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  • Evelyne Resnick

Why You Must Visit Santa Barbara

Called the “American Riviera”, Santa Barbara, CA, is known to wine lovers and foodies as the new rising star of an outstanding tourism experience. A beautiful vista between ocean and mountains, preserved or restored traditional Spanish-style architecture, historical Mission, art, music, dance festivals contribute to both a cultural and gourmet experience.

Beyond the climate and the landscape, Santa Barbara is a city going back to the 18th Century when the Spanish priests built the Mission. In the early 1960’s, it became the birthplace of a local wine industry. The wine business grew slowly over about 4 decades until the movement accelerated. After a few years, at the beginning of the new millennium, wineries became the business where former Hollywood stars, such as Fess Parker (Davy Crockett) or current Hollywood stars, such as Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives) invested money and fame. “Serious” winemakers started producing highly praised wines, recognized by the international wine critics: Jaffurs or Kunin are one of the few names the area gave birth to. Kunin, owner and wine maker of the Kunin winery, is also the mind behind “The Valley Project”. In a modern looking tasting room, the Valley Project presents a wide map of all the AVAs (American Viticultural Area) of Santa Barbara county with all the wineries of the region. Each AVA and each winery of the AVA are represented in a horizontal tasting, allowing the tourist to discover the rich diversity of the wines produced in the Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez valleys.

Is it a luxury experience? The Valley Project is located in the “Funk Zone” of the city of Santa Barbara. The city itself is a delight of culture and nature harmoniously mixed for the pleasure of the tourist and the residents. The “Funk Zone” is a small area within a few blocks including wineries, restaurants, art galleries between the ocean and the railway. Filled with “funky” buildings harboring tasting rooms, small boutiques and art galleries, the Zone is the meeting point of the trendy youth of Santa Barbara: urban young professionals get together to enjoy their “after work” glass of wine or be part of the opening of an art exhibition or stroll through the design stores or shop at the gourmet Metropulos Fine Foods store. The “Funk Zone” is the new lifestyle experience, known to the locals and getting more acquainted with tourists attracted by the connection between wine, food and art in a contemporary setting.

The Funk Zone could remind the cultured traveler of the Design District in Miami where Louis Vuitton opened his store in 2008, designed by famous artists: “From its Damier-pattern façade by Japanese architect Jun Aoki to a commanding slate blue 36-foot art piece entitled Hothouse by Miami-born artist Teresita Fernandez to a series of watercolor drawings by artist André, the store pays homage to its creative roots.”

As stated by Louis Vuitton Americas President and CEO Anthony Ledru in the same article, “The Design District is a neighborhood devoted to fostering creativity and innovation — values we share here at Louis Vuitton. This is an exciting opportunity for us to open a brand new store in a high profile market, allowing us to bring exceptional service to our clientele”

A similarly close statement was applied to the Santa Barbara Funk Zone where creativity and art meet with wine and food: “Santa Barbara has always been a haven for artists, artisans, wine makers and chefs looking for a slightly different approach. Thanks to the growth of The Funk Zone, this neighborhood location has exploded into a contemporary Santa Barbara sub-culture of artisan shops, art galleries, hip eateries, award-winning microbreweries, and even a craft distillery. Don’t be deterred by the name; the area doesn’t have a funk so much as it does a vibe. Artists, winemakers, and up-and-coming chefs have taken up shop in aged warehouses and forgotten scuba shops, transforming the zone into an understated array of hidden hot spots along California’s Central Coast.”

Wine and food are now brands, like fashion and cosmetics. They tell stories from the place, its production and the people. The client does not go to dinner, he spends the evening at Senderens in Paris ou Bouchon in Santa Barbara, goes to the Plazza Athénée hotel for the luxury experience and the cuisine of Ducasse.

Hotels, wine and food professionals have to create a tailored experience for this new generation of luxury consumers, who are expecting an experience through wine, food and hospitality. The globalization of the luxury experience brought up the expectations of the consumers: they are not only looking for exceptional products, but mostly for an experience linking the product, the place, the people and the history.

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