4 August Food + Wine Events Feature Ventura, Santa Barbara County Wines

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I don’t know about you, but I enjoy wine the most when it is paired with food –and when the pairing works.

I love how a food can bring something special out in a wine and vice versa.

One of the questions I get asked most (after what is my favorite wine!) is how do you know what wine to pair with food.

The best way is to experiment. But I get it — that can be scary and pricey. Not everyone is willing to open up a couple of $15-50 bottles to see what works!

11781865_710750235695717_1513011249069577063_nA great way to experience great wine and food pairs is by attending winemaker dinners, and in Ventura County, there are three great ones coming up this month. Details follow.

And if you can’t attend a dinner like this, you CAN learn a lot by studying the menu! What do the experts pair with what? You’ll notice trends, for example, duck with Pinot noir; however, I’ve found that I generally prefer duck with syrah, so you still need to experiment!

For something completely different, head to the Ventura County Fair on Tuesday August 11 from 5-7pm 11707662_10152971285816630_6365252235027274560_nfor “Bounty of the County” where the first 200 people get to taste food from local restaurants paired with local wine. Then those people vote on “Best Food,” “Best Wine,” and “Best Pairing.” Be sure to come early to The Agriculture & Natural Resources Building in the northwest corner of the fairgrounds (near the grandstands) to get in line for this popular event!

Entry to the Fair is just $11, and Tuesday August 11 is also Carnival Wristband Day and Neil Sedaka is performing at 1pm and Chaka Khan at 7:30pm as well as everything else you can imagine at a “Country Fair with Ocean Air.”

The first winemaker dinner features wines by Foxen Vineyard during five course tomorrow, August 8, 6pm at the Pierpont Inn for $75. Highlights for me would be trying their Old Vine Chenin Blanc with oysters; I tasted the Chenin at a music event there on Thursday and it was spectacular –complex, and vibrant, and not at all what most expect of a Chenin Blanc; it is not sweet or cloying but clean and bright. Chardonnay and scallops over fried spinach sounds interesting, and I am beside myself that I can’t try the rack of lamb with mole sauce prepared by Chef Jorge Espinosa and paired with their Pinot noir.  Two years ago I participated in a Rodney Strong dinner at the Pierpont, and while I am not sure whether it is the same chef, the meal was exceptional but not as adventurous as this menu.

foxen_logoIf this sounds as interesting to you as it does to me, call Austen’s at the Pierpont immediately to make your reservation: 805.643.6144.  The Pierpont is located right across from the Pacific off the 101 at San Jon Road in Ventura. After the dinner, you can walk down to the Ventura Pier and watch the Fair Fireworks go off at 1030pm. I love that I live only a block away!

The second winemaker’s dinner takes place the following Saturday, August 15 up in the mountains along highway 33 at Sagebrush Annie’s in Ventucopa.  They do these monthly during the season and usually follow a theme. In August they are hosting an Italian Dinner Party on Saturday, August 15th.

While I have not attended one of their dinners, I tasted their wine at the Ojai Wine Festival and I was impressed with the quality especially for the price, and I have wanted to visit them and attend one of their dinners ever since.

PLUS you can camp at Sagebrush Annie’s  overnight after dinner! Perfect for people like us with a VW campervan!

181998_10150104954494893_8140516_nHow it works is you buy a case of wine their wine at a discount of 25% and dinner is FREE for two people. The menu includes Fresh Pesto made with Home Grown Basil, Pine Nuts, Garlic, Olive Oil and Parmesan on a Pizza, topped with Fontina and garnished with chopped Fresh Tomatoes; shrimp glazed with Garlic and Butter on the BBQ, then tossed with lemon and Extra Virgin Olive Oil; a Caprese Salad with Fresh Tomatoes, Basil and Fresh Mozzarella, Olive Oil and Vinegar served with BBQ’D BRUSCHETTA brushed with Garlic and Olive Oil;  New York Steak pounded thin rolled up with Arugula, Provolone and Prosciutto, sliced like a cinnamon roll, skewered and BBQ’D. Everything sounds sooo good! This would be the perfect way to introduce a non-foodie to a foodie event.

Sagebrush Annie’s is located 4211 Highway 33, Ventucopa; call to make your reservation:  661-766-2319

I am so fortunate that one of my absolute favorite restaurants is also in walking distance from my house: Cafe Zack which is hosting a five course dinner with Clos Pepe Thursday Aug. 20 at 630pm — the menu looks so delicious! With a 2013 Mourvedre Rose, Axis Mundi from Santa Ynez Valley they will pair Alaskan King Crab Cakes with chili oil orange soy aioli followed by Nectarine Crispy Pancetta Summer Salad with baby greens, nectarines, crispy Pancetta, goat cheese with honey lemon dressing (oh my!) with 2014 Grenache Blanc, Axis Mundi – Santa Ynez Valley. Roasted Butternut Squash Tortellachi with fresh basil brown butter comes next paired with 2012 Chardonnay, Clos Pepe Estate, Barrel Fermented – Sta Rita Hills, and then the 2012 Pinot Noir, Clos Pepe Estate – Sta Rita Hills is paired with Pan Seared Duck Breast with medley of mixed berry reduction.

In addition for vouching for this retaurant, I tasted Clos Pepe last year at the Wine Bloggers Conference and the wines are impressive. This will be a very memorable meal. Cost is $70 per person; call 805.643.9445 for reservations. CAFE ZACK is located1095 East Thompson Blvd.  Ventura, California 93001  www.CafeZack.com

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Since I am not spending a small fortune to fly out to the Finger Lakes to the Wine Bloggers Conference this year, I figure I can afford to attend at least one of these winemaker dinners! And certainly $11 for the Fair (plus Chaka Khan!) is in anyone’s budget.

Cheers!

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