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I love sharing memories of my early years when I arrived on the Central Coast in 1996. We had barely a handful of wineries in each of our appellations. That said, our pioneers were talented and exceptional, which is why the region swiftly became a major player among prime wine regions in California, like Napa Valley.

The press release for the 36th Annual Santa Barbara Vintners Festival began with historic notes.

“It was 1983. Ronald Reagan was president, the median price for housing in California was less than $125,000, and Michael Jackson would perform a new dance move on live TV that would forever be known as the Moonwalk. There were only 17 vintners in the iconic wine country of Santa Barbara.”

One of this region’s most highly respected winemakers, Robert “Bob” Lindquist, reflected upon the time:

“It was an ‘all for one and one for all’ spirit that we carried. No one had that look at me mentality, it was look at us. We were trying to bring attention to the area. The business was so new at that point, and yet you could just feel the buzz quickly building. A lot of young winemakers were coming into the area.”

The first Vintners Festival quickly sold out with only 500 tickets for sale.

Our rich wine and culinary scene keeps getting better every year, drawing more wine aficionados. This year, there are 100 wineries, 30-plus food purveyors and live performances to treat wine lovers to a world-class spring celebration on April 21 from 1 to 4 p.m. at River Park in Lompoc.

And the Santa Barbara Vintners Association says it can’t wait to welcome you back. In addition, the winery events have always supported local charities. The vintners are awesome when it comes to giving back the community that is so loyal to them.

This year's Vintners Festival promises “a sweet blend of new adventure and refined tastes,” by offering both older wines and new releases from 100 of the county’s many amazing wineries. You can safely expect each brand to offer multiple wines -- from white, pink and bubbly to bright garnet and deep purple.

Alongside the wineries, you’ll discover over 30 local chefs and caterers serving gourmet treats that pair delightfully with those wines.

A Bubble Lounge will provides sparkling sips from local wineries while you enjoy live music.

"Lush couches and quick conversation will make this one of our most popular spots,” according to the release.

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There will be wine and culinary demonstrations, and a silent auction will offer collectible wines and lifestyle events you can bid on.

General admission is $50 per person, $25 for nondrinkers and children aged 7 to 20 years old. Children 6 and under are free. Early entrance at noon is $100 per person. Parking is included in the admission price. Buses designated for the festival will be available from Santa Barbara, Solvang and Buellton, and on the City of Lompoc Transit “red line.”

For tickets and more information, visit

Why not make it a four-day-weekend of visiting Santa Barbara wine country? If you’re interested, read about the Vintners Visa Wine Country Tasting Pass. For $50 (cheaper than paying the individual tasting room fees), you can visit 12 wineries from 40-plus tasting rooms to choose from April 19 to 23. (The main event on Saturday is not included with the Visa pass).

Among the many cool attractions, which make it difficult to choose, Visa holders get these enticing choices: in Santa Maria Valley, Au Bon Climat provides a complimentary tasting of a special flight of wines, Presqu’ile offers a complimentary Pinot Noir vertical tasting and Cambria Winery offers complimentary tasting plus 10-percent off wine purchases. For more information, visit


Kathy Marcks Hardesty can be reached at