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Santa Barbara Wine Futures Sale Is Canceled

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Feb 19, 2009 4:06pm ET

It looks like Wine Cask’s Santa Barbara County wine futures program is done, at least for this year.

We’ve been following the behind-the-scenes developments for this year’s event for weeks now.

We’ve tasted and rated barrel samples from this program for several years now and during that period there have been some excellent new wine discoveries, as well as some good deals on discounted wines. When you buy wine futures you pay a discounted price, usually a $5 to $10 a bottle discount with Santa Barbara futures, and secure the wines for future delivery, usually within a year or two.

Earlier this year we received a copy of the 2009 futures catalog. But since then several key wineries decided not to participate, and it’s unclear whether the catalog was even printed or distributed.

That made me nervous on two counts: It appeared that the event was on shaky grounds with new management, and, more important, I didn’t feel comfortable recommending anyone buy futures in this economy. It’s far wiser to focus on what is currently in the market from Santa Barbara rather than spend on wines that might be less expensive in a year.

The owner of Wine Cask, a wine shop and Grand-Award winning restaurant, has walked away from the popular downtown Santa Barbara business amid reports that he may have been evicted.

As one reader told me this morning, "Tuesday night, after business, [owner Bernard Rosenson apparently] took everything out and didn’t tell anyone. All of the wine in the restaurant [was taken along with] all the furniture. Everything was moved. If you walked in today it’s empty."

Many Santa Barbara vintners are disappointed in the collapse of this program, since it was a unique sale and tasting event that received national coverage.

But vintners are holding out hope that another event can be put into place that showcases their young wines and offers consumers a chance to both taste the wines and perhaps buy a few.

Doug Margerum
February 19, 2009 7:17pm ET
I was very saddened to hear that the Wine Cask has closed. I really did think the buyer of my business, Bernard Rosenson, had the abilities to run it. He had/has a successful restaurant in Long Beach, he was wealthy, his family was part of it, and he had an incredible collection of rare wines to bring to the equation. I had quite a few people interested in the business and I chose Mr. Rosenson because I trusted him. I still trust the man to keep his commitments to the employees, vendors, and customers - he has emailed me that he will not leave any bills unpaid. The economic climate has changed so dramatically since the sale in 2007 - no one could of predicted what was going to happen. The dramatic fashion of the demise is disheartening. I feel especially bad for the employees of the Wine Cask who are suddenly, and without notice, unemployed. I had a consulting contract but, except for writing a good part the 2008 futures catalog, he never asked for my help during his tenure. I do feel for the Rosenson family, this must be a very difficult time for them. My hope is that Wine Cask could begin anew now that this chapter has ended and I suspect a Phoenix will rise from the ashes. Doug Margerum
Blair Fox
Santa Barbara, CA —  February 19, 2009 7:28pm ET
Jim-This is a truly tragic demise of a historic Santa Barbara wine shop and restaurant. As a Santa Barbara native and winemaker I have enjoyed the Wine Cask Restaurant, wine shop and participated in the Futures program for many years. Hopefully someone else can step-up and take the reigns and create another successful Santa Barbara County Futures event.Take Care,Blair Fox
La Quinta, CA —  February 19, 2009 8:08pm ET
I heard from a friend that is a vintner there, and participant, that the event was being moved to Oxnard on March 28th....
Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  February 20, 2009 11:06am ET
Doug, it must be hard seeing your baby die like that overnight. I helped my family sell a company in 2006 and we've watched it run into the ground. It's really been befuddling to see Bernard opening up retail stores in Oxnard and Calabasas (that one is kind of a joke combo of art gallery and retail space meant to keep local family employed I suspect), moving the warehouse, etc. I know SB is expensive, but to just pull the rug out from underneath everyone is extremely unprofessional, irrespective of how quickly hard times have come. Dignity is still an option and it's too bad he chose to flush his away. Doug, I think the futures program could continue if the minimums (6-bottles on most) were dropped to something more reasonable like 2 bottles, or 6-bottles mixed case. Though I liked your enthusiastic comments and often bought strictly based on those, sometimes the juice in the bottle didn't turn out quite that way as evinced by my own palate and that of Mr. Laube's. Taking a risk on one bottle is okay, but 6 was just too much even with the substantial discount for buying en primeur. Last year I only purchased one 6-er of a wine that Laube had given a final rating. I'm glad that 6-pack finally shipped last week! My condolences Doug. You ran a great couple of restaurants and a cool wine shop. I hope you're still enjoying your own production as much as I am! Keep it up!
Chris Lavin
Long Beach, CA —  February 20, 2009 1:26pm ET
What a tragedy. The Wine Cask was always a stopping point on my way back to LA from a weekend of tasting.
Larry Schaffer
central coast, ca —  February 20, 2009 10:53pm ET

