August 24, 2019

When Blaire and I first met, he liked the idea of a fun western event. We are a working ranch in Santa Barbara County, but we don’t usually brand ourselves that way,” says Stephen Janes, general manager at Pence Vineyards & Winery. “But once a year, we give a nod to our ranching heritage.”

Thus was my introduction to the Pence Vineyards & Winery Lowcountry Hoedown.

One of my favorite things about Pence is how dedicated they are to giving their guests the full experience; when they say that they are having a country-themed hootenanny, they mean it. Complete with roasting pigs, cowboy poetry, and a “Best Cowboy Hats” and “Best Cowboy Boots” competition, the annual Lowcountry Hoedown is a sight to behold.

Because I am a bit of a ham, I dressed for the occasion: hat, bandana, boots, and all, with my leather camera harness for once fitting with the theme, rather than being the focus of some not-so-inspired sexual fetish jokes.

Inspired by the Lowcountry of South Carolina, Pence worked hard to bring the flavors of southeast USA to our little valley, employing the fantastic team at Valley Piggery to cater the event--a theme to which they are very well suited. 

With wine in water jugs and mason jars, and hay bales for seats, the scene is much less aristocratic than some might assume of a world-class winery. “We take wine very seriously, but we aren’t snotty about it,” adds Stephen, “the wine industry can be so pretentious, it doesn’t need to be that way.”

This is a sentiment often expressed by many others in the Santa Barbara Wine Country. Letting our hair down in such a kitschy way helps remind us that, at the end of the day, wine is a product of farming. It is born of dirt and sweat (if not always of country music).

01 / 40

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 events and dressing up as a cowpoke, Heather can be found hanging out with her husband, two dogs, and three chickens in their backyard garden.