Legendary Santa Barbara Hotel Californian launches dinners for winemakers


“Welcome to Hotel California…” Yes, the Hotel Californian was built in 1925, fifty years before the classic Eagles song was released, but it comes close. As the song emphasizes, you can check out anytime, but you may never want to leave.

Hotel Californian is just steps from Santa Barbara Beach and Stearns Wharf. It is built in the Spanish Revival (or Andalusian) architectural style. The stately hotel on State Street is now owned by the entertainment-focused Foley family, who also own the wineries featured at The Californian’s new winemaker dinners. Foley Entertainment Group also operates the Las Vegas Golden Knights NHL team, the AHL Henderson Silver Knights, the 6,000-seat Dollar Loan Center in Henderson, NV and Hotel Les Mars in Healdsburg, CA.

Surrounded by wine country, Santa Barbara is an ideal place for a day of wine tasting. The city is temperate and cool, compared to the steamy summer heat of the wineries further inland. With several tasting rooms nearby, The Californian now raises the bar with a series of monthly wine dinners, combining the Foley Family Wine portfolio with the hotel’s excellent cuisine.

The monthly Winemaker Dinner series is hosted at the hotel’s Blackbird restaurant. After a warm welcome on the terrace, visiting winemakers from wineries such as Merus, Chalk Hill, Foley and Chalone present their vintages. The wines are paired with a four-course dinner of local, sustainable cuisine, curated and prepared by Hotel Californian Executive Chef Travis Watson.

The next Winemaker Dinner at Blackbird, on August 18, will be with winemaker Eric Baugher of the Merus winery in the Napa Valley, known for its Cabernet Sauvignon.

Growing up along the California coast, winemaker Baugher was fascinated with fermentation from an early age. He says, “I was fascinated by what wine represented. It’s like a time capsule of events in that vintage of a bottle.” Before joining Merus, he started out as a chemist at Ridge Vineyards, where he eventually became Chief Winemaker and Chief Operating Officer. At Ridge, Baugher scored a pair of 100 points for the winery’s cabernet and Bordeaux blends.

Future wine dinners at Blackbird include wines and winemakers from Chalk Hill (September 15), Four Grace (October 20), Chalone (November 17), and Foley (December 15). Prices for the dinners range from $150 to $295. The wines served during the dinners can also be sampled at The Society: State & Mason tasting room in the Funk Zone neighborhood of Santa Barbara.

Those staying at the Californian can head back to their rooms, which have been tastefully renovated and relaxed, to rest after the party. The hotel has a number of packages to entice those who try the dinners. On Thursdays after the winery events, California residents can get a 10% discount when they book with the code PLAYLOCAL. (Lodging deals are Sunday through Thursday evenings.) CA non-residents can take advantage of the Get Out & Play package, which includes the best available rate, free valet parking, and breakfast for two at Goat Tree, the gourmet cafe of the hotel.

In the morning, finish the wine dinner with a brisk walk on the beach or on Stearns Wharf, where you might spot a sea lion playing along the pier. If the beach is your destination, the hotel provides beach chairs and umbrellas for guests.

Bicycles are also available from the Californian. The hotel also offers a fitness center, rooftop pool, spa and yoga sessions.

Outdoor fitness classes are curated by Los Angeles-based fitness instructor and founder of Recharge Wellness Co., Rachel McClusky. Classes include sun salutations, barre, Pilates, dance cardio, healing meditation and more.

The pool is located on the Californian’s 1,300-square-foot rooftop deck, with 360-degree views of the mountains and coastline. The deck also has a Jacuzzi and plenty of comfortable lounge chairs by the pool.

Santa Barbara has a small airport, but it’s easy to get to The Californian by car from Highway 101 along the California coast. It is about a 90 minute drive from Los Angeles. An even more classic way to arrive is by train. Amtrak’s Surfliner stops within easy roller bag distance of the hotel. The occasional train whistle is part of the hotel’s charm, as much a part of the local atmosphere as the cool sea air.

“Hotel Californian is at the heart of what makes Santa Barbara one of the most fascinating travel destinations,” said Mia Giobbi Thomas, Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “Regardless of the season, guests are greeted with a dynamic mix of engaging events and immersive experiences.”

The Hotel Californian is part of the I Prefer Hotel Rewards loyalty program from Preferred Hotel Group. I Prefer extends points, status and other benefits to its 4 million members on eligible stays at more than 650 participating hotels and resorts worldwide.

When the moon is full, The Californian offers indoor fun for adults. Djinn, the hotel’s library bar (named after the ghosts of Moroccan folklore) hosts HOWL @Djinn on full moon nights. The evenings offer cocktails based on the moon cycle, personalized tarot card readings and classic board games. A DJ from the local record label Val-Mar Records plays vinyl. Upcoming dates are Friday, September 9 (Harvest Moon), Sunday, October 9 (Hunter’s Moon), and Monday, November 7 (Beaver Moon.)

And every Sunday through September 4, Hotel Californian offers Sunset Sessions on Mirador, the rooftop terrace, featuring craft spirits, light bites, and a live DJ. You can gaze at the Pacific Ocean as the sun sets on the American Riviera.


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