Two Sundays ago, we found ourselves driving north on Highway 101 to Camarillo to attend the 16th Annual Casa Pacifica Angels Wine & Food Festival. The day before, we had attended another wine festival in an urban L.A. setting and, as we zipped along the highway, we were wondering out loud whether we were up for yet another wine festival during such a busy time of the year for us (our daughter graduating from high school and the three boys frenetically wrapping up another elementary school year). As we approached the Cal State University Channel Islands campus, we suddenly became optimistic. The weather was picture perfect and, moving along a winding road through lemon groves and arriving at a beautiful college campus with buildings separated by lots of green space gave us a relaxed, contented feeling. Valet only parking; tickets ready at “will call”; a decent wine glass that fit nicely into place in the holder of a sturdy food plate; a huge park lined with tented tables offering a wide array of really good food and wine; interesting live music; an extensive silent auction; a diverse audience making room for each other—hey, this looks like a class act!
Voted Best Cultural Event in Ventura County in 2008, this Festival is one of the best wine and food festivals we’ve attended (some charging a whole lot more for a ticket). More than 100 wineries and microbreweries and at least 80 specialty food purveyors were on hand. This was a really nice balance of wine and food (unlike some events that have very little to offer in the food department) and, even better, most of the wine and food we sampled was really delicious. The live musical entertainment was worthy of being a separate concert by itself. All proceeds from the Festival benefit Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families, which provides hope and help for abused, neglected, or at–risk children and families in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. This was the 16th annual for this Festival and they really have learned to do things well. If you can only attend one wine and food festival per year in Southern California, the Casa Pacifica Angels Wine & Food Festival is certainly one of the top few to consider. We regret we missed the first 15 years of this event.
As usual, we were searching for something new and different (to us), and, as usual, we couldn’t try everything the Festival offered. We did, however, find several really good wines we hadn’t sampled previously. Of course, there were many “old friends” to sample and several we had recently enjoyed at other events, such as the wines from Kiamie Wine Cellars, Rosenthal–The Malibu Estate, and Donati Family Vineyard.
We were fortunate to stop at the table of Rosa D’Oro Vineyards, owned and operated by the Buttitta family in Kelseyville, near Clear Lake in Lake County. Pietro Buttitta was on hand to pour seven of their Italian varietal wines. We sampled their 2007 Estate Primitivo, 2007 Sangiovese, 2007 Refosco, 2005 Dolcetto (one of his last bottles of that vintage), 2007 Aglianico, and 2007 Dry Muscat Canelli. All of these wines were quite good. It is great to see more and more wineries specializing in Italian varietals in various parts of California, similar to what Palmina Wines in Santa Barbara County has done. Rosa D’Oro has some additional white wines and a Rosato that we could not try that day, but we are looking forward to tasting those as well.
The food at this Festival was remarkable. While there were too many specialty food purveyors to list, almost everything we sampled was delicious and interesting.
We stopped by the table of Alma Rosa Winery, owned and operated by Thekla and Richard Sanford. The Sanfords founded this winery in 2005, shortly after separating from their namesake Sanford Winery. We both enjoyed their 2007 Pinot Gris, 2008 Chardonnay and 2007 Pinot Noir. They’ve done a remarkable job in such a short time. No surprise, since Thekla and Richard planted the first Pinot Noir vines in what is now Sta. Rita Hills AVA in 1970.
Other memorable wines included a very nice 2006 Merlot from Jason Stephens Winery of the California Central Coast, and the Hogue 2007 Pinot Grigio poured by Young’s Market, which was clean and crisp.
As we drove home to catch the LA Laker’s play the Orlando Magic in the NBA finals (on TV, of course), we kept remarking what a great Festival we had just experienced. This one is truly worth attending.