Santa Barbara Wine Country: Part One

When most people think of California Wine Country they usually think Napa and Sonoma Valleys. But there are more wine regions in California than you may think. I had the pleasure of spending time in Santa Barbara Wine Country as part of a blogger/influencer trip coordinated by Emily Martin of The Jetsettting Fashionista and Emily Martin Communications & Events

Emily, along with Lacey Fussel and Lisa Gerbac of Muse Wine Marketinghosted several bloggers for a 48-hour adventure tasting great wine, fabulous food and taking in the sights in Santa Barbara Wine Country.  I was delighted to be included and couldn’t wait to visit a California Wine County I had yet to experience!

Thankfully, Bill was able to join me for this fun weekend. We left early the morning of the first day. We planned to arrive with enough time to have lunch and do a little sightseeing in the area before checking into our hotel and meeting up with our group.


We decided to visit the charming town of Solvang. It had been many years since we spent time at this Danish-settled village with lots of windmills, pastry shops and flower gardens. We arrived late morning and walked around the village,  working up an appetite for lunch.

Since I knew we’d be in the car for several hours, as well as walking around exploring, I dressed comfortably, but of course I still wanted to look stylish. I wore jeans, light gray suede booties, a long-sleeved top by Covered Perfectly and a Stella Carakasi jacket from the Resort 2017 Collection.

We checked out three or four restaurant menus before deciding on Bacon & Brine. It had such an an appealing and interesting menu with lots of locally grown and sourced fare.

We ordered the Fried Brussels Sprouts and they were truly the best Brussels sprouts we have ever tasted. You would think with a name like Bacon & Brine they would be covered in delicious bacon but they weren’t! Instead the Brussels sprouts were fried in sesame oil and topped with ponzu sauce and sesame seeds. I’m going to try making them at home sometime.


After lunch we drove the short distance to our hotel, the Marriott Santa Ynez Valley. With a friendly and welcoming staff, large and contemporary lobby and bar area, and well-appointed guest rooms, it’s a lovely and convenient place to stay when visiting this wine region.

I thought this little alcove area in our room was so cute and ideal for getting a few things done on the laptop between outings.

We had a knock at the door soon after checking in, and were greeted with a lovely surprise! A tray of snacks, a bottle of wine and some water for our room. What a lovely treat!

Once we got settled and unpacked, we dressed for the evening. I wore my Karen Klein dress, suede booties with tights and a leather choker.  Soon it was time to meet the group and head to the darling town of Los Olivos.


Epiphany Cellars is located in downtown Los Olivos and is part of the Fess Parker family of wines. Epiphany focuses on Rhone varietals, most from the Santa Barbara Wine Country. We expereinced a sit-down wine tasting with Eli Parker, son of Fess Parker, founder of Epiphany Cellars and the label’s Brand Visionary.

The outside of the tasting room is quaint and charming while the inside is hip and chic with a retro Mad Men vibe.

I love the orange furniture against the light flooring and walls, as well as the metallic accents and lighting. It was such a fabulous setting!

Epiphany was founded originally as a creative outlet when Parker was winemaking. These days, as Brand Visionary, he’s left that role and given it to Blair Fox, who is the talented and well-known winemaker for both Epiphany and Fess Parker labels.

As an enthusiast of mostly white wines, I loved this 2014 Inspiration from Santa Barbara County. It’s a drinkable and lovely blend of 50% Viognier, 25% Marsanne, 13% Roussanne, 12% Grenache Blanc. Ideal for summer sipping on the patio!

Bubble Shack

Adjacent to Epiphany is the Bubble Shack. Siblings Ashley Parker Snider and Eli Parker created this special tasting room for their line of bubbles. Ashley and Eli collaborated to bring sparkling wines to their customers. Their Fesstivity Blanc de Blanc and Brut Rose from Sta. Rita AVA are their first releases.

While we weren’t able to experience the Bubble Shack during our visit, it’s certainly on my list of things to do next time!


After our visit to Epiphany Cellars concluded, it was time to eat! We went to The Ballard Inn’s restaurant, The Gathering Table. What a romantic and relaxing atmosphere! Candle lit tables, a roaring fire in the dining room’s fireplace, and only 12 tables in the entire restaurant. Chef Budi Kazali, named CCM’s Ultimate Chef, has been the owner of this beautiful property since 2004.

I sat with Emily and two other influencers at the end of our long table. We decided to order several plates to share – cheese fondue, fresh oysters on the half shell, a salad and hamachi. Delicious, fresh and flavorful!

Not wanting to miss out on any desserts, we ordered three to share. All three were delectable but I loved their bread pudding!


