Beer and barbecue are definitely on the Memorial Day Weekend agenda but with three days to fill, make some room for a glass or two of wine. In Santa Barbara, one of the region's most illustrious winemakers Jim Clendenen opens a tasting room after decades in the biz, stocks it with rare finds and throws a party. While downtown's Music Center hosts the Rotary Club's City of Angels Wine Fest, a charitable way to spend Memorial Day afternoon.
Close to 30 wineries, pleasing Santa Rita Hills favorites like Alma Rosa, Babcock and Melville plus Arroyo Grande's Talley and local darlings Malibu Wines, will be pouring at the City of Angels Wine Fest that spreads out over the Music Center's scenic Plaza. Dance away the afternoon, drink and nosh too. Delectable bites come from the Patina Group's fine restaurants. Pair Pinot Noir wine tastes with Nic + Stef's shaved prime rib sandwich served on a crispy baguette. Kendall's Brasserie shows some finesse with a Tartine sampler that includes an heirloom tomato salad; and don't miss Café Pinot's Tahitian vanilla panna cotta.
Sponsored by Los Angeles' Rotary Club, the event and art silent auction benefits Volunteers of America's Rotary House that provides aid to downtown's homeless. Tickets are available online and can be purchased at the door. Prices range from $25 to $150 for a VIP entrance (unlimited wine and food).
There's a new mayor of Santa Barbara's Urban Wine Trail: Jim Clendenen. One of Santa Barbara County's most respected winemakers and vineyard owners, Clendenen opened his first tasting room ever last week just off State Street in the El Paseo courtyard building that's also home to the Wine Cask and Margerum Wine Tasting Room. After more than 30 years of making wine, the low-key tasting room finally gathers all of Clendenen's various projects and labels under one roof from his famed Au Bon Climat Winery (ABC) to his Clendenen Family Vineyard wines, plus his take on Italian varietals via Vita Nova and Ici/La-Bas (made from grapes sourced from the north coast).
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To celebrate the launch, a library wines sale on both Saturday and Sunday offers 200 cases of more than 30 impossible-to-find bottles and rare vintages. Expect wine geeks to drool over the three vintages (1999, 2003, 2004) of Au Bon Climat's Hildegard propriety white blend or the magnums of 2001 Nuits-Blanches Chardonnay. Clendenen will be there too. Both afternoons feature 20 wine tastes (10 from Clendenen's wide-ranging portfolio; 10 from the adjacent Margerum Wine tasting room) plus light snacks on the Wine Cask's patio. (Tickets are $25/person).
Previously, the Au Bon Climat Winery was only open to the public twice a year during the Santa Barbara Vitners' Festival: that was the public's only time to delve into Clendenen's vault. The new tasting room will continue to offer a revolving choice of library wines, special verticals and current releases. Clendenen's wines are recognized for their quality and consistent Old-World Burgundian style that results in wines that are artfully balanced and food friendly. Ideal for a holiday weekend or any day for that matter.
Au Bon Climat Winery Tasting Room: 813 Anacapa St., Santa Barbara;