vintners foundation

Running for the Vine

Santa Barbara’s jogging winemakers prepare for 5th Vintners 5 Miler on Saturday, July 20 at Sanford Winery

By Matt Kettmann, Santa Barbara Independent

Contrary to stereotypical notions of rotund, leisurely bon vivants, Santa Barbara County’s winemakers are a rather athletic bunch. Many stay fit by jogging, often through the vineyards, which makes the upcoming Vintners 5 Miler and its Finish Line Festival, a perfect pairing of exercise and oenology. To see how running and winemaking mesh, I asked five running winemakers to explain how their two passions work together. 

DAVID WHITEHAIR:  “I used to say that I was a winemaker with a trail running addiction,” explained the winemaker at Foxen Vineyard & Winery. “Now I say that I’m a trail runner with a winemaking addiction.” 

That’s no joke: After 13 years of running, Whitehair got serious four years ago, now clocking about four miles every day on his lunch break and then 15-30 miles each weekend, sometimes barefoot, usually on such trails as Point Sal, Romero Canyon and McKinley Peak. Two years ago he did his first ultra-marathon, with 5,100 feet of elevation changes; ran a 55K in Antelope Valley last March; and then did a 30-miler after that. In January, he’ll tackle Avalon’s 50-miler and aims to tally a 100-miler soon. 

He kills two birds with one stone by running vineyards. “You get to check on the progress of the vines and get your workout all in one,” said Whitehair, who finds plenty of benefits for his job. “Running allows me to tackle current challenges that I am facing in the winery, through meditation,” he said. “It is a state of meditation and clarity that I find myself in, often forgetting that I am running, legs set to autopilot. Running and winemaking are both strong mental games, requiring immense amounts of discipline, dedication and passion. I feel that being an ultra-runner has made me a better winemaker, and being a winemaker has made me a better runner.”

He also sees parallels in the “old world” approach to running and winemaking. “There are always going to people trying to sell you their product that’s supposed to revolutionize your wine, or a new running shoe that’s going to change the game forever,” said Whitehair. “When in fact, people have been doing both, for thousands of years, and sticking to those tried-and-true methods seem to work best. Good fruit, good barrels, good shoes and a good hat. What else would you need?”

McKENNA GIARDINE:  The assistant winemaker for Andrew Murray and winemaker for E11even wines started seriously running last November, training for a 10K. “I really enjoyed the structure of training for a race,” she explained. “The endorphins don’t suck either.”

She now runs about four times per week (from two to eight miles), often near the waterfront in Ventura, with two days of cross-training. She’s not a vineyard runner, fearing a broken ankle prior to harvest, but does see the practice as part stress management, part staying in shape for harvest. 

In wine, no two vintages are the same, and she sees a parallel in jogging. “No two runs are the same,” explained Giardine. “One day you can smash out a big run and feel amazing and the next day do the same run and struggle. Taking it day-by-day, vintage-by-vintage, is important.”

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Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation Gets Set for 5th Anniversary Vintners 5 Miler

Sanford Winery again hosts unique off-road run; SBAA Grand Prix event also includes 1 Mile Wine Walk and family-friendly Finish Line Festival; proceeds to support the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County; register today at

BUELLTON, Calif. – (June 24, 2019) – The Fifth Anniversary Vintners 5 Miler is set for Saturday, July 20, 2019 at Sanford Winery and Vineyards. This unique running event, hosted by Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation, starts at 9:00am in front of the winery and covers a 5 mile course for runners of all abilities and ages. The mixed terrain course, which includes a 350 ft. ascent to a scenic overlook with a commanding view of the Sanford estate vineyards on Santa Rosa Road, presents a challenge for experienced racers while the “Wine Walk” offers a 1 Mile course suitable for a leisurely stroll through the vineyard.

 “We are very excited to be celebrating the fifth anniversary of this great community event at Sanford Winery,” says Jessica Gasca, president of the Vintners Foundation. “It’s a wonderful day that highlights healthful living featuring both exercise and wine.”

After the race, participants will enjoy the family-friendly Finish Line Festival to celebrate the upcoming 2019 harvest with wine tasting, food provided by notable local food purveyors including Bella Vista at the Four Seasons Resort, live music and a kid’s zone.

“Continuing the emphasis on health and well-being, proceeds from this year’s event benefit Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and their Alma Cena Sana program,” added Ms. Gasca. The Alma Cena Sana program provides food, health screenings and access to social services at weekly health fairs for families in Lompoc.

In addition to the Foodbank, Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation supports many local organizations including Santa Ynez Valley Community Aquatics Foundation, People Helping People of the Santa Ynez Valley, Direct Relief, Allan Hancock College Enology/Viticulture Program, SBIFF and Santa Barbara Foundation as well as a scholarship program.

Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation also welcomes event sponsors from the local community. If your company is interested in sponsoring this event, please contact Jessica Gasca at

Overall, the 2018 event drew a record 370 entrants with 328 finishers in the 5 Mile and 1 Mile Wine Walk.

The Santa Barbara Athletic Association selected the Vintners 5 Miler as its 2017 Event of the Year, and the 5 Miler is again a SBAA Grand Prix event.

Runners & walkers of all ages are invited to participate in the Vintners 5 Miler and 1 Mile Wine Walk. Registration for the 5th edition is available at:

Running experts from EventPRO have designed the course and will manage the race.

About the Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation
The Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation is the charitable umbrella under which Santa Barbara Vintners conducts its philanthropic work. Through the Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation, Santa Barbara Vintners contributes to the community through local charitable and scholarship organizations with proceeds from its various events.