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Oct 8, 2008 04:58 PM

Santa Barbara County- Celebration of Harvest

My wine supply is low so I had planned to drive up Saturday for a day of wine tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley. However, I heard the "Celebration of Harvest" is going on this weekend. Has anyone been to this before? At $65 it seems pretty steep, despite the promise of "toe tapping music." I am also worried all the wineries will be packed. The Vintner's Visa looks like a good deal if I planned to spend more than 1 day tasting.

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  1. This is a smaller version of the Vintner's Festival that is held every April, which I've been to for the past several years. I went to the Harvest Celebration a few years back, and really enjoyed it. There are about 200 wineries pouring, and many local restaurants serving some of their signature dishes. I've always bought a bus pass to avoid having to drive; it picks up at the Royal Scandinavian hotel in Solvang, as well as other locations in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria. I've also purchased the Visa before, and it is a pretty good way to go. The nice thing about going up during this weekend is that some wineries that are usually by appointment only will open up to the public. Some wineries also have special events happening throughout the weekend, there is a list on the web site.

    I came up with a new strategy this year in that I'm not going to the festival, I'm using my Visa to visit wineries the day of the festival. I'm hoping this will alleviate the crowd issue (at least on Saturday), and since I've been to several festivals, I think I know which wineries to focus on. Then again, there are always too many I want to visit and not enough time. I really recommend trying to spend at least a couple of days in the area.

    My only complaint about going to the actual festival is that it is a bit overwhelming, and impossible to try everything that you want to. It is, however, a very good introduction to the wines/wineries of the region. One tactic could be to ask people as you are walking around what stands out for them and try to hit some of the highlights. Some of my personal favorites are Melville, Ken Brown, Rideau, Foley, Alma Rosa, Andrew Murray and Ampellos, to name just a few.

    Hope this helps. Should be a nice weekend weather wise, so I hope you decide to try it out. Please report back if you do.

    1. The Celebration of Harvest is half the party Vintners Festival in April is, and it is considered a more intimate affair- though it will still be is at Rancho Sisquoc, which is WAY out in the boonies on Foxen Canyon- there are many shuttles from the area- I'd do it, as the road is quite rural and scenic- I'd rather someone else do the driving and me the enjoyin' the view.

      The wineries themselves tend to do something special as well, or at least the option of something special- sometimes it is "for members only", if you have signed up for their wine club- you get to do a top tier tasting with finger food, or special wines are poured at no extra charge to could check each winery online to see if they are offering anything.

      It will be busy in the Valley, as it is beautiful weather, it is harvest time for both grapes and apples, and it is fall- so there are alot of visitors no matter what. If there is a particular winery that you want to visit- do it first thing in the am, to avoid any crowds.

      Good luck getting a room. Lots of winemaker dinners going on, the Solvang tasting rooms will be open later than normal.

      In Santa Barbara- it is the Harbor Festival- 10 am to 4 pm for all things ocean related- and $2.00 uni spoons! The best bbq'd halibut , oysters, chowder, lobster, maritime museum goings ons- thats where we'll be.

      1. I have not been for a couple of years, but I really enjoyed the celebration of the harvest. It is worth the money. The only problem is that they are pouring so many wines, it can be tough to keep them all straight, take good notes. It is really, really crowded on Sunday at the wineries, they do special things but you may have trouble visiting more than a couple if you want to taste and buy. If you took good notes on saturday, then you can buy at a few more wineries. Also try some of the places that are not normally open. I am thinking of Qupe, they usually do something fun out at their production facility up in SM. I do like the fall festival better than the spring one, the weather is nicer and Sisquoc can't be beat.

        8 Replies
        1. re: littlestevie

          I am curious if you ttended or not, figg.

          1. re: JalamaMama

            We did attend the Seafood Festival last weekend at the Santa Barbara Harbor - lots of booths, crowds and too little interesting food available. One big chunk of BBQ albacore, but it was really just brushed with some BBQ sauce, and some shell fish if this is your sort of thing, (duh, it was a seafood festival, I know, I know) but long lines for these few offerings. I was hoping for more things that were easier to eat while standing, something like fish kabobs or varieties of fish to sample, etc.

            But all was not lost - had some pretty good fish tacos at Breakwater at the Harbor and took time to see the Ty Warner Natural History Museum aquatic educational center on the Pier, which was pretty amazing and full of happy kids exploring the underwater world. They did a very nice job on this on the inside but the outside still looks forboding and uninviting. I suggest they put an arbor "entrance" on the arm of the pier closest to the main pier trunk that welcomes people to the educational center rather than having it look like an empty ghost town when in fact it is full of lively activities.

            1. re: glbtrtr

              I too attended the Harbor Festival- along with my 6 yr old daughter- and we had a blast!

              We always arrive before 11am (driving from Los Olivos)- the crowds-and dogs-get pretty thick as the day goes on. Why do people bring their dogs? Don't get me wrong- I love dogs- and my daughter even more so, but if I had a dollar for every dog we stopped to pet...last year there was a pretty good scuffle between 2 dogs- not fun with a 5 yr old.

