Monday, July 21, 2014

Be still, my wine loving heart


 Be still, my wine loving heart
       In the Zone- by Tommie Vaughn

It is with great pleasure that I give you some exciting news, news that makes my wine loving heart skip a beat. A new highly anticipated destination joins the celebrated Urban Wine Trail in our beloved Santa Barbara’s downtown Funk Zone on July 10, 2014. The Santa Barbara Wine Collective will be the first communal tasting room in the already happening Anacapa Project area of the FZ, where visitors can taste and explore wines produced by a quartet of exceptional winemakers – Eric Railsback, Ernst Storm, Justin Willett and Dustin Wilson. 

The Santa Barbara Wine Collective, located at 131 Anacapa Street, will showcase the incomparable and vast terroirs that produce a range of varietals not found in any other region in the world. Santa Barbara County’s diverse soils, climate changes and temperatures allow for a stunning spectrum of wines within a ten mile area that include Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Notoriety, not sobriety

Part of the excitement is that the talents behind the Santa Barbara Wine Collective, have already gained international notoriety for their work in the wine industry.  The Collective is the brainchild of Sommelier Eric Railsback (Lieu Dit, Vallin), Winemakers Ernst Storm (Storm Wines and the new Notary Public), Justin Willett (Tyler, Lieu Dit, Vallin) and Master Sommelier Dustin Wilson (Vallin). It will feature the projects of all four, appealingly representing the best of what Santa Barbara can do with native French grapes.

When asked about the wines, the winemakers said they take their inspiration from old world traditions of Burgundian, Loire, Rhone and Bordeaux winemaking, selecting grapes from vineyards in Santa Maria, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Ynez and Happy Canyon to produce wines with a personal style and achieving a new world balance. Starting July, 2014, tourists and locals alike will be able to taste and purchase Syrah, Viognier, and Rosé from Vallin; Notary Public’s Cabernet Sauvignon; Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Tyler; and Lieu-Dit’s Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé.

Located next to Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant in the 10,000 square foot historic warehouse owned by the Castagnola family since the 1920’s, The Santa Barbara Wine Collective will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The tasting room will offer $10 flights from Vallin, Lieu Dit and Notary Public, $15 flights from Tyler and a $41 tasting line-up from each of the wineries for a complete Santa Barbara County experience. Retails sales and wine club memberships of Vallin, Lieu Dit, Tyler and Notary Public selections will be sold on site. Wine club shipments are planned quarterly in addition to an exclusive combination collection for members. 

Meet and Greet

In an effort to give the customer a personal experience, the winemakers- Railsback, Storm, and Willett will have rotating schedules so that customers can meet the winemakers and learn more about their varietals during their visit. The Collective will also serve as a learning center for Santa Barbara County Wines with a schedule of seminars and classes open to the public.

The look inside of the SBWC is somewhat familiar, since leading the design is restaurateur and designer Doug Washington, who is responsible for the inimitable style of neighboring businesses The Lark, Lucky Penny and Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant. Washington brings his singular urban style integrating vintage and repurposed materials for a sophisticated, yet casual sensibility. And with the wonderful open space it is perfect to accommodate large parties, wedding rehearsals, or maybe just a great spot for a ladies wine night.

But even with the gorgeous décor and a great location to boot, it really is all about the wine... which I am happy to report, is deliciously divine, some of the best I’ve had to date and I’ve dated a LOT of wine. But don’t take my word for it, get down to the FZ to taste it for yourself, your wine loving heart will be glad you did. The Santa Barbara Wine Collective, 131 Anacapa Street,

Through the Grapevine:

I just couldn’t seem to get enough wine in my column so I had to add more, especially when it also involves my other passion- music, and one of my favorite guitar makers and my favorite guitar shop in Santa Barbara. (whew!)
A Taste of Tonewoods is an incredible free event happening on July 27th, from 6-8pm brought to you by Santa Barbara Guitar Bar and Taylor Guitars, who invite you to join them for an evening of guitars, music and wine at the beautiful Gainey Vineyards in the always gorgeous, Santa Ynez Valley. Come enjoy live music from Grammy-winning guitarist Wayne Johnson (Bette Midler, Rickie Lee Jones, Manhattan Transfer), learn about the sonic profiles of different tonewoods, how guitars age, and much more all while sampling Gainey’s fine wines. And don’t forget to ‘test-drive’ an array of beautiful Taylor acoustic models, that will be available at special event pricing.  

