Sta Rita Hills' Wine and Fire Festival Showcases the Best of Wood Fired Cooking

Sta Rita Hills' Wine and Fire Festival Showcases the Best of Wood Fired Cooking

By Courtney Walsh, West Coast Editor

At last weekend's Wine and Fire festival, hosted in Santa Barbara's acclaimed Sta. Rita Hills, local chefs and winemakers gathered to highlight the best of the area's wood fired culinary scene. Already world renowned for the area's Santa Maria style BBQ, the festival also demonstrated the region's wide range in styles and cooking techniques that incorporate an open flame. Sta. Rita Hills winemakers were also present to discuss the variety of local wine pairings that would complement the regional cuisine, demonstrating the principle of what grows together, goes together.  

Hitching Post - Santa Maria Style BBQ at its Finest

Local legend Frank Ostini of Santa Ynez Valley's Hitching Post had perhaps the highest pedigree of the attendees. Taking over for his father at the family's restaurant, the Hitching Post, in 1977, Ostini has been in the kitchen ever since. In 1986, Ostini opened the second Hitching Post location in Buellton, known locally as Hitching Post II, which won over locals with the restaurant's vast array of grilled meats, ranging from beef to poultry to wild game. 

With the restaurant's prominent feature in the wine film Sideways, the Hitching Post became much more than a culinary destination but a tourist one as well. Yet despite the changes over time, Ostini's cooking has remained consistent, serving up classic Santa Maria style BBQ cooked over red oak in a glassed-in pit located right in the restaurant's dining room.

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Wines From the Land of Sand and Fog

Wines From the Land of Sand and Fog

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

As you drive up the coast of California from Los Angeles, you pass through the city of Santa Barbara. The 101 Freeway starts to shift from a Western direction to a Northern direction. An hour past Santa Barbara you arrive in Santa Maria, located in the northernmost region of Santa Barbara County.

Santa Maria is an AVA (American Viticultural Area) that was approved by the Federal government in 1981. In fact, Santa Maria was the first AVA declared in Santa Barbara County, the second AVA declared in California and the third AVA in the nation. But, Santa Maria has flown below the radar for more than thirty years. When most people think California Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, they think of the Russian River, Santa Lucia and Sta. Rita Hills. It’s now time to think about Santa Maria and “the land of sand and fog.” 

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Unlocking the Key To Wine Country Part Two

Unlocking the Key To Wine Country Part Two

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

It’s been six months since I unlocked the key to wine country in Santa Barbara. Last time it was summer and the vines were in full bloom, the grapes were almost ripe and ready to pick and we spent time wandering in the vineyards and tasting barrel samples of wine. But, six months later, the grapes have been picked, the vines are bare and the leaves are all golden colors. While the sun was still shining, it is winter, at least by California standards, and a chill was in the air.   

I drove up the coast for the weekend for the second Key to Wine Country, organized by the Santa Barbara Vintners. This time the key unlocked new experiences that ranged from being introduced to interesting new wineries to food and wine pairings to blending seminars.

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One Stop Wine Tasting In Wine Country

One Stop Wine Tasting In Wine Country

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

When going wine tasting, the question that always arises is “who is the designated driver?” This is the person (perhaps, like me, it’s always you) who might get to take a little sip here or there but for the most part holds on to their water bottle while the rest of the group sips away so that they can drive to the next location. But, there is a solution that lets the designated driver partake with everyone else.

There are many beautiful estates to visit when you are in Santa Barbara Wine Country and of course we love to visit these. But, the region is also filled with many small wine producers who don’t have private estates open to the public. Instead, they have set up tasting rooms in centralized areas where you can walk from one to another. In fact, you will probably taste more wines this way than if you were to drive from winery to winery and Santa Barbara Wine Country offers 5 different areas like these.

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Unlocking the Key to Santa Barbara Wine Country

Unlocking the Key to Santa Barbara Wine Country

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

A weekend of wine tasting is a great getaway. For approximately $15 per winery, you can taste a line-up of pre-selected wines. But, want to try library reserves? Barrel tasting? Meet the winemaker? Tour the vineyard? These are usually reserved for wine club members or for special events… until now.

The Santa Barbara Vintners recently organized a weekend called the “Key to Wine Country.” For $100, you were given a “key” that unlocked many of these unique experiences. There was no limit to how many experiences you could attend throughout the weekend – it really depended on your stamina and designated driver (which was me, which meant a lot of spitting).

Here are all of the experiences we unlocked in just 3 days!

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