              I had awesome fresh oysters, uni sushi- the offerings of uni were trippled this yr- lobster bisque, clam chowder and albacore- all fresh delicious and better than expected. The chowder was served in a smaller vessel- same price.

              We enjoyed the coast guard boat, the harbor queen free boat, all the information tables- we recieved free abalone shells, stickers to put on our boat to measure fish, a jr fishing license, touched lobster and crabs, and the music was great too- especially the brass guys/bell guys. And we got NOAA badges- just in case we run into some abalone poachers....

              The Harbor Festival always draws great vendors- we bought several quality gifts for the holidays.

              The Maritime Museum is our favorite- the Ty Warner is alot of fun though- we like bringing up the sea water and checking it out under the microscope.

              I am already excited for next year!

              1. re: JalamaMama

                Just like every festival Santa Barbara has had, This started as a local delight, and has devolved into a packed, choked, tourist nightmare! We walked down to find lines an hour long for food and the harbor market for beer, and apparently, every tourist from the greater Los Angeles area. We kept walking, went to the Brewhouse for beer, and to Mac's fish and chips for lunch. Another "local" festival crossed off the list!

                1. re: goatmeat

                  Really?? We went again- this year my daughter is 8- along with her 8 yr pld cousin- we thought this years offerings were some of the best! Having to drive from Los Olivos- we arrived at 11 or so and the crowds were thinner than usual. We ate oysters, albacore, uni, and clam chowder- and for dessert we had lobster bisque!! We toured the Coast Guard cutter- rode the Double Dolphin, touched lobsters- rays- sea urchin and starfish. We were thrilled with the afternoon- and made it to Kids World by 3pm- by then the crowds were thick- so we left. We were sorry we forgot to hit up the Maritaime Museum. It was a FANTASTIC day!

                  Goatmeat- there was not a singleline that we had to wait in for more than 10 minutes- I think your sour attitude has sullied your time telling abilities.

                  1. re: OldJalamaMama

                    You may be right about my attitude,which has probably come about by being born here in 1950, and seeing the beautiful, uncrowded, seemingly 2,000 miles away from L.A. town that I love being turned into a crowded, packed major tourist destination, with gangs thrown in to add to the joy. Yes, I know that if you can't swing with the changes in life you are in for some misery, guilty as charged. That doesnt change the fact that of the 5 or so local people I ran into, all of them said some version of "what the hell? where did all the tour buses empty out? " The bright spot is that it benefits the fishermen of our town, and that is a great thing. My "sour" attitude probably comes from the fact that you used to be able to go to Fiesta- (yeah, yeah, I know- you just luv,luv,luv Fiesta- let me guess,you probably luv,luv,luv Superrica- you know Julia Child, Ronald Reagan, et al) and actually see a bunch of people you know, and not have to bump chests with gangsters puffed up for the events. Same with the Oak Park festivals- all started out as a fun time where you could see your neighbors, and sample some different food and drink- Now, you see one neighbor, and all of L.A. There are happy, shiny people who don't mind standing in lines forever, and grumpy people like me that won't-yeah, yeah, I know- sad for me! Anyway, your point of getting there early, in light of today's world- is well taken- I failed to explore my whole visit- My usual way of visiting the harbor festival failed me this year. I first got there at 10:00, nobody there- went straight to the lobsters, picked out three, had them cooked, and went home to put them in the fridge, for lobster salads later. Then later, at about 3:30, we took a nice walk to the harbor- every year before, no problem, light crowds- this year- OMG! I have never seen anything like it, nor had any local people I talked to. The line for the fish tacos stretched from the fish market to Brophy's , and the line for the market (for those who drink beer) went out the door, down the walkway, through the breezeway, and a piece down the other walkway. The line for the paella was epic, and I don't think it was just my attitude that made those folk's wait long, the crowd was real!. Having said all that, I will say again that it benefits the fishermen, and that's a good thing.

                    1. re: goatmeat

                      I guess you haven't been reading any of my posts in the last 5 yrs goatmeat....I have lived in the SYV for 37 yrs, so you have no leg up on being touristed to death, thank you very much! There has been so much coast lost to "protection", that the crowds yesterday reinforce the facts- people love fresh seafood! I might not have seen as many of my former Mesa neighbors, but everyone I saw had a plate of food and a smile on their face. Yesterday was a success for the entire Harbor, and as they recover today, I bet 8 out of 10 that made $$$ yesterday are glad the weather was perfect and the crowds came out. It has been busy the last 8 yrs I have been taking my daughter and I am positive that is a good thing. See you sometime on a Monday at the Minnow,and we'll see how much we need a second weekend in October...Try coming to Solvang May 15th!!

                      1. re: OldJalamaMama

                        true enough, I have read no reviews on chowhound, being a yelper kind of guy, but one of the carpenters I work with lives in the valley, and his great- grandad built the house he lives in on his ranch, and if you want to get a rise out of him, mention "sideways" or the Amgen race! Then stand back! As I mentioned, the festival, is great for the fishermen, and i'm sure that 10 out of ten of the people who made money are happy! Many a Monday at the Minnow-