.

I mentioned this to his assistant, who took my card and said he would give it to Pickett’s PR agent.  Guess I don’t expect to hear from him in the  near future.

Back in the tasting mode, stopped at Curtis Winery, talked to wine maker Chuck Carlson, and tasted his Viognier and the Syrah.  With food in my mouth, they both were wines to explore at leisure.   Joe stopped at our friends at Demetria, chatting with owner Jack Zahoudanis, and enjoyed their Pinot Noir.  I tasted at Firestone, and enjoyed both their Cabernet Sauvignon and the Syrah.  Try these varieties yourself.

Back at the Hitching Post booth, tried their wines, which I always enjoy with food.  My favorite is the Pinot Noir. Saw co-owner Gray Hartley, who we’ve tried for years to get to the LAWineFest, but the area was crowded.  There was a general reaction that the meat was not cooked enough, and sadly people did complain.  I thought it too raw for me, so skipped it.

The Hitching Post-Buellton I dont remember if I’ve ever tasted from Imagine Wines & Art Gallery.  I liked their Zinfandel, and equally thought their Cabernet Sauvignon quite good.  They dont make a lot of wine, probably 2,000 cases and we will try to entice them to join us for the 7th LA event.

Kenneth Volk, one of everybody’s favorite winemakers and owners was there with some of his Santa Barbara Pinot Noir and Chardonnays.  Think he may have had some of his Paso wines on the table, but I don’t remember tasting them.  Ken is one of those good citizens who participates in many wine events, and always helps charitable causes.

Ryan Zotovich was there with his really good Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir and I couldn’t refuse another taste of his terrific Viognier.

We left close to 3 pm.  I had decided we should have an adventure, so we headed off to find dinner at the Hitching Post in Casmalia, their first location, although we heard the two restaurants (this one and the second restaurant at Buellton) were not co-owned any more.  Never mind, the menu is basically the same and tables are similiarly outfitted.  Joe had a steak, which was reported as really good.  I had the fresh Halibut, which was done to perfection with a nice baked potato (ok, I indulged)  Thought the fish had lemon  pepper on it, but was informed it was their own special sauce.  Now, I have to tell you Joe drove into town, looked left at the restaurant, went 30 feet and started back out of town, rather rapidly.  I yelled, we stopped, and went into the place earlier than their service hours.  Joe was ready to  leave, but thought about it, chatted the waitress, and asked if we could begin with some of the dishes that went with the entree as sides.  They did, and all went well.

I did want to report we heard while at the festival that there was a possibility of it moving next year back towards Santa Ynez.  As long as the ground is firm, I’m okay with that.  There are a lot of holes at Ranch Sisquoc, and I kept worrying about me, and others tripping.

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