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Festival Returns to Historic Mission

Annual event in Santa Barbara County will feature grand tasting at historical site

by Paul Franson
mission santa inez
The highlight of the Santa Barbara County Vintners Festival weekend will be a grand tasting held at Mission Santa Inés (above).
Solvang, Calif.—After 30 years, the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Festival is returning to its origins at the historic Mission Santa Inés in the Santa Ynez Valley.

The festival weekend, designed to heighten public awareness of the wines grown, produced and bottled locally, will take place April 19-22. The highlight—a grand tasting at the mission—is scheduled for April 20.

“Just as they have for the past 30 years, visitors will come from all over the United States to soak in information about the unique attributes of the winegrowing regions here in Santa Barbara County,” said Jim Fiolek, executive director of the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association. “We are thrilled to return to our roots, which are also the historic roots of this community.”

In 1983, Bob Lindquist, founder of Qupé in Santa Maria, Calif., and Deborah Brown, owner of Ken Brown Wines in Buellton, Calif., persuaded 17 wineries in Santa Barbara County to hold their first wine tasting on the lawn in front of historic Mission Santa Inés. Thirty years later, the county now has more than 100 wineries and vineyards, and the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Festival will bring the festival once more to the grounds of the mission in the city of Solvang.

What started as a small food and wine event targeting the local population (and to raise money to print a map showing where visitors could find wineries) has developed into an attraction that draws thousands into the area not only to attend the festival but also to visit the wineries themselves.

“We try to produce a festival that enlightens the mind as well as lightens the spirit of those who attend,” Fiolek said.

The festival is expected to attract more than 3,000 wine lovers from near and far for an opportunity to meet member vintners and taste their wines over a long spring weekend.

During the festival itself, every one of the association’s member wineries is required to present their wines. Winemakers and vintners will often themselves be pouring their latest releases of the 54-plus varieties grown in the county.

The festival also will feature more than two dozen local restaurants, caterers and purveyors of specialty foods serving wine country bites as well as two bands, a silent auction to benefit local charities and displays from area artists.

Wineries also host their own events during the festival weekend, including winemaker’s dinners, library tastings and special sales as well as tastings of new wine releases and wines from barrel.

The Vintners’ Visa allows tastings at 12 winery tasting rooms.

Santa Inés Mission
The Santa Inés Mission was founded Sept. 17, 1804, by the Rev. Estevan Tapis, and was named in honor of Saint Agnes. (The Spanish translation for Agnes is Inés, hence the name of the church; the American, anglicized spelling of the Spanish pronunciation resulted in the town’s name of Santa Ynez.)

The Mission has a superb view of the Santa Ynez River Valley and the Santa Ynez and San Rafael mountain ranges.

Unlike the many missions that are now parks and monuments, Santa Inés continues to be an active Catholic parish for approximately 1,000 families.

For more information on the members of the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association or the Festival, go to

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