Mission tasting 2011 W&F

Saturday’s Grand Tasting will once again take place at La Purisima Mission in Lompoc.

Wine & Fire, the annual celebration of both vineyards and winemakers in Santa Barbara County’s Sta. Rita Hills appellation, will take place Friday through Sunday, Aug. 17, 18 and 19 at several vineyard and winery sites.

While the Saturday morning seminar has sold out, some tickets for that evening’s Grand Tasting at La Purisima Mission remain available, Clos Pepe winemaker and Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance (SRHWA) board member Wes Hagen noted in a Facebook post today (Friday, Aug. 10).

The SRHWA, comprised of the winemakers and vineyards within the 31,000-acre AVA, sponsors the weekend.

Sta. Rita Hills’ claim to fame are the chardonnay and pinot noir grapevines that thrive on the cooler, marine layer-laden air that flows eastward up the bed of the Santa Ynez River and keeps temperatures cool (although this week, a high pressure front has pulled rank over the fog).

Locations for Wine & Fire’s various events range from Kathy Joseph’s Fiddlestix Vineyards on Santa Rosa Road, to La Purisima Mission and two wine-based eateries, Avant Tapas & Wine in Buellton, and D’Vine Wine Bar in Lompoc.

Barbara Satterfield, executive director of the SRHWA, urges those hoping to attend to purchase tickets quickly, as selected events have sold in during prior years, and likely will again. Sales of combination-event are limited to 250, according to staritahills.com.

Prices: Fee of $175 per person includes chardonnay and pinot noir seminar panels Saturday morning, lunch and evening Grand Tasting at La Purisima Mission, plus a VIP passport for two-day use at selected wineries and tasting rooms; combo ticket of $150 per person includes morning panels, lunch and VIP passport; and combo ticket of $100 per person includes Grand Tasting and VIP passport.

(The VIP Passport ticket will not be sold separately, organizers said).

Designated Driver tickets for the Grand Tasting are $50 per person.

During Saturday’s seminars at Fiddlestix Vineyard, 10 winemakers who use grapes from the region will debate the merits of fruit that, they vow, flourishes in the foggy, windy and cool weather that is the Santa Rita and La Purisima hills’ claim to fame.

Winemaker panelists are matched by grape varietal and include Bryan Babcock (Babcock); Dan Kessler (Kessler-Haak); Wes Hagen (Clos Pepe); Steve Fennell (Sanford) and Nikki Nelson (Liquid Farm) for chardonnay, and Ken Brown (Ken Brown); Frank Ostini (Hitching Post Wines); Peter Cargasacchi (Cargasacchi and Point Conception); Adam Lee (Siduri) and Deborah Hall (Gypsy Canyon) for pinot noir.

Josh Raynolds of Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar will moderate the panel for the second year in a row.

During the 2011 seminar, panelist Hagen voiced what many believe makes the Sta. Rita Hills AVA so special: “We’re something different. We’re not the Santa Ynez Valley, and we’re not the Santa Maria Valley.”

He urged those in attendance at Alma Rosa Winery to look east, then west, and feel the difference between the two directions. “The Pacific Ocean to the west fights with the summer heat to the east,” creating one of the most unique geological regions in California, he said.

Events by day:

Friday opens with simultaneous two wine receptions — a large format and library tasting at Avant Tapas & Wine in Buellton and wine and tapas at D’Vine Wine Bar in Lompoc. Both events are from 6 to 9 p.m.

— Large Format and Library Wine Tasting, Avant Tapas & Wine, 35 Industrial Way, Buellton (688-4742). Pre-paid Wine & Fire attendees pay $15; others $20. Food available for additional fee; tickets sold at door.

— Tastes & Tapas, D’Vine Wine Bar, 107 W. Ocean Ave., Lompoc (735-8771). Included in the $30 admittance cost will be tapas from D’Vine.

Saturday

Saturday’s panel seminar, “The Fire Within,” starts at 10 a.m. at the iconic Fiddlestix Vineyard barn, located in the vineyard at mile marker 7.28 Santa Rosa Rd., Lompoc. Barbecue lunch catered by the Hitching Post II restaurant to follow.

Grand Tasting, 5 to 8 p.m., La Purisima Mission, La Purisima Mission Rd., Lompoc. The mission’s courtyard will once again host more than 25 local wineries as the sun sets. Included will be appetizers from Hitching Post II, Avant, D’Vine, Babe Farms, Alvin’s Chili, Floriano’s and Rooney’s Irish Pub.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday

VIP Passport tasting available at participating Sta. Rita Hills’ wineries throughout the weekend.

Visit http://www.staritahills.com/events.html for details.

Information and tickets:

Tickets and more details: http://www.staritahills.com, or info@staritahills.com

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