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More than 1,000 people and 100 area restaurants, wineries, wine tasting rooms, breweries, distilleries and entertainment venues participated in the food, wine and experiential event “Taste of the Santa Ynez Valley: The First Course in Food, Wine, and Experiences,” prompting organizers to call the inaugural event a success.

"We had over 1,200 attendees for the entire 4-day lineup, including Grape Stomp and Sideways events," said Danielle Laudon Ruse, vice president of marketing for Visit the Santa Ynez Valley, adding that further details and event statistics would soon be tallied and released to the public.

Kicking off the six-town, four-day festivities was a Thursday evening open-air dinner seated at a lengthy communal table in Los Alamos' Ferrini Park, which featured the fanciful creations of local chefs and restaurateurs.

Attendees also enjoyed samples from a variety of Santa Maria and Los Alamos wines, beer and cider producers.

Folded into the itinerary of weekend events was the Sta. Rita Hills Wine Alliance’s Sideways Fest Wine & Movie Celebration which was presented as a tribute to the 15-year-old film which kick-started the Santa Ynez Valley’s place in wine and movie history.

The Friday evening cinematic event held under the stars at Solvang Festival Theater, started off with a Q&A panel that gathered the attention of an approximate 200 audience members.

Kathy Vreeland, executive director of Buellton Chamber of Commerce, moderated the conversation which featured Sideways film author Rex Pickett, and guests Kathy Joseph of Fiddlehead Cellars, and Frank Ostini of Hitching Post II in Buellton.

"I think it was a great event, and the audience seemed to enjoy not only the movie but the Q&A prior to the movie," Vreeland said. "The panel was entertaining and fun for the audience to hear some of the background of the story and how it has shaped our wine industry."

A movie screening of the famous flick accompanied by wine tasting, which spotlighted the wineries tied to the iconic film, had audience members interacting with the panel and the movie as it played out, according to Vreeland.

"Those familiar with the movie would say the lines or interact with the film, which made it fun," she said.

On Saturday afternoon, attendees took to the streets of Solvang for the Solvang Grape Stomp

Visitors and locals rolled up their sleeves — and pants — for a chance to stomp grapes and commemorate the end of another season of harvest for local growers.

Live music and Valley wine producers lined the pedestrian-friendly streets of Solvang to offer attendees sips and swills of their library collections.

Ticket proceeds from the 4-day signature event benefited the Santa Barbara Vintners organization.

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Lisa André covers Valley Life for Santa Ynez Valley News. 

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