Photo Courtesy of Gainey Vineyards

The next morning, we had breakfast in the hotel before heading to Gainey Vineyard for a tour and tasting. It was such a gorgeous winter day with sunshine and blue skies.

I was excited to see that Gainey has such an expansive and picturesque ranch with vistas as far as the eye can see.

If you look closely, you can see the Santa Ynez Mountains in the background were capped with a bit of snow.

We would be taking a tour of the property – not by foot but by jeep. What an adventure! Cloud Climbers Jeep and Wine Tours provided the jeeps and the skilled drivers. I love the yellow color of the jeeps – my favorite!

Our guide and driver was Michelle. She was so friendly! Doesn’t this seem like such a fun job to have?

We stopped by a vineyard to learn more about Gainey Vineyard.  It’s a family owned winery that was established in 1984. Gainey makes small quantities of high-quality wine such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling,  and Cabernet Sauvignon Wines.

The Gainey family owns three properties in two appellations – Santa Ynez and Sta. Rita Hills – and is able to produce enough fruit to produce 18,000 cases of estate wines each year, meaning they don’t buy grapes from other growers.

Driving up and down hills, through some mud and over rocks, we explored a good portion of the ranch. When we came upon a rustic barn, we stopped for a break and some photo opportunities. The Gainey’s use this barn for events, like weddings. Wouldn’t this be such a great place to get married?

It was a lovely and peaceful place to walk around. The day was sunny but a little cool – it was wintertime after all –  so I wore a sweater poncho, a long-sleeved tee, jeans tucked into tall cognac boots and my wool Australian Outback hat. For jewelry, I wore a beaded necklace with a tassel necklace from KayandStar (similar).

I ventured into the barn with Amy Lieberfarb who is a friend and fellow blogger, also from a Sonoma Valley. Amy has the blog Sip on this Juice and does the wildly popular weekly wine discussion on Twitter called Sonoma Chat (#sonomachat).

Photo Courtesy of Gainey Vineyard

Once the jeep tour was complete, we went back to the winery and visited the barrel room.


Once there, we had the chance to sample a few more Gainey Vineyard wines right out of the barrel!

Stay tuned for Part Two of the Santa Barbara Wine Country adventure!

Have you ever visited Santa Barbara Wine Country?

Disclosure: My hotel room, meals (except for Bacon & Brine) and wine tasting experiences were part of the blogger/influencer trip and I was not charged. All opinions expressed here are my own, as always. 


One of my favorite trips this year was to Carmel for the Carmel International Film Festival. My friend Julie, who you may know from KayandStar, invited me to cover the film festival on my blog.

Julie comes to California every year to volunteer for this five-day event, which includes the screening of over 120 films in 10 venues in the Carmel area. There are nightly parties, live music, and panels along with 300 film makers, executives, actors, producers, directors and celebrities.

Julie invited Bill and me to stay with her in the vacation home she rented with her husband, just a block from the beach and a short walk to Ocean Avenue, the main shopping and dining area in Carmel-by-the-Sea. The two-story rental house was beautiful and so full of natural light. This was the view off the back deck on the second floor of the home. A stunning vista!

carmel film festival

Bill and I quickly unpacked and got settled in our beautiful guest room. Julie had our press passes and info ready for us so I spent some time getting familiar with it all. I love the cool messenger bag with the Carmel International Film Festival logo and brought it back home with me to Sonoma.

carmel film festival

The Film Festival 

That evening we headed out with Julie and her husband to the Filmmakers Welcome Party at the Sunset Center in downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea. The first thing we noticed when we arrived were the unique table scapes. This one had a pair of white mannequin legs coming out of the centerpiece. How creative!

carmel film festival

The catering was done by Kurtz Culinary. They really outdid themselves with these colorful displays of beautiful fresh fruit, nuts, cheeses, charcuterie and bread. It was almost too pretty to eat but somehow we all managed!

carmel film festival

There were chocolate treats too. Bill and I visited the Marich Premium Chocolate table more than once – I think four times if I remember correctly. This tasty chocolate company only uses fair-trade-certified premium cocoa, whole nuts, and fresh fruit. The big bowl of white candies in the middle was filled with their Peppermint Bark Caramel Popcorn. If you are looking for a sweet holiday treat to give as a gift or to yourself, this is it!

marich chocolates

There were about a dozen Monterey County wineries at the reception too. It’s always a treat to taste wines from other California regions.

carmel film festival

It was such a delight to meet Julie in person. We have chatted often online but this was our first time face-to-face. I am so grateful to have met her and attend this wonderful event.

