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episode 2: rita's balance



Photography for Episode 2 by the lovely Summer Staeb

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Rajat Parr


Born in Calcutta, Rajat credits his uncle in London for first introducing him to great wines. He began his wine career as an apprentice to one of the industry’s most acclaimed master sommeliers, Larry Stone at Rubicon in San Francisco. Rajat continued on and brought his expertise to the award-winning Fifth Floor before being named wine director for The Mina Group. Rajat traveled extensively around the world, visited the best vineyard sites and met many of the great winemakers of our time. This began the cultivation of Rajat’s deep understanding and appreciation of the distinctness of terrior and the vital but delicate role of winemaker. Rajat mastered the art of recognizing the impressions these elements imprinted upon wines and quickly became known for his ability to identify vineyards, producers, and vintages by taste alone. As he honed these skills, Rajat’s interest shifted further towards winemaking. In 2011, Rajat launched Sandhi, a partnership with Charles Banks and Sashi Moorman, to produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from select vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills. In 2013, he released wines from his new estate vineyard, Domaine de la Côte, located on the westernmost edge of the Sta. Rita Hills.

Rajat is one of the James Beard award-winning authors of the book “Secrets of the Sommeliers: How to Think and Drink Like the World’s Top Wine Professionals.” 

Sashi Moorman

Sashi Moorman’s career in wine grew out of his interest in cooking and food. After graduating from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY, Sashi worked in New York City and Washington, DC, cooking professionally as a line-cook and sous-chef.

In 1996, Sashi moved to Ojai, California to work a five-year apprenticeship with Adam Tolmach at The Ojai Vineyard. In 2001, Sashi joined Stolpman Vineyards, integrating the winemaking and vineyard direction under one program. Today, Sashi focuses on Sandhi, Domaine de la Côte, focusing on the production of estate grown and purchased grapes from Santa Barbara County.

Sashi and his wife, Melissa Sorongon, also own a small winery (Piedrasassi) and bakery, where they produce small amounts of syrah from distinctive vineyards on the Central Coast and grow heirloom varieties of wheat for the production of wood-fired brick oven baked traditional breads. Sashi and Melissa live in Lompoc, California with their daughter, Juliet.


Matt Kettmann

Matt Kettmann is a senior editor of the Santa Barbara Independent, where he's worked for 20 years, and a contributing editor for Wine Enthusiast, where he reviews more than 200 wines each month and covers the culinary culture of the Central Coast and Southern California. A fifth generation Californian originally from San Jose, Matt has also written for the New York Times, Smithsonian, Wine Spectator, and many other publications both regional and international in scope. He will soon publish Vines & Vision: The Winemakers of Santa Barbara County, a groundbreaking, 600-page project with photographer Macduff Everton, and continues to make small batches of wine in most vintages under the name Periodista. 

Justin Willett

Justin Willett, owner/winemaker of Tyler Winery and native to Santa Barbara, has been producing wines of delicacy and balance from exceptional vineyard sites within the Santa Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley since 2005. He is also the winemaker and founding partner of Lieu Dit, a brand established in 2011 that focuses specifically on varieties indigenous to the Loire Valley and now grown in Santa Barbara County. Most recently, Justin has partnered with Etienne de Montille of Domaine de Montille in Burgundy and Rodolphe Peters of Champagne Pierre Peters on an exciting new project to be released in the Spring of 2020. Justin lives with his wife, Mandy, and sons, Clay and Benjamin, on their Estate Vineyard, simply titled Mae, in the Santa Rita Hills.


Chad and his brother Brent planted the vineyard from raw land in the cold climate of Santa Rita Hills in 1997 and 1998. The family has been in the growing of wine business since the mid 80's and found their Santa Rita Hills location before the area really took off. The journey that began in 1997 continues to endure with tremendous passion and dedication. Through both his intimate knowledge of the vineyards and his relentless commitment to winemaking practices that honor tradition and the land, Chad understands the magical evolution each bottle of wine undertakes from vine to glass. 100% estate. 100% neutral wood. 100% organic. 100% honest wine.

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Chad Melville


Raj Vaidya joined Daniel Johnnes and the Gracie Events family in the spring of 2020 with an impressive history of experience in fine dining restaurants that boasts some of this country’s most celebrated wine lists and wine service. His stellar resume includes positions at restaurants such as New York’s Cru and Per Se, as well as Gary Danko in San Francisco and Seeger’s in Atlanta. From 2009 to 2020 Raj ran the lauded wine program at Daniel Boulud’s eponymous restaurant and from 2016 till the end of his tenure served additionally as Chef Daniel’s Wine Director.


In addition, Raj has earned some of the wine world's most respected diplomas, including the Certificate Course of The Sommelier Society of America (2004), the Wine and Spirits Education Trusts Advanced Certificate (2004) and Diploma (2009). Raj also has spent time in California, working with Robert Sinskey Vineyards, a biodynamic estate in Napa. Raj has also consulted for a host of companies in the hospitality and banking fields in a wine capacity, and managed the cellars of many of the city’s top private wine collectors. Raj is a graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and philosophy. He was born in New Jersey but grew up in his family’s native Bombay and in Singapore.


Raj attributes his early passion for fine cuisine to his family and their obsession with food and drink. While he began learning about wine well before he was legally permitted to drink in this country, he truly started to refine his knowledge at what he calls his first serious restaurant job, working at New Jersey’s Ryland Inn with a chef who had a natural affinity for pairing food and wine. That early experience has evolved into a particular love of Burgundy, Champagne and the Rhône Valley, making him right at home working with Daniel overseeing operations of Gracie’s events celebrating these very regions.

Raj Vaidya

The Salty Strings

Coming out of the coastal mountain town of Santa Barbara, CA, Salty Strings is a 5-piece string band setting out to transcend the boundaries of traditional bluegrass music. Sprinkling in notes of latin and jazz and adding percussive elements, this untraditional band puts on an engaging live performance filled with fast-picking originals and old-timey favorites. You can often find them playing their instruments along a coastal bluff as the sun is setting,
​their strings ever so salty.


Christina Rasmussen

Xtina Headshot.jpg

Christina Rasmussen is a London based wine writer and co-founder of LITTLEWINE - an online wine platform launched in April 2020 that aims to bring readers closer to the makers and farmers behind the bottle—through words, photography and film. Their content is rooted in sustainability and organic, biodynamic and/or regenerative farming practices, and the website features a UK-only bottle shop.


Summer Staeb


Summer was born and raised in Southern California where she currently resides. Her work evokes a sense of nostalgia for times past, days well spent, and the moments that bring people together. She shoots lifestyle, event, fine art and travel photography. Most of her work is shot on 35mm and medium format film. (Summer shot the beautiful photos that accompany Episode 2 that provide a visual component to our journey).

Connor Long

Recording and Sound Design for Season 1: Episodes 1 and 2.

Connor Long is an audio professional from Santa Barbara, CA. He has over 10 years of experience in the field as a recording engineer, mixer, and sound designer.

Connor has collaborated with a wide range of artists including Depeche Mode and operatic soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian. As a sound designer, he has worked on several documentaries and audiobooks including the award winning film The Dark Side of the Ocean.

Connor developed his craft in New York, receiving a master’s degree in music technology from NYU. His research focused on the correlation of certain perceptual and objective qualities of recorded audio, identifying a novel approach for measuring sensory phenomena.

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