The 6th Annual Stars of Santa Barbara Review - The Best Education Doesn't Come From a Textbook

(Los Angeles, CA) January 21, 2009 – Wines from 33 of Santa Barbara’s finest wineries, mouth-watering food and friendly people, all at the ultra chic, ultra exclusive Peninsula Hotel in the heart of illustrious Beverly Hills. Wish you were there?

Hosted by Learn About Wine, the Annual Stars of Santa Barbara is a wine education night that brings together the top echelon of Santa Barbara winemakers in sexy Los Angeles locations, and this 6th year, it was limited to only the top 125 wine enthusiasts. Throughout the night, guests tasted and learned about Santa Barbara’s most luscious liquid, while simultaneously giving back to the community with a silent auction that raises money for the TJ Martell Foundation and Cancer Research at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

Though I was not privy to this elegant evening, I was lucky enough to attend the “trade tasting,” which was the casual, low-key version of the event, but with the same alcohol content and sans silent auction (aka, the “working-class friendly” version).

I can only dream up the magic that must have taken place that evening, for the trade tasting was absolutely fabulous! My “+1” was supposed to be my dad, who flaked on his precious daughter due to business meetings Downtown, thus I had no choice but to arrive solo at Beverly Hills’s hot-spot Peninsula Hotel, commonly known for its celebrity sightings and reservation-only “ High Tea.”

Many guests were restaurant or hotel managers looking to revamp their wine lists

I entered the French doors, graciously held open by sexy, Italian-suited men with Rembrandt smiles plastered across their faces and concluded that Learn About Wine could not have picked a more perfect venue for the 6th Annual Stars of Santa Barbara than the Peninsula Hotel. As I took an excited step onto the marble floors of this famous piece of architecture, all bitterness towards my dad began to evaporate and with each step leading me closer to the Verandah Room for my day of libations, feelings of bliss took over my mind.

First things first: check in, pick up my nametag and grab my 13-oz tasting glass (fun fact: if filled ½” from the top, this equals half a bottle of wine, so heavy-handed pourers beware).

Each winery offered its current whites, reds and roses for tastings

Now time for fun (oops, I mean work):
The wineries wrapped around the edge of the hallway, then out to the patio and back in / around the Verandah Room in alphabetical order as follows:
1.     Addamo Vineyards
2.     Ampelos Cellars
3.     Arcadian Winery
4.     Buttonwood Winery
5.     Brewer-Clifton
6.     Cargasacchi
7.     Carr Winery
8.     Casa Barranca
9.     Coquelicot Estate Vineyard
10.     Cordon
11.     Core Wine
12.     Curtis Winery
13.     Demetria Estate
14.     Dierberg Vineyard
15.     Foley
16.     Foxen Vineyard
17.     Gioia Wine
18.     Jonata
19.     La Fenêtre, Timeless Palates
20.     Loring Wine Company
21.     Pali Wine Company
22.     Palmina Wines
23.     Presidio Winery
24.     Riverbench
25.     Sans Liege
26.     Seasmoke Cellars
27.     Silver Wine
28.     Stolpman Vineyards
29.     Summerland Wine
30.     Sunstone Winery
31.     Tantara Winery
32.     Kenneth Volk Wines
33.     Zaca Mesa

Between the 33 wineries, there were over 100 different labels, ranging from sweet Riesling or dry, yet citrus-y Sauvignon Blanc to luscious rosé variations to oak-y Pinot Noir or full-bodied Syrah. Each winery had a booth with two or three of its current white, red and rosé (if applicable) labels that guests could taste while getting more information live from the winemakers themselves.

Having over 100 wine blends means that guests had many details to note

After struggling through the first five or so booths (putting me at least ten tastings deep), I started to really feel the affects of fermentation and wondered how in the world others were fluttering from winery to winery with such ease. I guess I should have asked questions rather than silently labeling fellow tasters “rude,” wasteful” or “bad-mannered,” as I watched them spit out their wine – often without grace and looking quite gross. Nevertheless, it was clearly an amateur mistake of swallowing each taste, as it cannot possibly be expected for a single individual to function properly after consuming over 100 ounces of wine (assuming each taste is only 1 ounce)!

This taster means business - no wine spitting here!

Luckily, Learn About Wine knows how to host a fabulous wine event. Inside, there were deliciously succulent grilled vegetables and baked breads, including a savory olive bread that I devoured faster than you could say “ Stars of Santa Barbara.” Outside, I found dainty, silver pitchers of ice water (hallelujah!) and three of the most flavorful pastas I’ve ever eaten: spinach ravioli in a rich pesto sauce, gourmet macaroni rigate with exotic cheeses and fusilli with tons of sweet sundried tomatoes and chopped asparagus in a creamy sauce, all accompanied by warm garlic bread.

(left to right) spinach ravioli, gourmet macaroni rigate and fusilli with sundried tomatoes and chopped asparagus

I stuffed my face in attempt to absorb as much alcohol as quickly as possible, realizing that I still many more wines that needed tasting… but without actual consumption this time. I do have to admit, however, that some trickles of my favorite wines somehow managed to drip down my throat… pure accident, of course!

Three hours and twenty-three wineries later, I was full, content and extra excited because my dad ended up surprising me midway through the event.

Wine + grilled veggies + baked breads = happy dad as guest

Next step: become a wine connoisseur and find a way to attend the 2010 evening extravaganza that will be the 7th Annual Stars of Santa Barbara!

About Learn About Wine: demystifying wine for everyone!
Wine can be tricky to understand and it may take years to become a true connoisseur, which is why Ian Blackburn founded Learn About Wine in 1995. Learn About Wine was the first business to provide education, service and enjoyment of wine, whether in intimate sensory classes, corporate team building exercises or large-scale wine socials.

About TJ Martell: Music + Science = CURE!
The TJ Martell Foundation is dedicated to raising funds for innovative research for treatment of Leukemia, Cancer and AIDS. Created in honor of musician Tony Martell’s son who died from Leukemia in 1975, the TJ Martell Foundation combines the music industry with science, two prominent forces in life that are constantly changing, in order to find a cure for the most fatale diseases that affect millions every year. Today, this organization has become “the music business’s indisputable main medical charity and a key player in worldwide cancer research," according to

Peninsula Hotel
9882 South Santa Monica Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
(310) 551-2888

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