Last year, on a beautiful afternoon, I drove up north for the Santa Barbara Wine Futures Tasting in the courtyard next to the then brand new Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant. As wine events go, this one was terrific -- low-key, not too crowded, excellent wines and the chance to meet and talk to the winemakers.
This year, they’re doing it again on Saturday, April 19, with more than 50 local wineries pouring futures, i.e., wines that haven’t been released yet.
Not only do you get to taste the unreleased wines and get a quick sketch of the vintage, you can buy the wines at 20% off retail. Some of cuvées are highly allocated, so this can be your best chance to get your hands on a bottle or two. It's a win win situation. The advantage for the winemakers is getting some cash flow going before the wines are formally released.
Many of Santa Barbara County’s top wine producers make the event, including Au Bon Climat, Bonaccorsi, Qupé, The Ojai Vineyard and relative newcomers Sandhi, Tatomer and Tyler Winery.
The first futures tasting was held in 1987. Now a new generation -- Les Marchands co-owners and sommeliers Eric Railsback and Brian McClintic -- has taken up the challenge to champion Santa Barbara wines.
During the event, Les Marchands Wine Bar remains open for small plates and cheese. And after, you can repair to the Lucky Penny wood-fired pizzeria right off the courtyard or have dinner at the Lark restaurant, where alums of San Francisco’s RN74 wine bar turn out refined California cuisine.
Tickets are $70 for advance purchase from Les Marchands' website, or $80 at the door. The event is scheduled for 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. next door to Les Marchands at 131 Anacapa Street in Santa Barbara’s “Funk Zone.”
Parking is available on the street or at adjacent parking lots, and if you want to take the train from Los Angeles, the station is just a block away.