Over the years I have attended a lot of charity events involving wine. This year, while in search of what I might finally declare, “Best Charity Wine Event in America,” I think I finally found it. I would be remiss to not pass on this information and I lament the fact it took me forty–four years to find it. Winesong has been held every year since 1984. Now, I know that math does not add up, but my search began in the San Juaquin Valley of California in 1973. I find it quite ironic, that in all my searching, west to east and north to south, forty-four years later I found myself only a few hours’ drive from where I started. I really thought I was close back in 1989 at my first Anthony Spinazzola Affair but it turned out it was really just my infatuation with meeting Julia Child and finding out Boston University had a culinary program. Even, if I had attended the inaugural 1984 Winesong event my knowledge of charity wine events at the time would not have been sufficient to proclaim “it” the best in the country.
Never mind the semantics; now on to the qualifiers that prompted me to make this prestigious proclamation of America’s Best Charity Wine Event:
#1 How much of the proceeds go to the benefactor? Since 1985, Winesong has raised over $7.5 million for improvements in local healthcare at the Mendocino Coast Hospital. This year alone the Mendocino Coast Hospital Foundation is well on their way to raising $500K. That’s a lot of money for small a community to raise for their local hospital! It would be encouraging to see community support like this happening everywhere in our country.
#2 How much fun did we have? The sun and smell of the ocean with cooling sea breezes is always the start to a fun day for me. Add to that, walking through the gardens to one of the most beautiful coastal views I’ve ever seen; it was exhilarating. The way the event is laid out allowed for a leisurely pace with enough time to enjoy all the fine wines and fabulous food offerings. Everyone around us was also having fun while enjoying the many musical acts providing entertainment. The silent auction tent offered many prized donations leading to some pretty intense bidding. Compared to the Live Auction at the Grand Tasting, the Silent Auction was tame. Here is a list of a few of the items auctioned. Leading the way for the days bidding was a 10-day trip to South Africa, which was doubled at $21,000 per trip! Trips to Italy and Amsterdam each garnered $18,000. An unparalleled 20-bottle collection of Chateau Gruaud Larose Grand Cru went for $16,000 and a rare wine lot featuring companion vineyards from Chateau Pichon Longueville went for $17,000. You can view a full list of the 2017 auction items here. The feverish banter of auctioneer Dawn Marie Kotsonis was addicting and it was easy to see how this event has garnered the generous support over the years from art lovers, adventure travelers and enlightened enophiles from all over the world.
#3 How cool is the location? The entire Mendocino Coast is a wicked cool location, that being said the Botanical Gardens is the crown jewel on this coastline. Making the trip to these gardens is a do not miss experience, and a destination excursion all on its own.
Mendocino Botanical Gardens is forty-seven acres of botanical bliss fronting the Pacific Ocean. When was the last time you attended a wine event where you can wander around on forty-seven acres? No other wine event offers the views, the crashing waves on the beach and a little privacy when you just need to take a break.
#4 Who attends Winesong? All kinds of people; a more diverse crowd would be hard to find. No one will feel out of place, no matter your age, ethnicity, and socio-economic background; nor does it matter where you are on your own personal wine journey. It is the most welcoming wine event I have ever attended. Unlike so many lifestyle wine events that are so cost prohibitive to attend, Winesong is also one of the greatest wine event bargains offered anywhere, at any price.
#5 How nice are the local lodging offerings? The Mendocino Coast has long been a destination for people who like to get off the beaten path. The curb appeal of the lodging facilities offered there belies the understated luxury that is available for the discerning guest. We stayed at the Stanford Inn which is also home to the internationally renowned The Ravens vegan restaurant. The room was as well appointed as any five-star accommodations in any metropolitan city.
The ocean views from our balcony were spectacular. The organic garden on the property is a culinarians dream; the Stanford family offers produce and herbs to selected local restaurants and grocers. As a retail nursery, they provide ornamental plants, herbal wreaths, sprays, braids, spices and herbs. The organic vegetables and herbs are also served at The Ravens dining room and it shows in the quality of the dishes served.
With those five reasons, and your good will to help a worthy cause, you might want to start planning your trip to Winesong 2018 now, as they will most likely sell out of tickets before you know it.
Things to know before you go
Winesong 2018 will take place on September 7th & 8th. The festivities happen the entire weekend, so if you attend, plan on going to the Friday afternoon tasting. This year, the Little River Inn hosted the Friday tasting as Winesong 2017 kicked off with a sold out insider’s view of spectacular Pinot noirs at ‘A Pinot Noir Celebration.’ Guests enjoyed wine tastings with thirty wineries offering their Pinot noir and delicious passed hors d’oeuvres, along with a chance to “talk shop” with the winemakers from Mendocino County, Napa and Sonoma Counties. At this event I was introduced to an exciting new producer Blue Oasis. Kate Jones is making some fantastic wines, and they were one of the highlights of the trip. I highly recommend you seek them out and give them a try.
Another producer flying under the radar that deserves some attention is the duo over at Murder Ridge. Steve Alden and Leslie Sisneros are producing some lip-smacking, MacDaddylicious Pinot noir and Zinfandel wines. A big shout-out goes out to the Anderson Valley and Mendocino County producers who have been steadily offering up well made, extreme value wines that we have enjoyed for decades.
Also, it would be sadly negligent not to mention the awesome support folks like ZAP, Handley Cellars, Navarro, Philo Ridge and all the others who have contributed their time and resources to the Mendocino Coast Hospital Foundation. May you all keep a Winesong in your heart and September 8th and 9th 2018 on your mind.
Hope to see you there next year. Enjoy!
Marc Hinton & Pamela Heiligenthal