I caught up with Jamie Faletti, Mister Guitar Bar himself to get a little inside scoop on such a cool event.
TV: Your event with Taylor guitars sounds groovy, how did it all come together?

JF: We have a really amazing relationship with Taylor that gives us great opportunities to do things like have one of a kind guitars and also create events like this. Billy Gill of Taylor and I had been brainstorming how to do a Taylor event at a winery in the Valley for years. Dan Gainey is a student here at the shop and he and I had been kicking around the idea of doing an event together somehow. The two ideas came together and Taylor was able to create a one-of-a-kind event for us.

TV: Taylor is one of the leading makers of guitars in the industry, what makes them so unique?

JF: Taylor is one of, if not the most future facing guitar manufacturers in the world. Their work in wood conservation and commitment to their employees puts them at the top of the list in our industry. On top of that, they create fantastic guitars that pair beauty, tone and innovation to create an excellent instrument every time.

TV: Is there a model that seems to sell the best in your store?

JF: The Taylor 814ce is historically the best seller for Taylor and for SBGB. This year Taylor’s master luthier Andy Powers (who was hand picked by Bob Taylor) has completely redesigned the 800 series. This was incredibly bold as this was the most popular of Taylor's guitars. Most companies would have had a “it’s not broke, why fix it” attitude. Yet another reason Taylor is unique.

TV: How much wood, could a woodchuck chuck? (If a woodchuck could chuck wood?)

JF: Depending on the size of the woodchuck of course, probably eleventy woods. Or threve. But only if the wood was legally grown, harvested and imported.

Yeah, that just happened. See you in the Valley, music and wine lovers! Gainey Vineyard Tasting Room, 3950 East Highway 46, Santa Ynez, CA 93460 805-688-0558

See it in The Santa Barbara Sentinel  page 13 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Star for a Day

A Star Day for a Day                                                    
In the Zone- by Tommie Vaughn

Back in 2001 I got my first job in Hollywood. No, not a singing job, but one that would lead to almost every connection, I have in the music industry today. The day I walked into the infamous and top of the Billboard charts legendary, Cherokee Recording Studios on Fairfax Avenue, just North of the heart of Melrose, my rock n roll life truly began.
Sadly, Cherokee was one of those incredible recording studios that became an overpriced dinosaur, with all of it’s amazing and rich analog consoles, the moment that digital recordings, or for those in the know- pro-tools, came onto the scene along with a little help from Napster, they rocked the music and recording industry to it’s core, when every Tom, Dick, and Sally could record themselves in their basement and come out sounding just like they spent thousands in a giant studio, so Cherokee, like quite a few others around the world closed down, and a new sort of studio was born.
Now, some would argue, (and some being some giants in the music industry, ie: Dave Grohl, ehem: Sound City, anyone?) that there is no replacing the true sound of analog and the feel of recording live as a band in a giant studio, that digital is the downfall to mainstream music today, where anyone, (and I mean anyone) can sound like a million bucks with the help of digital cut, paste, and don’t forget about Autotune. 

But today’s listener is different than the folks of the 60’s or 70’s, (lucky bastards) even the 80’s and 90’s. People today want immediate gratification. People don’t have time to waste, they want music to be quick, to the point- give them a hook, shake their booty a little bit in the car while they drive to work and then they want to be done with it. I’m not saying that’s me. I’m one of those old rocker chicks that want’s an epic guitar solo, an imperfect voice, shoot, I even love a three minute instrumental intro. But I digress; let’s just say with all my experience over the years in the music industry, I am totally at home within a recording studio- digital, analog or my very own basement. 

Hidden within a City

So when I found out that there was a new recording studio tucked perfectly within the Funk Zone, I clapped my hands and scooted over to meet with Elliott Lanam, the owner and head engineer at Hidden City Studios, on the corner of Garden and Yananoli. First off I must report, the studio itself is totally hidden within a woodworking building that used to be the production studio for non other than Hall and Oates. (Man-eater? Rich Girl? Private Eyes?Anyone?)
Just that little tidbit of music history might be what gives Hidden City Studios it’s retro-cool feel, dripping with low lighting, rock memorabilia, and vintage equipment strewn around like every musicians wet dream, like a classic Hammond organ, and plenty of classic Fender crate amps to create those rich guitar tones of the said 60’s and 70’s. The studio itself is made up of four (six if you count the vocal and drum booths), two control rooms and two live rooms, and I gotta say, the vibe is really cool, super low-key and very comfortable. It’s absolutely perfect for an artist to feel at home in order to release their soul songs properly. 

