The Chardonnay Symposium: A Great Reason to Visit Santa Maria Valley

The Chardonnay Symposium 2013 Heads up, Chardonnay fans!  The Chardonnay Symposium unfolds later this month in the Santa Maria Valley over July 19-21, 2013, and provides a rare opportunity to focus on and celebrate the golden grape.  Local wineries and restaurants will offer a variety of winemaker dinners and Chardonnay-inspired events including a tribute dinner to legendary Santa Maria Valley winemaker Jim Clendenen.   We just checked and tickets are still available, and hotels have unbooked rooms, so keep reading below and then make your plans quickly.

A major draw this weekend is the Grand Chardonnay Tasting on Saturday, July 20th which provides fans of this varietal the opportunity to sample Chardonnays from over 50 wineries, paired with gourmet foods prepared by local restaurants and caterers.  The Tasting takes place from 1:00 to 4:00 pm at Byron Winery’s beautiful private facility in the heart of the Santa Maria Valley. Tickets are $65 per person, and can be purchased by going here (tickets include bus transportation from the Santa Maria Radisson Hotel and back).

Presqu'ile Winery

New Tasting Room at Presqu’ile Winery

Wineries from all over will be pouring at the Grand Chardonnay Tasting including Au Bon Climat, Bien Nacido Vineyards, Byron Winery, Chamisal Vineyards, Dierberg Vineyard, Edna Valley Vineyard, Hartford Family Winery, Kenneth Volk Vineyards, La Fenêtre Wines, Merry Edwards Winery, Migration Wines,  Patz & Hall, Presqu’ile Winery, Sanford Winery, Talley Vineyards, and Wente Vineyards.

Some of the local food purveyors adding to the festivities will be Bello Forno Wood Fired Cuisine, Bob’s Well Bread Bakery, Central City Market, Far Western Tavern, Jessica Foster Confections, Pasión Comida Mexicana, Testa’s Bistro & Catering, and Trattoria Uliveto. 

Parking is very limited at Byron Winery, which is why your ticket includes transportation to and from the Santa Maria Radisson Hotel (3455 Skyway Drive, Santa Maria, 805-928-8000).   There is a very limited amount of VIP parking spaces available at the event for $20 each, but passes must be purchased in advance when you buy your other tickets.

Designated DriverDo you have a Designated Driver?  He/she can enjoy all of the culinary delights at the Grand Chardonnay Tasting for just $30 per person (but, his/her ticket also allows them to park on site at the event).  Once again, tickets can be purchased here. 


The Chardonnay Symposium Full Day Educational Experience

Steve Heimoff

Steve Heimoff

The Chardonnay Symposium’s full-day event begins at 10:30 am on July 20th with a morning educational session featuring a panel of experts headed by Wine Enthusiast’s Steve Heimoff. Full day tickets include the morning panel discussion, box lunch, bus transportation to and from Byron Vineyard & Winery and an early admission to the Grand Chardonnay Tasting, so your experience there can last from 12:30 – 4:00 pm.  Tickets for the Educational Panel only are $85 per person, or the Full-Day Experience costs $150 per person, and either can be purchased here.

The Panel Discussion topic that morning will be “Bring in the Clones!  Chardonnay Clones: Do you care? Should you?”  Panelists will include:

  • Matt Dees, Jonata
  • Merry Edwards, Merry Edwards Winery
  • Fintan du Fresne, Chamisal Vineyards
  • Eckhard Kaesekamp, Guillaume Grapevine Nursery
  • Jeff Stewart, Hartford Family Winery
  • Clarissa Nagy, Riverbench Vineyard & Winery
  • James Ontiveros, Alta Maria Vineyards & Native 9
  • Karl D. Wente, Wente Vineyards


The Chardonnay Symposium Tribute Dinner to Jim Clendenen

Jim Clendenen

Jim Clendenen

To kick off the Chardonnay Symposium, Santa Maria Valley winemaking pioneer Jim Clendenen will be honored by colleagues and guests at the historic Bien Nacido Adobe (4705 Santa Maria Mesa Road, Santa Maria, 805-937-2506) between 6:00 and 10:00 pm on July 19 at a Tribute Dinner.  A fabulous four course meal will be prepared by Chef Rick Manson, with each course paired with wines specially selected by the speakers at the dinner.  Tickets are $200 per person, and can be purchased here (and if you are interested, tables for 10 are available for $1700). 


The Chardonnay Symposium Picnic Day

Rancho Sisquoc Winery (6600 Foxen Canyon Road, Santa Maria, 805-934-4332) will be holding a Picnic Day on July 21, between 12:00 and 4:00 pm, with delicious local pizza for sale from Fresh Fire Pizza as you listen to music from Occasional Mustache.  Exclusive wine sales throughout the afternoon will make for a fun day at the ranch and a great way to celebrate summer.  No reservations are required for this event.


Other Chardonnay-Inspired Events in the Area 

On July 18 and 19, between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm, Foxen (7200 Foxen Canyon Rd  Santa Maria, 805-937-4251) will be featuring a selection of special Chardonnays from their wine Library so you can see how Chardonnays from the Santa Maria Valley can age gracefully. Show your Chardonnay Symposium ticket and receive your tasting for $10 (reg. $20). Includes small charcuterie plate.

Dierberg Estate

Dierberg Estate

Every Saturday night in July from 5:00 to 7:00 pm, you can find live music, special wines by the glass, and bottles available for purchase at Dierberg Vineyard & Star Lane Estate (1280 Drum Canyon Road, Lompoc, 866-652-8430). You will also find Al Fresco Picnic offering food for sale, including a delicious Charcuterie platter, Tri-tip sandwiches and Chicken Breast sandwich with Bacon Jam and Swiss cheese.

The Old Town Market in Old Orcutt (405 E. Clark Avenue, 805-937-5619) presents a special tasting with Flying Goat Cellars winemaker Norman Yost on July 20 between 5:00 and 8:30 pm.  Enjoy wine with friends and industry guests at Stellar’s Cellar wine bar.

Also in Old Town Orcutt on July 20 you can join Grammy Award winning musician Louie Ortega at Lucia’s Wine Co. (126 E. Clark Avenue, Orcutt, 805-332-3080) for plenty of fun, award winning wine and appetizers between 5:00 and 8:00 pm.

To see the complete details on The Chardonnay Symposium weekend, the full schedule of events, and/or to purchase tickets, please go here.

Santa Maria Valley Wine Country Association The Santa Maria Valley Wine Country Association is the organizer for The Chardonnay Symposium, and has launched a number of programs to build awareness of Santa Maria as a premium wine region. They also work to promote the Santa Maria Valley as a visitor destination for tasting rooms, restaurants, hotels and supporting businesses.

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