Grassini Holds Opening Soirées for New Tasting Room

Winery with a Heart Celebrates New El Paseo Tasting Room

CEO Katie (Grassini) McKillen (R) with her husband and distributor, Dean McKillen of J&L Wines.

Gail Arnold

CEO Katie (Grassini) McKillen (R) with her husband and distributor, Dean McKillen of J&L Wines.

On May 18 and 19, Grassini Family Vineyards celebrated the opening of its charming and spacious new tasting room in El Paseo with back-to-back celebrations. The first night, Mayor Cathy Murrillo did an official ribbon cutting and about 75 guests, many from the hospitality industry, celebrated. The next night, another 100 guests or so, including many wine club members, friends, and area business people, toasted and celebrated the grand opening.

Grassini’s old tasting room, which it opened in 2012, was at the Anacapa end of El Paseo. The new space is toward State Street and includes a lovely patio in the historic courtyard. According to CEO Katie (Grassini) McKillen, “with the support of our wine-loving community and visitors, we outgrew our space. Our new tasting room is truly an extension of our winery in the Santa Ynez Valley, and was designed as a space to explore our wines and appreciate the wines’ sense of place and tradition with friends and family.”

The new tasting room features a handcrafted bar of antique fir and comfy lounge furniture spread throughout the spacious area. The tasteful decor, including an attractive fireplace and Persian-style rugs, create a warm, inviting atmosphere. Open from 12 to 6 pm daily, the tasting room offers tastings as well as wines by the glass and bottle.

Grassini Family Vineyards sources all of its fruit from its 104-acre vineyard in the prized Happy Canyon appellation. It had its first commercial vintage in 2007. The winery has kept production limited, about 4,500 cases per year currently, and is best known for its cabernet sauvignon and its sauvignon blanc. The sauvignon blanc has always been popular, and the cab's popularity keeps growing as people become more familiar with Happy Canyon. The appellation just attained AVA status in 2009 after Grassini and neighboring vineyard owners submitted an application. McKillen is the daughter of founders Larry and Sharon Grassini and has been at the helm since the winery opened in 2010. Bradley Long has been the winemaker since 2014.

Among the many happy Grassini fans at the second event were San Diego residents Chris Cunningham and her mother, Betty Duris, who scheduled their visit to Santa Barbara so they could attend the event. During their initial visit to the tasting room a few years ago, they shared how much they enjoyed the wines with a few others in the tasting room, who turned out to be Grassini family members. The wines and the whole experience were so enjoyable, they joined the wine club on the spot and didn’t want to miss the opening celebration.

The winery has always been extraordinarily generous to our nonprofit community. For the past six years, the centerpiece of its charitable efforts is Grassini Gives Back, during which on one Sunday in December, it raises funds for a specific area nonprofit. Last year’s recipient, Food from the Heart, received $81,000. On the designated day, all donations made to the nonprofit in the tasting room are matched by Grassini Family Vineyards. All tasting fees and raffle ticket sales are also matched and contributed, and proceeds from a silent auction get donated too.

Grassini made its former tasting room available to nonprofits for events, and McKillen is happy that the new, more spacious tasting room will enable them to host more events. Grassini wines have long been donated and poured at many nonprofit events.

McKillen is excited to introduce people to their new space. Especially with people being disenchanted with the State Street corridor these days, she hopes that more people will discover not only Grassini, but the whole Presidio Neighborhood, which she calls the beautiful and historic heart of Santa Barbara.

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