Elliott Lanam opened his pro-tools driven Hidden City just five months ago and already word is spreading around town of his engineering talents, reasonable rates ($50 an hour folks) and the downright cool factor of Hidden City itself. Elliott began his journey in music behind a piano at the young age of seven, moving through teachers and styles, ending with a passion for keyboards, the blues and jazz. It was through his own music and recording his passion that brought him want to work at the largest studio in Santa Barbara, Sound Design Studios, where he interned for 3 years gaining his knowledge working with the likes of Depeche Mode and The Jacksons, then moving over to Playback Studios where he became a paid engineer and producer, working with Santa Barbara’s darling Katy Perry, before venturing out on his own, creating Hidden City Studios.
A Note of his Own
“I worked at those high end studios for years and they are totally amazing with all the gear and consoles, but what I wanted to create here at Hidden City, was an accessible atmosphere, where artists could come and record their music and not go broke. Because, who are we kidding? Musicians don’t tend to have a lot of money.” Elliott smiles and I’m nodding in agreement, thinking of almost every musician I know and love.
“I spend about fourteen hours a day here, I sometimes don’t even go home if I’m working on a session. I love that an artist will come in as a stranger, and when they leave, we are like best friends. It’s an amazing experience to have with someone. I get to make peoples dreams come true. They come here with a song, sometimes just an idea, and we suss it out together, getting the best recording possible, and they leave with that song in their hand. It’s a pretty cool job to have, they really are a star for a day.”
Is his studio for the huge musical stars? Maybe, Elliott say’s, but mostly they stick to the big studios in town, for now at least he tends to work with the first time recordings to the mid level acts, dabbling in voice over’s and jingles for commercial use, that is until the big shots discover the hidden gem within the always happening Funk Zone. Book your time soon before Elliott raises his rates because he is so damn busy, and such a nice guy, you will be at ease and in your creative zone in no time, enabling you to record your dreams, one song at a time. Hidden City Studios, 650-454-5459

Through the Grapevine:
Alright foodie folks, it’s time for another delicious night at my favorite funk zone eatery- The Lark, a new edition of their Local Treasures Dinner with executive chef, Jason Paluska, and local winemaker, viticulturist and owner of Larner Vineyards and Winery, Michael Larner, have collaborated to create an amazing 5-course paring dinner. Chef Paluska has carefully chosen local and seasonal ingredients, like a Sea Urchin and Scallop Crudo, a crispy smoked Pork Belly, a slow cooked Lamb Shank, along with Central Coast Summer Fruit and a Stonefruit Gallette, paired perfectly with Larner’s wines from Ballard Canyon. The event will be held on Sunday, June 29th, at 6pm. RSVP your tickets today by emailing
And please stay tuned for my next column featuring the brand new exciting edition to the 137 Anacapa Street Project, The Santa Barbara Wine Collective, set to open its doors on July 2nd, brought to you by The Larks Sherry Villanueva, featuring the winemakers in the collective Ernst Storm and Justin Willet. I know where I will be spending my long holiday weekend, why don’t you stop in too!

Or see the article here: The Santa Barbara Sentinel Page 8.

The Goldfish Principle

The Goldfish Principle
   In the Zone by Tommie Vaughn

Maybe it’s an old wives tale- that a goldfish will regulate it’s size if it’s in a small or crowded bowl and will only grow larger in a bigger tank… but the metaphor hit the nail on the tail when it comes to SLTWTR Creative Agency. Eric Panofsky, the creative director of SLTWR, began his web design business in his home, building websites for friends, wearing hoodies and fingerless gloves because he couldn’t afford to pay the heating bill. When Eric heard his friend Carey Larson was leaving his position doing online marketing, they decided to combine forces to create SLTWR.

