How to Host a Wine-Fueled Garden Party

How to Host a Wine-Fueled Garden Party

The youngest daughter of Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke, Katie Jackson is also the “Katherine” of Cambria Estate Winery Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay and the winery’s roving ambassador. Casual and vivacious, she is also a talented home chef and thoughtful blogger who frequently recounts tales from Cambria and shares many of her favorite recipes.

Jackson Family Wine Estates bought the 700 benchland acres that became Cambria Estate Winery in 1986. The company further developed the vineyards, which include Pinot Noir, Syrah and Viognier grapes in addition to the Chardonnay; and built a state-of-the-art production facility and tasting room.

While the winery and vineyards are in Santa Maria, just 17 miles from the Pacific Ocean, Katie lives with her husband, Shaun Kajiwara in Sonoma County, where she entertains often. Her kitchen skills are fierce, having inherited her mother’s love and talent for Italian cooking, but she also loves a casual backyard barbecue.

“We always go way overboard with food,” she says. “Shaun loves grilling anything and everything.”

This works out perfectly when they entertain at Cambria, where it’s all about the local tri-tip, grilled and enjoyed outside at the winery in view of the Pacific Ocean fog rolling in.

Recreate the Region

The Menu

Katie likes to source from local growers and ranchers in the Santa Maria Valley area. For an outdoor summer party, she builds her meals around tri-tip, a cut of steak popularized in Santa Maria (it’s surrounded by the sirloin, round and flank portions). Typically she serves the steak grilled with garlic salt and a black pepper rub that she buys from a local rancher. She then surrounds it with traditional accompaniments that include slow-cooked pinquinto beans and grilled, often, garlic bread.

As important as the meat and sides are Katie’s personally famous Panzanella salad, a combination of day-old bread, ripe Santa Maria-grown tomatoes, onion, cucumber, fresh basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. For dessert, she always serves strawberries, another of the area’s major delights.

Santa Maria Valley-style tri-tip
Slow-cooked Santa Maria pinquinto beans
Tomato salad with hot peppers
Grilled bread
Lobster macaroni and cheese
Katie’s Panzanella salad
Red onion and fig jam pizza with prosciutto and fresh mozzarella
Fresh strawberries

The Décor

The vineyards at Cambria are stunningly beautiful in their own right. With clear views of the hills and fog rolling in from the Pacific Ocean, Katie feels there’s no need to embellish the picnic tables where they’ll enjoy a late-afternoon meal. She just adds white tablecloths and pretty flowers from the winery garden. Flowers tend to be an assortment of orange, yellow and pink gladiolus arranged in Mason jars or small vases, sourced from a farm near the winery. To augment those colors, she uses orange or yellow plates and serving platters out of her mother’s colorful Italian dishware collection. Katie serves family-style and has plenty of Burgundy wine glasses on hand for guests to sample a range of wines.

The Playlist

Katie’s easygoing by nature and Shaun is originally from Hawaii, so for parties, they like to listen to Jack Johnson radio on Pandora, which in addition to Johnson streams the likes of John Mayer, Jason Mraz and Train.

The Drinks

Villa Sandi Extra Dry (Prosecco di Valdobbiadene)
Byron Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Maria Valley)
Foxen Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Maria Valley)
Cambria Tepusquet Vineyard Syrah (Santa Maria Valley)

Strictly a wine drinker, Katie skips the beer or cocktails, but Shaun loves Guinness.

Published on November 25, 2015
Topics: California Travel GuideHosting Guide