This story is very sad for so many reasons . . .

As a member of the Santa Barbara County winemaking community, I had always admired what Doug had been able to put together in the Wine Cask - a shop and restaurant that went out of its way to spotlight (and uncover) great wines and personalities throughout the Central Coast, with an emphasis here in Santa Barbara County.

Long before I ever became part of this community, I would read in the pages of this publication about all of these winemakers and wineries as featured in your write up from the annual Futures event - it was always interesting reading, and gave a really good barometer of the region . . .

Now it's all gone - a dark restaurant and store are all that remains . . . They certainly were 'victims' of the current economic climate to some extent, but there is so much more to be learned, and much more to come out about this in the coming weeks . . .

Life must go on, though, and as Doug says, a Pheonix will rise from the ashes . . . Information will be coming out shortly about two events that aim to take the place of this one - events that aim to go back to what Doug seemed to want to do all along - focus on a smaller group of wineries - new and old - making great juice . . .

I also want to point out that, though it may be risky to purchase wine on futures, those that have purchased wine from this event have never been left without their purchases - and Mr. Rosenson has promised that to be the case with some purchases from last year that have still not been delivered. And the new entries to these arena are well funded and situated to deliver on their promises . . .

Thanks again for spotlighting the area - just wish it was more 90+ scores rather than this (-:

Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  February 21, 2009 3:45pm ET
Maybe Doug could buy back the operation for pennies on the dollar and make the magic again? What say you Doug?
Larry Schaffer
central coast, ca —  February 21, 2009 5:38pm ET
Just got a confirmation fo the first of the upcoming futures events - sponsored by Bob Wesley at Wine Hound. It will take place May 9th at the SB Natural History Museum.

Already confirmed are:




Brewer-Clifton / Diatom





Alta Maria



Kenneth Crawford

and more to be added . . .

But not many more - this will be a more limited tasting with no more than about 30 tables . . .

Perhaps this was the Pheonix Doug was talking about?!??!? Only time will tell . . . but I am psyched about this event!

And there is at least one other event planned - but I don't have confirmed info on it as of yet.

Jon Robinson
Bozeman, MT —  February 22, 2009 9:13pm ET
I guess that means i'll never see my Qupes magnums that I bought on futures.....:(
Mark Horowitz
Brooklyn, USA —  February 24, 2009 12:11pm ET
I was a futures customer the past three years and appreciated the opportunity to sample some of Santa Barbara's best. Ironic, as Wine Cask recently sent me a coupon good on a subsequent purchase. Guess that coupon is a relic now.Beckmen is doing a futures program itself, as, I imagine, will other producers, now that Wine Cask has closed.
Larry Schaffer
central coast, ca —  February 24, 2009 6:21pm ET

As I've posted, there will be at least two Santa Barbara Futures programs this year. I posted above about the first one I know about - and this one will include Jaffurs, Beckmen, Paul Lato, Qupe, Ojai and many other leading local wine producers. Keep your ears and eyes out for it or go visit www.winehound.com and be put on the list.

The other thing to mention is that the Wine Cask is still open for business, just not in Santa Barbara. If your coupon is for wine and not the restaurant, you are still in luck! Visit the website and you should still be able to use it.


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