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Need an excuse to head to the wine country? These two events will do

Need a dose of wine country? Two mid-June events in Ventura and Santa Barbara County

As we dive into June, there’s still time to catch some early summer wine events. Two that are close enough for a day trip are coming up mid-month in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, the wine country on our doorstep.

On Thursday, June 19, the 7th Annual Ventura County Wine Trail Celebration will be held for the second year in a row at the gigantic Riverpark outdoor mall in Oxnard. Local winemakers will be on hand to pour more than 30 varietals and blends produced in Ventura County. As with every other wine event, no drinking without food: Nearby restaurants will provide small bites and samples of signature dishes.

With the 12-piece band Blue Latitude, complete with five-piece horn line, blasting out classic rhythm and blues, soul and rock n’ roll, this year’s Ventura County Wine Trail Celebration promises to be more rousing than most. The party starts at 5:30 p.m., goes for three hours, and is open only to those 21 and older.

Tickets can be purchased for $40 online at www.VenturaCountyWineTrail.com. They're $50 at the door, so it pays to plan ahead. All of the evening’s proceeds will be donated to the Ventura County Food Share, a food bank that houses and distributes millions of pounds of food each year to the hungry of Ventura County.

Over in Santa Barbara County, the weekend of June 20 to 22 is reserved for the new “Key to Wine Country.” This event has so many components, it will be hard to choose between activities. You can’t be every place at once. Or can you?

Keys are $100 per person and are limited to 500. That buys you discounts of 10% to 30% on wine purchases at participating wineries, but the heart of the weekend event is the lineup of wine experiences. You’ll have to sign up early for a Pinot Library Tasting at Los Olivos Tasting Room or a walk through the Solomon Hills Vineyard. Fans of Flying Goat Cellars can sign up for a barrel tasting and farm-to-table lunch at the estate, while Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard is offering a horseback ride through the vineyards. Does that sound romantic or what?

For a full list of events, go to www.sbcountywines.com. You can attend as many special events as you'd like. All you have to do is show your Key at each participating winery or reserve your spot with the secret password you'll receive upon purchase. Secret password? I like it.

Some of the events, especially those involving meals or seminars, have an additional fee. The event I’d really like to attend? A tasting of wines from three different producers using grapes from the Presqu’ile vineyard.

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