March 8, 2020

Every year on March 8, Santa Barbara's Women Winemakers & Chefs get together to celebrate International Women's Day.

This year, with International Women's Day falling on a Sunday, the celebration which typically takes place in the evening as a dinner, was instead held as a brunch at Roblar Farm.

March 8, 2020: Annual Women Winemaker's & Chef's Celebration was held as a brunch at Roblar Farm, Santa Ynez, California (Photo Credit: Heather Daenitz, Craft & Cluster)

This was my second year photographing (and third year attending) the annual Women Winemaker's & Chef's Celebration in Santa Barbara County. It's my favorite event of the year, with proceeds benefiting the Women's Fund of Northern Santa Barbara County, and I know that it is hotly anticipated by everyone in the community annually.

We are blessed here in Santa Barbara Wine Country with a higher than average percentage of women winemakers. It was armed with this knowledge that Karen Steinwachs first conceived of the idea of celebrating our women winemakers four years ago.

"I was first inspired to do this after a speech that Patricia Arquette made at the Oscars in 2015. That year, we had a tasting one night at Sonja Magdevski's Casa Dumetz tasting room in Los Alamos of as many women winemakers as I could find/note. The idea for a dinner was formulated there, and in 2016 we (quickly, crazily!) put together the first wine dinner at K'Syrah." -Karen Steinwachs

Karen was shortly joined by Brooke Stockwell, Danielle Dauphinee Thurston, and Anna Ferguson-Sparks in organizing and putting on these events annually.

The first three iterations of the event were held at K'Syrah in Solvang, but each year the event has gotten larger, with this year being the largest attendance ever at almost 200 guests. It is a true testament to the support our women winemakers & chefs have in this community that each year the event sells out, encouraging Karen, Brooke, Danielle, and Anna to expand to larger facilities.

The Wine

23 winemakers representing 29 wine labels were in attendance at this year's celebration:

Over 20 winemakers were in attendance at the Fourth Annual Women Winemaker's Celebration in Santa Barbara Wine Country. (Photo Credit: Heather Daenitz, Craft & Cluster)

The event opened with a reception style tasting of 29 wine labels in attendance. It was a beautiful example of the diversity Santa Barbara Wine Country has to offer; from Bevela Wine's Teroldego, to Story of Soil's Grüner Veltliner, to Say When Wine's Tempranillo, and of course, the many Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon our county is known for.

This is one of the (many) things I love about the women winemakers in our valley... that they aren't afraid to add the lesser-known varieties to their rosters, in addition to the classics we all know and love. There were even a couple of pet nats available to taste from McKenna of E11even Wine and Brit of Dreamcôte, in addition to classic rosés and méthode traditionelle sparkling wines.

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The Food

The culinary talent for this year's brunch included:

The amazing culinary talent from the Fourth Annual Women Winemaker's & Chef's Celebration (Photo Credit: Heather Daenitz, Craft & Cluster)

After enjoying such hand-passed treats as fried chicken & waffles and quiche bites from Sass Catering during the tasting reception, guests made their way to their tables for a four-course brunch. Each course was expertly paired with two wines, again, showing the incredible range that our valley has to offer, both in wine and farm-fresh ingredients.

First Course Lucky Hen Larder

Grilled Baby Asparagus, Air-Dried Ham, Free-Range Egg Gribiche, Toasted Solvang Spice Merchant Za'atar Breadcrumbs, Tutti Frutti Black Kale Salad, Local Pickled Vegetables.

  • Wine Pairing:
  • 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley Carhartt Vineyard
  • 2019 Gamay Noir, Martian Vineyards Story of Soil

Second Course Chef Robin of Dunn School

Basted Egg, Sunrise Organic Farm Fennel Butter, Baker's Table Levain, Gruyere, Roblar Farm Arugula

  • Wine Pairing:
  • 2018 Pinot Blanc, Bien Nacido Vineyard C. Nagy
  • 2018 Syrah Rosé, Estate Grown Buttonwood Winery

Third Course Chef Golzar of All Purpose Flower

Persian Oxtail Stew, Potatoes, Persian Flatbread

  • Wine Pairing:
  • 2014 Chardonnay, Santa Ynez Valley Cebada Vineyard
  • 2018 Syrah, Ballard Canyon AVA Luna Hart

Fourth Course Chef Brooke of Gleason Family Vineyards

Bacon Wrapped Pork Belly, Creamy White Grits, Sunrise Organic Farm Passion Fruit-Blackberry-Thyme Gastrique, Tutti Frutti Sugar Snap Peas, Solvang Spice Merchant Sumac

  • Wine Pairing:
  • 2017 Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills Peake Ranch
  • 2016 Petit Verdot, Estate Grown E11even Wines
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In all, it was another wonderful event and I'm so excited to see what the team can come up with next year!

I'll leave you all with a final quote from Karen, which I think perfectly summarizes the heart and soul of this event:

"My personal belief is that this event continues to showcase the generosity of all here - all participants (winemakers, chefs, somms) volunteer their time. The women winemakers donate all the wine and purchase a ticket. The chefs gather ingredients from their purveyors. We have awesome lady photographers chronicling this event. And we have all these guests who come out to celebrate and support all of us."

Be sure to mark your calendars now for next year's Santa Barbara Women Winemaker's & Chef's Celebration on March 8, 2021!

Sommeliers left to right: Annie Twigg, Jenna Buchholz, & Nicole Crawford (Photo Credit: Heather Daenitz of Craft & Cluster)

VENUE: Roblar Farm

Sommeliers:Annie Twigg, Jenna Buchholz, & Nicole Crawford

Music by Bonnie & Co


Heather Daenitz, Craft & Cluster *all photos in this article

Deborah Chadsey Photography


Heather Daenitz is the founder and photographer of Craft & Cluster, a wine & beer photography and social media marketing company based in Santa Barbara County, California.

When she isn't photographing the incredible women makers in her community, Heather can be found hanging out with her husband, two dogs, and three chickens in their backyard garden.

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