Bribing Santa Claus is probably not the best way to get off the naughty list, but a few twenty-dollar bills could get you on a nice list of sorts.
The admission fee to attend this year’s Christmas on the Trail program—an annual showcase of pours from almost a dozen vineyards across the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail—is $60 in advance, or $75 on-site at the event’s featured venues.
In conjunction with the two-day wine festival, held on Saturday, Dec. 2, and Sunday, Dec. 3, each participating winery will be offering holiday-themed entertainment for guests to enjoy during their wine tasting experiences.
Santa Maria’s Cottonwood Canyon Vineyard and Winery, for example, is hosting a family-friendly gingerbread cookie decorating station for patrons, according to Cottonwood’s manager Ciara Odhiambo.
“Everyone on the trail has something different going on,” Odhiambo said. “We’ll probably pair a 2011 chardonnay, which is pretty buttery and oaky, with some yummy gingerbread cookies, which you’ll get to decorate yourself.”
The cookie decorating and pairing experience will be open to attendees of Cottonwood on Dec. 2, while the winery’s Dec. 3 festivities will include live holiday music. During both days of the Christmas on the Trail event, Cottonwood will be offering a 35 percent discount on its cave tour and barrel tasting program.
The winery’s iconic man-made caves provide the right levels of humidity and temperature to allow Cottonwood’s wines to age gracefully with energy efficiency in mind. It’s convenient that the cornerstone of Cottonwood’s wine storage and aging approach has become a tourist attraction as well.
“It resembles what you’d see in Napa or in France or in Italy,” said Odhiambo, who added that the subterranean structures beneath Cottonwood’s hillside property will be decked out in holiday decorations in celebration of Christmas on the Trail.
Other wineries—ranging from vintners based in both the Santa Maria Valley and Santa Ynez Valley—participating in the two-day program include Fess Parker Winery, which will host dessert and sparkling wine pairings and offer a 10 percent discount on wine purchases, while Foxen Vineyard and Winery is offering the same discount on its current releases or a 20 percent discount for anyone who chooses to join the wine club, plus holiday cookies for those who partake in the trail tastings.
Various selections of savory snacks, sweet treats, and light bites will be available at Zaca Mesa Winery, Rancho Sisquoc Winery, Koehler Winery, Firestone Vineyard, and Cambria Winery during Christmas on the Trail. For more details on each winery’s offerings, check their respective websites.
Both Riverbench Vineyard and Winery and Andrew Murray Vineyards will be pairing pours of their wines with chocolate truffles from Santa Barbara-based chocolatier Jessica Foster, who specializes in handmade, gourmet confections from unconventional recipes.
“We’ve got a few different truffles that pair with our sparkling wines that passport holders can take advantage of,” said Danae Smith, general manager at Riverbench Vineyard and Winery.
While the Christmas on the Trail passport offers its buyers a total of 20 pours to claim from whichever participating wineries they choose, the truffle and wine pairing at Riverbench Vineyard and Winery—which includes three types of truffles to pair with three different wine tastings—counts as three pours total, Smith said. The truffles are complimentary.
Riverbench Vineyard and Winery is also offering a 10 percent discount on wine purchases throughout the weekend, and an extra 5 percent discount for guests donning certain holiday attire, Smith explained.
“Our team’s going to be wearing festive Christmas sweaters, and guests who come in with their Christmas sweaters will get an additional discount,” Smith said. “They don’t have to be ugly Christmas sweaters, necessarily, just festive.”
Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood is ready to decorate some gingerbread cookies. Send gumdrop buttons to [email protected].