By Laurie Jervis

Noozhawk Contributor

Wine & Fire, the celebration of Santa Rita Hills’ winemakers and wines, returns to the greater Lompoc Valley Friday through Sunday, Aug. 17-19, for its 17th year.

The event is the largest wine and food tasting produced by the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance (SRHWGA), the organization devoted to the promotion of the vineyards and wine grown in the Sta. Rita Hills American Viticultural Area near the western edge of Santa Barbara County, between Buellton and Lompoc.

Tickets are available online at Buy early, as the event always sells out.

New this year for the Saturday morning seminar will be “Speed Tasting with a Winemaker,” the alliance’s take on the “speed dating” phenomenon.

Featured will be wines from nine winemaking partners or spouses, among them Gray Hartley and Frank Ostini (Hitching Post Wines); Adam Lee and Brian Loring (Siduri Wines and Loring Wine Co.); Greg Brewer and Sonja Magdevski (Brewer Clifton and Casa Dumetz); and Tara Gomez and Mireibo Taribo (Kita Wines).

Each winemaking team will spend approximately 10 minutes with a table of eight to 10 guests and will pour up to two wines. The winemakers will discuss vineyard sources and open up the conversation for a round-table discussion, said Barbara Satterfield, longtime executive director of the SRHWGA.

The Sta. Rita Hills’ AVA is home to more than 2,000 acres of pinot noir and 500 acres of chardonnay — two of the grapes that thrive in the region famed for its “sea smoke,” or prevalent marine layer.

Wine & Fire is small and informal enough to afford attendees the opportunity to mingle one-on-one with winemakers.

“One of the best things about Wine & Fire is that guests not only have the opportunity to experience great wines, but they also get to meet many of our winemakers and (winery) owners,” Satterfield said.

The two-day event, Satterfield said, has grown into “one of the best ‘little’ wine events in the state.”

Mark Horvath, winemaker and owner of Crawford Family Wines with his wife, Wendy Horvath, agrees that Wine & Fire is special.

“The alliance has a really cohesive group of winery owners who have a spectacular mission to promote the region’s pinot noir, chardonnay and syrah,” he said. “The winemakers are a great group of smart, passionate people, and thankfully, the wines stand up.”

Horvath also cited the attendees who return to Wine & Fire year after year as factors in the celebration’s uniqueness.

“Many of them have made the journey from other California regions, and out of state, for many years. The guests are really loyal followers, and knowledgeable and enthusiastic — they feel as if they discovered a secret region in the Sta. Rita Hills.”

In addition, “the guests come as much for the other people as they do for the wine. It’s like a reunion,” Horvath said.

In addition to those listed above, the following winemaking teams will participate in the Saturday Speed Tasting:

Joey and Sara Gummere, Transcendence Wines; Michael Fogelman and Lisa Liberati, Sweetzer Cellars; owner John Wagoner and winemaker Wynn Solomon, Peake Ranch and Vineyard; Mark and Wendy Horvath, Crawford Family Wines; and John Hilliard and Christine Bruce, Hilliard Bruce.

Wally Ronchietto, the former owner of Café Buenos Aries in Santa Barbara, and GiGi of GiGi’s Chimi, will be firing up their grills for an Argentine-style barbecue for the Saturday seminar. On the menu will be traditional Argentine Asado, salads, bread, meat and sausages.

The traditional Barn Party will once again kick off Wine & Fire weekend and will be held at the Fiddlestix Vineyard barn from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17. Featured this year will be library wines, large format bottles and small-production wines.

Friday evening’s chefs du jour will be Brett Stephen from Buellton’s High on the Hog Catering, and a cheese buffet presented by Central Coast Specialty Foods.

The Bryan Titus Trio will set the pace with toe-tapping bluegrass and “American Roots” music guaranteed to get guests dancing.

Saturday morning’s seminar will take place at a vineyard or winery still to be named in late June.

The grand tasting will return to La Purisima Mission from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18. More than 40 wineries, local chefs and farmers will be on hand for the “fire” portion of Wine & Fire, Satterfield said.

Among those scheduled to participate are Babe Farms, Campbell Farms, Central Coast Specialty Foods, Homegrown Cowboy, The Hitching Post II, Los Amigos BBQ, Scratch Kitchen and The Ballard Inn.


Laurie Jervis blogs about wine at, tweets at @lauriejervis and can be reached via The opinions expressed are her own.