Thursday, May 3, 2012

I'm Going on a Picnic... and I'm Bringing Local Food and Wine!

If you know anything about me, you know I love wine. Whether it’s a rosé on the porch in the afternoon, a fruity white while preparing dinner, or a full red for breakfast for dessert, wine makes everything just a little more pleasant.

Of course, I’m no wine snob; I don’t have the time, money, or motivation to become one. But make no mistake: I jump at the chance to pretend to be a wine snob whenever the opportunity presents itself. Pretending to be a fancy person is kind of my M.O. and wine snobbery is particularly fun to feign. It involves a lot of mouth-swishing, slurping noises, and – my favorite – haughty facial expressions involving pursed lips and raised eyebrows.

Lucky for me, I live in one of the most important wine-producing areas of the country. Just north of Santa Barbara, the Santa Ynez Valley is home to dozens of beautiful vineyards, most of which have at least one tasting room. So for my twenty-sixth birthday (which was last week, in case you missed it), I decided to have a picnic at one of the most lovely local vineyards of all, Buttonwood Farm. Buttonwood produces not only wine, but herbs, flowers, and peaches in the summer months. They’re known for the sustainable practices of vineyard manager Armando Zepeda.

My friend Sasha’s birthday was the week before mine and we pretty much share all the same friends, so we threw a joint birthday party:
Sasha and I frolic in the wildflowers at Buttonwood.
The morning of my birthday, I went to the Santa Barbara Farmers Market to buy some fruit for the picnic. I got two big baskets of strawberries from Jimenez Family Farm in Santa Ynez, California (distance from me: 30 miles) for just $7. Marcie Jimenez, whose delicious pies are also sold at the farmers market, has been running the farm since 2001 with her husband, Gustavo, and their two children, George and Christie.

I also bought some Gala apples from Fair Hills Apple Farm in Paso Robles, California (distance from me: 123 miles). David and Nancy have been growing all kinds of apples at Fair Hills, from Granny Smith to Fuji, since 1992. The Gala apples I bought tasted perfect sliced and served on a cracker with white cheddar cheese.

Our picnic also included finger sandwiches (made with local cucumbers and watercress), organic meats purchased at Whole Foods, local California cheeses, and a baguette from Our Daily Bread in downtown Santa Barbara:
Aside from the delicious food and good friends, the best part about having a picnic at Buttonwood was the wine. We started off with a wine tasting (for $10 each, including the glass), then purchased a couple of bottles to enjoy with our food. It was such a wonderful afternoon that I almost forgot to be depressed about turning twenty-six.

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