Sold-out dinner celebrates women winemakers

By Raiza Giorgi

Vintner’s Association Executive Director Morgen McLaughlin, Marisa Beverly of Bevela Wines and Laura Roach of Sanford Winery enjoy a night of celebrating women winemakers at K’Syrah Catering in Solvang.

Laura Roach’s grandmother encouraged her to try a career in winemaking because it was a “blend” of her love of chemistry, culinary arts and talking to people. She is now a winemaker at Sanford Winery.

“She saw the connection before I did, and I am so glad she did because it really keeps me grounded and active in an outdoor occupation,” Roach said.

Roach and more than 15 other area women winemakers gathered to share their love of wine and food at the first local Women Winemakers dinner on International Women’s Day. The sold-out event for more than 130 people was organized by K’Syrah Catering and Events and Buttonwood Winery. More than $6,000 was raised for the Women’s Fund from this dinner, according to event organizers.

“There are more than double the average women winemakers in Santa Barbara County, which is a great statement,” said Karen Steinwachs, winemaker at Buttonwood.

Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann said she would rather build longer tables than higher walls, and events such as this help strengthen community.

“Historically the wine industry has been male dominated. Women are bringing a new fresh perspective to the wine palette. Women are more and more getting dirty by operating forklifts, working in the fields and manual labor,” said Morgen McLaughlin, executive director of the Santa Barbara County Vintner’s Association.

The female winemakers were joined by some of the Santa Ynez Valley’s most inventive female chefs, who created a seven-course meal to pair with their winemaker colleagues’ wines.

More than 130 people enjoyed a seven-course meal paired with women winemakers’ wines.

Participating wineries included Buttonwood, Cambria, Casa Dumetz, Cebada, Dreamcote, Fiddlehead, Harrison Clarke, Kitá, La Montagne, Lepiane, Lumen, Nagy, Rideau, Rusack, Sanford, Story of Soil, and William James Cellars. Chef Pink of Bacon & Brine, Chef Brooke of the Union Hotel, Cheesemonger Janelle McAtamney, and baker Amy Dixon created the menu.

Proceeds from the March 8 event benefit the Women’s Fund of Northern Santa Barbara County, a giving circle in which individuals combine their money and/or time so they can have a bigger impact on the causes than they would by donating individually. In 2016, the Women’s Fund distributed $50,000 in grants to organizations serving women and children.