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Let the wine festivities begin!

For everything, there is a season, and now it's wine festivals

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Now that the weather's becoming more summerlike, the grapevines are budding with perfect, tiny flowers and green leaves, and sunshine-colored mustard is blooming beneath the gnarly vine trunks. It's nature's way of welcoming us back into her lovely gardens. Of course, the spring wine festival season is a spectacular time of year for touring wine country. The wineries gather together to show off an array of amazing wine tastings paired with delicious foods from our best local chefs--not to mention some rousing entertainment.

POLY WINES :  The Cal Poly Wine Festival is on its way. Pictured right to left are Sara Steffens, event coordinator Meredith Soden, winery coordinator Erica Bergvall, silent auction/sponsorship coordinator Emily Reneau Steven Larsen, web designer and Ryan Crosbie, Vines to Wines president. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • POLY WINES : The Cal Poly Wine Festival is on its way. Pictured right to left are Sara Steffens, event coordinator Meredith Soden, winery coordinator Erica Bergvall, silent auction/sponsorship coordinator Emily Reneau Steven Larsen, web designer and Ryan Crosbie, Vines to Wines president.

# Of course, it's not just about good times, although we certainly appreciate that. All of these events support the community, be it the farms and wineries committed to protecting natural resources on Earth Day, or the Cal Poly Wine Festival that supports the oenology and viticulture programs for future winemakers and winegrowers of America. And don't forget about the Santa Barbara Vintners' Festival, an event I attended yearly even when I still lived in San Francisco. It's in a great venue at the beautiful River Park in Lompoc, where the fields are abloom with spring flowers.

Although there are many celebrations to choose from, they all provide great wine and great food experiences. So with the first two outstanding events happening on Saturday the 19th, you'll just have to decide for yourself which offers more satisfaction for your taste. Either way, you're guaranteed a wonderful experience in the heart of wine country. And keep coming back to Cuisine to stay informed about great festivals taking place from May through July. All of these events feature new wineries from our wine growing regions--some of which I hadn't heard of yet, but look forward to discovering.

 

Earth Day Food and Wine Festival at the Santa Margarita de Cortona Asistencia

What better way to celebrate Earth Day than frolicking with like-minded citizens among the ancient oak trees at the historic mission founded by Padre Junipero Serra? In honor of the farms and businesses committed to protecting natural resources and nurturing a healthy environment, the Central Coast Vineyard Team created this celebration last year. It was so successful, it's become an annual affair. They're bringing together wineries and restaurants that are Earth-friendly, as well as specialty foods purveyors, exhibitors, and live music.

It features more than 200 participants, including excellent Central Coast wineries: Ridge from the Santa Cruz Mountains, Michaud from Chalone, Saxum from Paso Robles, and new local names like D'Anbino and Kiamie. Restaurants include Artisan, Novo, and Villa Creek. The silent auction features lifestyle lots and collectible wines, including a 1995 Bordeaux from Chateau Lafite-Rothschild Pauillac valued at $595.

Enjoy the celebration on Saturday, April 19, 1 to 4 p.m. Besides the festival glass, you'll receive a tote bag with more than $50 of green products from local businesses. Tickets are $75 each, all inclusive, and they recommend purchasing them in advance online at www.earthdayfoodandwine.com. Tickets are limited to preserve the intimate nature of the event. If the event sells out, as it did last year, there will not be tickets at the gate. The Central Coast Vineyard Team, a nonprofit organization, noted that the proceeds will benefit sustainable agriculture research and farmworker outreach.

The Santa Barbara County Vintners' Festival

This celebration of great wine and food features 110 outstanding member wineries from the Santa Barbara County Vintners' Association (SBCVA). Forty great restaurants include favorites like the Hitching Post, the Willows at Chumash, the Ballard Inn and Restaurant, and Chef Rick's. Two bands will perform: The House Red Band and Unfinished Business. And, as always, they'll have educational exhibits and a silent auction where you can bid on an array of collectible wines, gift baskets, and lifestyle lots.

Grower members of the SBCVA will provide the gift of a live grapevine when you leave as a reminder of the day. Lompoc's local artists will display their crafts, which is why it's called "the city of arts and flowers." Bus service is available from Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, and Solvang at $25 per person. Designated driver tickets will be just $25 per person, which provides all the food, entertainment, and choice of coffee or soft drinks.

Join the fun on Saturday, April 19, 1 to 4 p.m. The main attraction takes place on Saturday. Tickets are $75 per person, but there are events going on from Friday the 18th through Monday the 21st. For more information (like the four-day vintners' visa, your key to the open house events throughout the county), maps, and to purchase tickets, visit www.sbcountywines.com. Remember, it's far better to call right away to ensure your space inside than to drive to Lompoc and discover it's sold out. But if you do, at least you'll be able to attend the festivities at wineries along the wine trails.

The Cal Poly Wine Festival--Learn by Tasting

This fine wine event held annually at the Santa Margarita Vineyard began in 2003 as a senior project. It's blossomed into one of the most outstanding wine festivals on the Central Coast that attracts more than 1,000 wine lovers annually. This event is run entirely by students who volunteer their time. They put together an outstanding festival that includes the grand wine tasting, golf tournament, and silent auction that benefits the Cal Poly Horticulture and Crop Science Department, and the Vines to Wines Club. This event also serves to reunite grads, current students, and professors, giving them a chance to contribute to their alma mater and its future wine experts.

What's impressive is the fact that some of California's most esteemed winemakers are Cal Poly alumni who return home annually to support this event, including wineries like Dunn, Saintsbury, and ZD in Napa and most Central Coast wineries, like Byron, Costa de Oro, Kenneth Volk, Tablas Creek, Talley, Treana, and Zaca Mesa. Restaurant participants include Cafe Roma, Corner View, Marre's in Avila Beach, Novo, Pacific Harvest Catering, and The Park.

Even if you don't drink wine, you can support Cal Poly with clubs. The annual golf classic begins with a 10:30 a.m. shotgun start on Friday, April 25, at Cypress Ridge Golf Course in Arroyo Grande. Participants receive a "tee bag" of goodies and lower-priced tickets for the wine festival.

On Saturday, April 26, 1 to 4 p.m., bus service is available at $15 per person from Slack Street at Cal Poly and the Embassy Suites in SLO. Each bus seats 45 passengers, and they leave at noon. To sign up, you must e-mail sara@calpolywinefestival.com with your name and pick-up location. Students must show their Cal Poly ID for the bus or to enter the festival at the discounted rate. Tickets are available online at www.calpolywinefestival.com.



You can reach New Times' Cuisine columnist at khardesty@newtimesslo.com.

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