With the advent of the beast that is Social Media, that was quickly immerging into the web-es-sphere, Carey decided to take a post graduate course on social media from the University of San Francisco, which enabled the tackling of clients web design as well as social media presence and the pair took the first step towards growth- opening their first office, a 10x10 window less space on Figueroa and State Street, just steps from the French Press.
From Coffee to Funk
As SLTWR outgrew their small office, three years ago they took the final leap to a much larger tank, a sprawling top floor office space, located at 22 Anacapa Street, close to the beach end of the FZ, complete with a conference room, three large open workspaces (with windows) and enough room for a kicking campaign party or two. The company quickly expanded its in house team to six creative designers and at least three outside field sources between sales and independent contractors. 

As I sat in their industrial chic, meets surf and skate décor drenched office, Eric, who looks more like a skater than an executive director (I love the relaxed lifestyle industry) explained his company’s mission statement, “SLTWTR is a full service creative agency, so basically we handle any form of marketing for our clients that may benefit from centrally outsourced creativity. We are working with more mid level companies, somewhere around 20-200 employees, looking for a new way to have their brand manifest to the public, a need to improve web presence, a new look and feel. For example Channel Island Surfboards was searching for a new web presence, or Sundance Beach, a company in Goleta, was looking for a complete brand identity, which we provided for them.”
Eric then proceeded to blow my mind as he pulled down two hardcover 60-page books that were complete branding projects, with vivid beautiful images jumping from every page. These books were an entire science of the clients company from the creative minds of the SLTWTR team, capturing a complete visual identity, brand strategy, establishing photography styles, fonts, photography contents, a complete brand strategy, mission statement, describing who they are, what they are, who they sell to and why. There was so much attention to detail within each campaign, down to exact text styles and social media insight, there would be no question in any client’s mind, that wasn’t described perfectly on each glossy page.
So in a sense SLTWTR creates an unforgettable all around online image, for their many lifestyle type clients. But how do they choose? And of course I had to ask if they could spill a few of their clients names, to which Eric (and Caterina Caligiuri, a producer for the SLTWR team, who had come to join us) smiled and gave each other knowing looks. Damn those press people, I’m sure they were thinking, always making me take silly pictures and asking us to name drop. 

Spill It
“Well, when we consider a new client we call it a discovery phase, we do all our research on their current web presence, background, social media presence, what their intentions are, what their niche is. So lets say our music clients can range from a small immerging band, to mid level e-commerce bands or brands, like vintage steel guitars all the way up to Seymour Duncan.”
Say no more Obi-wan, I have heard the biggest name when it comes to guitar pick-ups, but Eric continues. “Essentially we like to deal with lifestyle companies, clients whom we resonate with and since we now are lucky enough to be able to pick and choose our clients, we can be totally passionate about each project. So the closer the company gets to our shared lifestyle, like music, action sports, art, food… along with bringing some form of cool factor, that is something we can really get behind and get excited about. Kind of like Channel Island Surf Company, our newest client, we are so excited to be creating a ground breaking, new direction, that I think will be thee game changer in the entire surf industry.”
Ask and you shall receive I always say, and boy did Eric and Caterina smile when my eyes bulged out of my head as he spilled their exciting news. As soon as I closed my gaping mouth we went on talking for a while longer about SLTWTR’s rise to this new level of marketing artistry, then turning our attention to how much the Funk Zone has changed over their last three years of residency. They both agreed it was amazing the change that had happened in such a short time, agreeing that it was the best place for them to be, members of an elite artistic community, then mentioning their recent video they had just released, a sort of love letter to the FZ and all their friends who inhabit it, shot by the talented Jesse Natale of J North Productions who is one of SLTWTR’s field team videographers as well, chronicling a day in the life of a SLTWTR staff member, (maybe Eric?) peddling through the Zone and all of their favorite haunts. The video and even more information can be seen on SLTWTR’s wet and wild website at
Through the Grapevine:
If you are digging what I’m throwing down in this article and think you have what it takes to be the next incendiary revolutionary, who can make Zeitgeist seem like soooo last season, maybe you would fit in perfectly with this salty crew. You see- their tank has expanded enough for two more like-minded goldfish to be team members. SLTWTR is actively looking to fill positions as Web Developer and Graphic Designer, so get your resume’s polished and go get yourself an interview, tell them Tommie V sent you. Contact or call 805-845-5775 SLTWTR Creative Agency, 22 Anacapa Santa Barbara, CA 93108

See the article in the paper here: The Santa Barbara Sentinel page 15