“One person will love a Cabernet and the next person a Pinot, just like one person will love abstract and the next, Impressionism.”
Artiste Winery located in Los Olivos, California provides a unique twist to the tasting room experience. With walls and ceilings covered in colorful art and wines blended by the winemaker, Bion Rice, the two artistic forms collide to form complex masterpieces. In the same room, you can taste wine and paint a picture on your own; a space and team that clearly supports and invites its customers to think creatively and independently.
Artiste’s wine labels are a fascinating element alone, each bottle is labeled with an artist’s work from California all the way to Ohio and South Carolina. I spoke to Laurie Blundell, the General Manager at Artiste Winery to hear more about how exactly these art labels are chosen. Blundell states, “We rotate their works on each new release, 4-5 a year and when chosen, they become the featured artist and the majority of our studio is dedicated to their paintings. We put a lot of effort into selecting the perfect art piece to accompany Bion’s blend. Sometimes the art directs the blend, and sometimes the blend directs the art. The creative process is alive throughout the entire process.”
It has become a popular and highly rewarding experience now for visitors and locals to spend an afternoon outside in a vineyard whilst painting and drinking local wines. I spoke with Christi Schaeffer, the creator of Gypsy Studios, who gave me enriching information on the creation and background of the studio. Christi has always enjoyed creating but found a real passion for art when she studied at Santa Barbara City College for a few years and traveled to Florence, Italy to study in more depth. After living and working in Los Angeles, she soon came back to the valley and began to work in the industry (at Kaena, Figueroa Mountain Brewery & Kalyra). Christi notes, “This was when the idea for painting classes at vineyards came to me. It was a perfect blend of my favorite things. How could I not give it a shot?! So, January of this year, Gypsy Studios was born....as a sole proprietorship. I started practice events in my parents' living room and the folks over at Kalyra were really great about letting me host events there as I was getting started on my days off. That's how it started.”
As business began to expand, Christi realized she was going to need more help and reached out to her best friend, Heidi Riehl, who was also working in the industry but was located in Willamette Valley. Heidi made the move to Santa Barbara County and the two became partners in March 2015.
Gypsy Studios brands itself as a “mobile art class business,” a business that is quite literally on wheels. Christi states, “We conduct painting classes all over the Santa Ynez Valley and mostly in a plein air environment, meaning outside, capturing the landscape as it is on that given day, often accompanied by great wines from the valley.” So just like Artiste Winery, Gypsy Studios has found the correlation between the two art forms, both are creatively complex and enjoyed in a personal, unique way.
Naturally, I wondered whether the Painting in the Vineyard sessions were not only open but conducive for beginners. The idea of sitting in front of a blank canvas encouraged to paint the Sta. Rita Hills could seem a bit daunting to some but Christi assured me her classes are actually taught assuming everyone is a beginner. In the class, “guests are invited to paint whatever they'd like, but Christi provides step-by-step instruction for a specific view. She walks guests through everything--from perspective, composition, color-mixing, application, and the hows & whys behind it all.” Gypsy Studios notes that their aim for their guests doesn’t reside in painting “the perfect picture” but rather to find appreciation, self-awareness, and pride in your own unique and creative expression.
We have found where art and wine collide, how the two not only overlap in their artistic production but also in how they are enjoyed, celebrated, and experienced. While the valley is full, ever-expanding with wine producers and tasting rooms, the union with art brings in a special and personal touch.
And so, in lieu of tasting notes, Artiste Winery asks you: “What’s your Impression?”
Thank you, Christi Schaeffer and Laurie Blundell for your time and words.
Written by: Kendall Busby, Marketing and Communications Intern at Santa Barbara Vintners. Thank you for reading!
Interesting stories from Santa Barbara Wine County.