Discovering California’s Finest Wines at Hotel Californian’s Monthly Winemaker Dinners – Pursuitist

Santa Barbara, California – aka the American Riviera – is blessed with year-round sunshine, a stunning coastline, a foodie paradise, and an array of exceptional local wineries, making the picturesque town a sophisticated destination for fine dining and fine wine-ing.

Just a short walk from the Santa Barbara pier is red-roofed Hotel Californian, a stylish Moorish oasis with a stunning black-and-white motif by celebrity designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard, oversized guest rooms, al fresco lounges, and an inspired food and wine program that draws fans from near and far.

Traveling oenophiles and local wine enthusiasts can indulge in exquisite wines paired with a four-course meal curated and prepared by Hotel Californian Executive Chef Travis Watson. The special evenings start with an open-air meet-and-greet reception on the patio, followed by an indulgent four-course dinner featuring a selection of wines from a single winery, chosen by the winemaker. Each wine is paired with a local, sustainable dish, such as Pinot Braised Octopus with Heirloom Beans, Aerated Burrata, Grilled Stone Fruit, Sous Vide Kobe New York with Fresh Corn Polenta, and a dessert of Roasted Apricots, Gulab Jamun Syrup, Rose Scented Meringue, with Lychee-Framboise Rose Sorbet.

The first winemaker dinner honored Niki Williams of the storied Sonoma winery Chateau St. Jean. The evening began with an open-air meet-and-greet reception on the patio, followed by an indulgent four-course dinner. Seated at the center of a long communal table, Niki regaled guests with insights about “letting the fruit shine,” she said. “We work hard to grow the best fruit possible in the vineyard, so I try not to leave my fingerprints all over the grapes.”

This month’s Winemaker Dinner at Blackbird is October 20 featuring Chalk Hill Winery hosted by winemaker Sarah Quider, VP of Winemaking for Foley Family Wines. “My goal is to make complex, intense, and seamless wines that are balanced in both richness and delicacy,” said Sarah. “We have such a tremendous diversity of wineries at Foley Family Wines. We have wineries and vineyards located in various appellations, each with unique micro-climates, soils, and clones. I love expressing this diversity in each of these wines.”

On November 17, guests will sip world-class wines from Chalone Vineyards while mingling with winemaker Greg Freeman, previously with Georis/Cowgirl Winery in Carmel Valley, California and Messina Hof Winery in Bryan, Texas. He joined Chalone Vineyard in 2021, bringing two decades of Monterey winemaking experience as he writes the latest chapter in Chalone’s storied history.

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The final Winemakers Dinner of 2022 will be held on December 15, hosted by second-generation vintner, Courtney Foley of Foley Family Wines. Sip on a few of the Foley family’s favorite wines from across their portfolio enjoy yet another all-new four-course dinner from Executive Chef Travis Watson.

Guests who enjoy the wines featured at the Winemaker Dinners can experience them again by visiting The Society: State & Mason, which is now open daily. Serving as Santa Barbara’s newest refuge for wine aficionados in the bustling Funk Zone neighborhood, the intimate tasting room celebrates the intersection between world-class wines, exquisite cuisine, and immersive, memorable travel experiences.


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Vicki Arkoff

Based in Los Angeles, Vicki Arkoff is a contributor for JustLuxe and an editor for Holiday Goddess, the online destination for chic women travelers from the editors of Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Grazia, Conde Nast Traveler, Lonely Planet, and BBC. She’s co-author of the bestselling Holiday Goddess books (HarperCollins and iTunes) including ‘The Holiday Goddess Guide to Paris, London, New York, Rome’ which spent nearly 10 months in the travel Top 10. Four city guidebooks followed and were named ‘books of the month.’ As editor, Vicki’s other books include ‘Sinatra’ (DK), ‘Inside Mad’ (Time-Life) and ‘Virgin Los Angeles’ (Virgin Books). She is one of the Usual Gang of Idiots for MAD Magazine, an entertainment reporter (Daily Variety, Entertainment Weekly, Los Angeles Magazine, CREEM), and authorized biographer for pop culture icons from the Beach Boys to Beastie Boys, Paul McCartney to MC Hammer.

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