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A Festival from the Winery's Viewpoint

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Picking a wine festival to attend is easy for the consumer -- consider location, price, what wineries are pouring, and then go and enjoy in a proper manner. But how do wineries choose which festivals to attend, given it seems they can do one a week, and twice most summer Sundays?

I posed this question to two wineries that will be attending the Santa Barbara Wine Festival (going on its 27th year so it surely knows how to do this kind of thing), on Saturday, June 28 on the oak-covered grounds of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. "First of all, I live down here, so it's a no-brainer as far as scheduling in my busy schedule. Home in time for dinner!" says Benjamin Silver of Silver Wines. "Second, we are members of the museum, and it is a favorite spot for my kids, my wife, and me. Third, I have very fond memories doing this annual event in the early to mid-nineties when I worked for Zaca Mesa, and would bring/sneak my puppy in with me. After the event all the winery people would hang out & have a family-style BBQ. There was a great communal feeling, plus an opportunity to hang out with the first generation Santa Barbara County winemakers who were much much older than I."

That sense of community is also important to Blair Fox, who says, "Sarah [his wife] and I were both born and raised in Santa Barbara and prefer to focus on festivals in our local area where the majority of our wine is sold and consumed. We also love Meredith [Moore, the festival's organizer] and want to help support her and the Natural History Museum."

Choosing what wines to pour, as most wineries tend to share about four varietals of an often much longer list, can be a bit trickier. "If it's June gloom, one white and a few reds," Silver suggests, since heartier wines would be favored. "If it's blistering hot, a few low alcohol whites and a few lower alcohol reds that will have to be chilled throughout the event." He hopes to show off some current, very diverse releases, such as a stainless 2010 El Ojo Blanco Cuvée Uno Viognier, a 2011 Chardonnay Santa Barbara County, a 2009 Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County, a 2010 Syrah Trentotto File, and even a Fifty Cask tawny styled dessert wine.

Fox is betting on warmer weather, claiming, "Since it is a summer event, we will be pouring refreshing whites and rosé such as our Fox Family Vineyard Vermentino and Haylee's Rosé named after my daughter Haylee Rose. We will also pour a Blair Fox Cellars Syrah since that is what we are best known for, along with our newly released Fox Wine Company Chardonnay and Pinot Noir which is being poured in our newly opened tasting room in the Funk Zone."

Festivals are fun for the winemakers, despite the danger, Fox points out, "That sometimes people can get a little sloppy and embarrassing." Silver just wants more contact, insisting the worst part of the festival might be, "Not being able to talk to people and answer questions if it's loud and busy." Luckily the negatives seem less of a worry at a festival like this one, for as Fox asserts, "It's at a beautiful venue with a lot of great local wineries. It is one of my personal favorite festivals of the year."

"It's a very important local get together and I can't explain how it happens," Silver sums up. "It brings together my favorite people from all over town and for some reason they all clear their schedules and commit to it. It provides an intimate look at many of the best Santa Barbara County wineries."

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