Laurie Jervis: Sta. Rita Hills Wine Alliance names Rick Longoria Winemaker of the Year | Homes and lifestyle
Wine & Fire, the annual multi-day event hosted by the Sta. Rita Hills Wine Alliance, will return to various locations in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA from Thursday August 18th to Sunday August 21st.
The Alliance is limiting ticket sales to ensure the weekend remains intimate, allowing guests to meet and greet participating winemakers.
Two events are already sold out – Friday night’s La Paulée dinner and Saturday morning’s “Quick Tasting with a Winemaker” – as well as the Wine & Fire combo ticket package for the entire weekend, according to the website.
The La Paulée dinner will take place at Babcock Winery in Lompoc and will honor winemaker Rick Longoria as 2022 Winemaker of the Year. La Paulée-style meals originated in France, where they typically celebrate the end of the harvest.
“Rick Longoria was a unanimous choice” for the award, said Barbara Satterfield, executive director of Sta. Rita Hills Wine Alliance.
“Rick and his wife, Diana, have been an integral part of our Santa Barbara wine community for 40 years. As a pioneer, mentor and exceptional winemaker, Rick has raised the bar for quality wines in our region. We are honored that he has chosen to shine his light on the Sta. Rita Hills.
While Longoria told me he was “not used to being singled out,” he and Diana call the recognition “an honor that means a lot to both of us. It’s special because it comes from our peers — the people who know us best.
After 40 years in the wine business, the couple sold Longoria Wines earlier this year to Brooke and Lindsey Christian of Maryland. Rick Longoria has agreed to stay on as a consultant for 18 months.
“I’ve had a light work schedule so far,” he said, but noted that “Diana is fully retired and loving it!”
The couple watch two of their three grandchildren – Marsten, just 2, and Vivian, 5 – from morning to night two days a week. “It’s a lot of fun,” Longoria said.
Reflecting on his four decades of making wine in Santa Barbara County, he called the expansion of vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills exciting and positive.
“The vineyards are better cultivated. Winemaking is a basic and primitive craft, the result of which is always determined by the quality of the fruit and the care with which a winemaker monitors this fruit.
Longoria has yet to work a harvest in his consulting role and admitted that he “could actually miss getting dirty and wet – late nights covered in grape juice. That’s a badge of honor , and I always enjoyed the work,” he said.
Previous Vintner of the Year winners, Satterfield noted, were Kathy Joseph in 2019, Richard Sanford in 2020 and Bryan Babcock in 2021.
Wine & Fire 2022 kicks off with Thursday’s Barn Party at the Hilt Winery, 2240 Santa Rosa Rd. in Lompoc. Tickets are $125 per person.
Participating winegrowers will pour large format and library bottles. Central Coast Specialty Foods will provide a charcuterie table and barbecue snacks. For the list of participating winemakers and cellars, visit https://www.staritahills.com/wine-and-fire-2022.
Friday’s sold-out La Paulée dinner at Babcock will begin with a sparkling wine reception and will be followed by a barbecue dinner prepared by Brett Steffan of High on the Hog Catering. Wines for dinner tables will be donated by member wineries, but in the spirit of La Paulée, guests are encouraged to bring their special bottles to share during dinner.
Wineries serving sparkling wines will be Babcock, Flying Goat Cellars, Sanford Winery, Spear Winery and Strange Family Vineyards.
Margerum Winery in Buellton will host the sold-out Saturday morning “Speed Tasting with a Winemaker,” an opportunity to talk with winemakers while tasting their wines. Producers rotate to a different table every 10 minutes, giving guests a chance to speak with all eight attendees. A packed lunch will be served after the tasting.
Saturday morning participating winemakers are Rick Longoria; Adam Tolmach, The Ojai/Fe Ciega Vineyard; Aaron Walker, Pali Wine Company; Doug Margerum, Barden Wines; Justin Charbonneau, Temperance Cellars; Kathy Joseph, Fiddlehead Cellars; Mireia Taribo, Camins 2 dreams; and Peter Work, Caves Ampelos.
The final formal event is Saturday’s Grand Tasting at La Purisima Mission, 2295 Purisima Rd., Lompoc. Tickets are $150 per person. The event runs from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets for this event will include a passport ticket for additional tastings at select wineries on Sunday, August 21.
A full list of wineries, chefs and caterers participating in Saturday’s Big Tasting is available at https://www.staritahills.com/wine-and-fire-2022.
— Laurie Jervis tweets at @lauriejervis and can be reached via [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.