Legendary California hotel in Santa Barbara launches winemaker dinners

“Welcome to Hotel California…” Yes, Hotel Californian was built in 1925, fifty years before the classic Eagles song was released, but close enough. As the song says, you can check in whenever you want, but you might never want to leave.

A few blocks from Santa Barbara Beach and Stearns Wharf, the Californian Hotel was built in the Spanish Revival (or Andalusian) architectural style. The stately State Street hotel is now owned by the entertainment-focused Foley family, which also owns the vineyards featured in Californian’s new winemakers 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 Les Mars Hotel in Healdsburg, CA.

Santa Barbara, surrounded by vineyards, is a great place for a day of wine tasting. The city is temperate and cool, compared to the scorching summer heat of the vineyards further inland. With multiple tasting rooms nearby, The Californian is now upping the ante with a series of monthly wine dinners, pairing the Foley Family Wine portfolio with the hotel’s exceptional cuisine.

The monthly Winemaker Dinner Series is hosted at the hotel’s Blackbird Restaurant. After a sweet reception on the terrace, winemakers visiting vineyards such as Merus, Chalk Hill, Foley and Chalone present their vintages. The wines are accompanied by a four-course dinner featuring local and sustainable dishes selected and prepared by the California hotel’s executive chef, Travis Watson.

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

Winemaker Baugher, who grew up along the California coast, was fascinated by fermentation from an early age. He says: “I was fascinated by what the wine represented, it’s like a time capsule of events in that bottle vintage.” Prior to joining Merus, he started as a chemist at Ridge Vineyards, where he eventually became head winemaker and chief operating officer. At Ridge, Baugher earned a pair of 100-point scores for the winery’s Cabernet and Bordeaux blends.

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

Those who stay at the Californian can return to their tastefully renovated and relaxing rooms to rest after the feast. The hotel offers packages to tempt those trying the dinners. On Thursdays after wine events, California residents can take advantage of a 10% discount when booking with code PLAYLOCAL. (Stayaway offers are valid Sunday through Thursday nights.) Non-California residents can use the Get Out & Play package, which includes the best available rate, free valet parking, and breakfast for two at The Goat Tree, the hotel’s gourmet beer garden.

In the morning, after dinner with wine, one can take a brisk walk on the beach or on Stearns Wharf, where you can see a sea lion playing along the pier. If the beach is your destination, the hotel provides lounge chairs and umbrellas for guests.

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

The outdoor fitness classes are hosted 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 sits on the Californian’s 1,300-square-foot rooftop deck, with 360-degree views of the mountains and coastline. The deck also includes a hot tub and plenty of comfortable poolside seating.

Santa Barbara has a small airport, but the Californian is easy to drive from California’s Coastal Highway 101. It is about a 90 minute drive from Los Angeles. An even more classic way to arrive is by train. The Amtrak Surfliner stops a short wheelie ride from the hotel. The occasional whistle of the train is part of the hotel’s charm, as much a part of the local vibe as the fresh sea air.

“Hotel Californian is at the heart of what makes Santa Barbara one of the most compelling travel destinations,” said Mia Giobbi Thomas, vice president of sales and marketing. “Whatever the season, guests will be greeted with a dynamic mix of captivating events and immersive experiences.”

The Californian Hotel is part of the I Prefer group Preferred Hotel Group’s Hotel Rewards Loyalty Program. I Prefer offers points, status and other benefits to its 4 million members during qualifying stays at more than 650 participating hotels and resorts worldwide.

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

And every Sunday until September 4, Hotel Californian offers Sunset Sessions at Mirador, the rooftop terrace, with craft spirits, small bites and a live DJ. You can gaze out over the Pacific as the sun sets over the American Riviera.