Julie and Adrienne

Matthew Modine was at the event that evening, presenting a short film he wrote and directed. It’s titled Super Sex and stars Ed Asner, Kevin Nealon, Elizabeth Perkins  and Matthew Modine’s daughter, Ruby Modine. Don’t let the title fool you! It’s a such a cute film that is sure to give you a giggle or two.

Julie convinced Matthew Modine to take a photo with me. He had just plucked a grape from one of the many tables and was commenting about how huge it was! Such a funny moment – sort of surreal.

Matthew Modine

After the reception, we were asked to head into the beautiful theatre at the Sunset Center. First we watched Super Sex, then Matthew Modine and Ed Asner came on stage afterward and answered some questions from the emcee, Erin Clark who is also the co-founder of the Carmel International Film Festival. The Q & A was quite entertaining! I forgot how hilarious Ed Asner can be. I love his dry, quick humor!

Next, we watched The Space Between, a feature length film written and directed by Amy Jo Johnson, who also acted in the film. You may recognize Amy from her roles on Flashpoint, Power Rangers, Felicity.

The Space Between is an indie comedy about family, forgiveness and coming of age. It was humorous, touching and I enjoyed the plot line. After the movie, the cast came out to take questions from Erin as well as the audience.

carmel film festival

Another great event during the festival was attending the Women in Film reception and luncheon at La Playa Hotel in Carmel-by-the-Sea. The reception was outdoors on the hotel’s beautiful patio. It was such a gorgeous day!

carmel film festival

Once lunch began, we went inside to find our assigned table. Look who was sitting with us?

carmel film festival

This event is a celebration of women in the film industry. It brings together powerful women, from many fields, for networking opportunities and to support and encourage both present and future artists. After lunch we listened to a panel discussion led by Erin Clark.

carmel film festival

That evening, all four of us – Julie, her husband and Bill and I – went out for dinner, then returned to the Sunset Center to see Good Fortune.

The Red Carpet had been rolled out and stars began to arrive!

carmel film festival

Bill caught this photo of John Paul DeJoria with the Mayor of Carmel, Steve Dallas.

John Paul Dejoria

Good Fortune is a documentary about John Paul DeJoria’s rise to incredible success after growing up poor and, at times, being homeless. The film focuses on his many philanthropic endeavors. You’ll want to be friends with John Paul and you’ll be inspired to be more like him after watching this film.

After the film, John Paul came on stage with directors Josh and Rebecca Tickell to discuss the film and take questions. Shortly after, John Paul received the first Carmel International Film Festival Creative Humanitarian Award, established this year by the Board of Directors. The award recognizes John Paul DeJoria’s many contributions and achievements and his tireless charitable and volunteer work.

carmel film festival

The last event we attended at the film festival was the Filmmakers Beach Dinner at Lovers Point in Pacific Grove. It was a wonderful evening, capping off a fantastic experience in Carmel.

carmel film festival

Exploring Carmel

It just wouldn’t be a complete trip to Carmel without visiting the beach. I took several walks on the beach with Bill during our stay.

carmel beach

We liked to watch the surfers ride the waves.

carmel surfers

And of course on a gorgeous, sunny fall day at the beach, we had to take a selfie!

carmel film festival

We also watched the sunset…

carmel sunset

a couple times. I love the jagged rocks on the coastline.

carmel film festival

Birthday Shopping in Carmel! 

My birthday was a couple of days after the film festival ended, but I thought it was still early enough for a little birthday shopping! Julie suggested I visit European Jewelers at jewelry store at The Crossroads in Carmel.

They have gorgeous and unique jewelry! Bill bought me a beautiful ring I wear all the time and a long necklace with pearls, amethyst and other semi-precious stones. I love the long necklace layered with the Agate pendant from KayandStar that I bought last year.

carmel jewelry

I also treated myself to a pair of tall Turkish boots from Artemis (that blogged about that here) and ordered a pair of peep-toe booties I’ll be showing you in future style post.

Artemis Boots of Carmel

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my favorite highlights from Carmel! It was truly a wonderful experience I won’t forget. Thank you, Julie!


Holiday Offer from KayandStar

Julie and her daughter Jordan are offering readers a special discount on KayandStar jewelry for the holidays. Take 15% off your KayandStar purchase(s) from now until 12/20/16. Just use code RICHLIFEGIFTS at checkout!

Long Sea Glass Beaded Necklaces

How I Wear My Reminder

The How I Wear My theme for December is “Holiday Party Look.” Send in a photo of you in your holiday outfit to [email protected] no later than Monday, December 5th. The posts will go live December 7th.

Jill of Everything Just So and I can’t wait to see your holiday looks!

How I Wear My Badge

Make it a rich day!



Disclosure: I was given two media passes to attend the Carmel International Film Festival. All opinions expressed here are my own, as always.