Celebration of Harvest

I’m driving up 101 on my way to SBC Vintners’ Celebration of Harvest at Mission Santa Inés. This will be my first time attending the annual event. Plan is to be there at noon when they open the doors to VIPs with exclusive tastings. It’s a beautiful day (as usual) and I decide to take the back road past Nojoqui Falls to enter Solvang from Alisal Road.

I come up behind a truck moving slowly. All good.

I pull into Solvang and park, walking a short 5 minutes to the mission.

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The ladies of Casa Dumetz & Hamlet Inn!

The first thing I notice about the event is it’s huge. I am very impressed by the participation. So many booths! I realize after a minute that everybody is in alphabetical order so for no reason at all I start at the C’s. I start at Sonja Magdevski’s Casa Dumetz and go with Viognier. It is full bodied with a hint of pineapple. I notice Sonja is a few booths down with board member Jessy Osehan of The Hamlet Inn. I walk over and visit.

I stay on whites much longer than usual. It’s the warmth of the day, and they are just so darned tasty.

I grab a slider from Frank Ostini of The Hitching Post II and then to Lucas and Lewellen for a pour of Creamy Chardonnay from Louie.

The event is in full swing now with 2,000 in attendance. Even with the crowds the lines are short. I have now completely forgotten about the alphabet and move to reds. Katie Grassini from Grassini Family Vineyards pours me a sip of their excellent Cabernet Sauvignon. Grassini has been called out by many as one of the best Santa Ynez wineries.

I chat for a bit with good friend John Palmintari of KEYT and Rebecca Brand. Shannon of Releve (Releve produced the event) approaches and asks if we have anymore VisitSYV guides. So I start on a mission to retrieve Visitor Guides. I commandeer a volunteer with a Jeep and he takes me on a wild ride to my office as security and other volunteers are urgently telling us not to leave the grounds with the Jeep.

We return with the guides shortly and I jump out of the jeep leaving my driver to deal with the excited folks anxiously awaiting our safe return.

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Enjoying the VIP Lounge

I distribute and discover the VIP section with nice sofas! I get a taste of B.W. (Buttonwood) limited one-barrel red blend and sit down for a moment to take it all in. I just lean back and the GM of Hotel Corque (and board member) James Colvin joins me.

We talk about the beautiful day, the event, and nothing of importance. We are joined by Spencer Weiner of Caribbean Coffee. He is promoting the new Craft Draft Coffee that is amazing.

Alright, enough of a rest. I’m hungry. I say “later” to my pals and head to the Ballard Inn & Restaurant booth. GM and board member, Christine Forsyth is serving braised pork over Polenta. Yummy!  While devouring a second sample, I start talking to a couple who ask me what Santa Barbara hotels I’d recommend to experience the best Santa Barbara wine tours. To that, I exclaim, “You’re in the heart of Santa Barbara Wine Country, you’re in the Santa Ynez Valley!” I pointed them to our website to plan their next trip accordingly, and also recommended they check out our friends at Stagecoach Wine Tours for an awesome Santa Barbara County wine experience.

I make sure to drink water (always) throughout the day and eat. I need to pace myself as tonight I get to be the Emcee for the Toad concert at the Solvang Festival Theater.

It’s 5:30pm and I need to be at theater by 6:30. Now I need to freshen up and drink more water. But also need to keep some wine in my blood to continue my groove for this evening.

The legendary Linda Johansen of Pea Soup Anderson and the King Frederik Inn has generously offered me the use of her shower as she and her family are out of town.

I am now refreshed and walking towards the theater on a gorgeous SYV evening. I cross the street and notice my friend Christian Garvin of Avelina Wines speaking with a small group of young men. I stop and say hi. It turns out the group of guys is one of the bands (Tommy and the High Pilots), performing tonight. Nice guys and Christian is their manager. I enter the theater grounds and head right for the wine. Fleet Hamilton of Carivintâs Winery is generously pouring his fare.

I visit with Tenley Fohl, the official photographer for the evening and am approached by Kayleen of Relevé Unlimited for my sound check. Exciting! I go on the stage and feel relaxed and great. Sound check is done and I get a text from my beautiful wife that she has arrived. I meet her at the gate & get her a glass of wine.

After a bit I am told the time has come to get everyone in their seats. So I enter the theater, walk up on the stage and welcome everyone to the event. Reminding everyone the purpose of the evening is to support the Santa Barbara Birthing Center.

I then introduce the first artist Jonathan Kingham. He connects with the crowd immediately and is amazing.

Relevé Unlimited had told me that it was very important to keep things moving and on schedule. But when Jonathan’s time was up I just couldn’t bring myself to pull him. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand. I walked on the stage and went past him to go back stage. He asked on the mic if he needed to go, so I motioned for him to ignore me and continue. Then I ran backstage to check on the next band and find out if I was in trouble. No trouble. All good. I made the right decision!


When Jonathan finished his last song I walked out, thanked him, and introduced Tommy and the High Pilots.Tommy and the band humored me by taking an “USie” on the stage.

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Tenley Fohl got a great shot at the same moment I took an “USie” with the band!

They were also amazing and got the crowd up and dancing. They complete their set and I let everyone know they have a few minutes to fill their glasses while Toad the Wet Sprocket sets up. I go backstage and hang with the band for a minute asking how they would like to be introduced.

They are friendly and down to earth. Randy Guss, the band’s gifted drummer, tells me to introduce them as his band.

The moment has come, everyone is in their seats, and I go out on the stage and introduce “Randy Guss and his band!” They are as good as ever, playing familiar songs as well as new ones from their new album, California Wasted.

They play for an hour, everyone is loving it. They complete their set, thank everyone and leave the stage. I jump up on the stage and thank them. The crowd goes crazy.

I say “Wait a minute, let me look at my phone,” I pull out my phone and see we have 15 minutes left! So I continue, “We have some time for another song, should we bring them back out?” The crowd goes super crazy.

So I yell “Come on back out guys!” and leave the stage joining my wife.

The whole way back to my seat I am thinking, what the heck did I just do? They aren’t going to listen to me. Who am I? I hope they come out.

They come back out!!! Wow. Did I just do that? One of the coolest moments in my life.

They play “Walk on the Ocean” and two other favorites. Awesome. This time when they leave I get up on stage, thank them again, thank everyone for coming, shout out the sponsors, SB Birth Center, and wish everyone a goodnight.

Completing a full and fantastic day in the SYV.

Santa Ynez Valley EventsAbout VisitSYV.com: Visit Santa Ynez Valley provides listings of the best Santa Ynez wineries, best places to eat in Solvang, Santa Ynez hotels and inns, and things to do in Santa Ynez Valley. Visit the website at www.VisitSYV.com for complete travel and visitor services. “Like” the Facebook page for ideas on planning Santa Ynez vacations. Email info@VisitSYV.com for help planning your next vacation in the Santa Ynez Valley.