Rockin’ Harvest Celebration Festival; A Reason to Celebrate the Central Coast

San Luis Obispo Vintners’ 20th Anniversary Harvest Celebration: A Reason to Celebrate the Central Coast

The San Luis Vintners Association puts on two events a year to promote the San Luis Obispo Wine Territory.  The most recent was the Rockin’ Harvest Celebration that was held November 5th to the 7th, of 2010.  This three day event brought together 27 wineries and 23 restaurants from around the San Luis Obispo area to promote the county.

The SLO Vintners Association, a non-profit membership driven organization, has a mission statement to promote and enhance prosperity of the SLO Wine County Wine Territory.

The SLO Vintners Association recognizes the recognition that the San Luis Obispo Wine County has earned with their exceptional wineries.

The association, founded in 1990, is composed of 31 winery brands, 21 associate members.

The association puts on two events a year.  The events are the Harvest Celebration every November, and the famous, Roll Out the Barrels every June.

Why Celebrate?

The San Luis Obispo Wine Country is something to be celebrated.  When considering the hidden treasures of California’s central coast, San Luis Obispo County’s Wine Territory can’t be overlooked.

Associations like the SLO Vintners Association understand that, and that is why they put on the events that they do.  The Rockin’ Harvest Celebration that took place last weekend is an example of that commitment.

Friday, November 5th started with an informative winemakers seminar and ended with a concert starring Inga Swearingen, and a compilation band of Central Coast vintners, the Crush Tones.

The band includes Bob Kerwin, an associate member of the SLO Vintners Association, Clint Grubbs and his father Jean-Pierre Wolff of Wolff Vineyards, Larry Brooks, winemaker of Tolosa, and Jeff Fink, winemaker of Tantara.

Evening dinners were hosted by wineries at specific locations Friday night.  The Niven Family Wines presented their five wine labels at SLO Buona Tavola, and Ancient Peaks hosted at Novo.

Saturday the 6th, was the big Grand Tasting event.  All the wineries were on full display at the Avila Beach Golf Course,, serving their best from previous and the current year’s wines.  Some of the restaurants were also handing out bite size creations of their delicious food.  The evening ended with a silent auction and raffle prizes.

“An entire ‘SLO Lifestyle’ package was raffled off that was valued at over $2800,” explained Becky Gray, Executive Director of the SLO Vintners Association.

The last day of the weekend event, Sunday the 7th, ended an open house’s for the wineries.  Admission was free to the open houses to those that attended Saturday’s Grand Tasting event.

Sunday’s Open House allowed attendees to meet and mingle with the actual winemakers.  These open houses were hosted at the particular wineries.  The Edna Valley Winery had a cook-off competition between local chefs to go along with their wine tastings.  Tolosa paired their wines with crepes and hosted live music.  Kynsi showcased their wine with their guest judge from Neon Carrot, Maegen Loring.  Many of the wineries offered discounts on their wine with the ticket purchase from Saturday’s event.

Some of the wineries that were in attendance over the weekend were, Baileyana, Edna Valley, Sextant Wines, Tangent, Tolosa, Kynsi, Talley Vineyards, and Ancient Peaks.

A few of the restaurants that provided food were the Cracked Crab, Splash Cafe, Spyglass Inn, the Neon Carrot, the Gardens of Avila, Novo, Apple Farm, and the Lido Restaurant and SLO Buona Tavola.

Who, What, When, Where, Why the San Luis Obispo Wine County?

The San Luis Obispo Wine County includes Nipomo, the Avila Valley, the Edna Valley, and the Arroyo Grande Valley.

The county consists of mostly family-owned wineries, and is best known for the production of their handcrafted Syrah, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Zinfandel.

With over 3000 acres of vines stretching along the county, the soils are ideal because of the regions world-class microclimate. The combination of the climate and the county’s environment makes the county the picture perfect place to grow exceptional, quality wine grapes.

“Due to the unique geography of the South Central Coast, the valleys have east-west orientations and are distinguished by the extensive maritime influence on the climate and soil,” explains the SLO Vintner Association website. “The soils are dominated by marine deposits left millions of years ago when the valleys were under water.

Loam and clay topsoil overlay calcareous marine deposits promoting complex flavors.”  The cooling winds from the Pacific Ocean combine with the climate and creates a longer than normal grape growing season, resulting in intensified wine flavors.

Friday and Saturday had approximately 1000 attendees at the event.  The profits from the event go to covering the expenses of the event, go toward additional marketing for the SLO Wine Territory, to the Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Program and to Cal Poly’s Vines to Wines club.

“SLO Vintners believes in investing in our future winemakers, so we formed a partnership with the [Cal Poly] program to help out their ‘inexistent’ budget at the time,” explains Becky Gray.  “This benefits the major.  We also support the Vines to Wines club, as they volunteer at the event.  We donate money to the club.”

Almost 70 volunteers, plus committee and board members helped out at this past weekend’s event.

“Without our volunteers, we would not be able to present such a polished event,” explains Kyle Wommack, Special Events Coordinator of the SLO Vintners Association.

The SLO Vintners Association gets volunteers from all over.  Some include volunteers, and their family and friends, and members of Cal Poly’s Vines to Wines club.

Wommack explains the event was a success overall, despite the rain.

“The Harvest Festival was a great volunteering experience, even though it was cold and raining on and off,” Wesley Murphy, a volunteer at the festival, said.  “The attendees seemed to be having a great time with their wine.”

The SLO Vintners Association plans to have a debriefing meeting in December.  There they will discuss their strengths and weaknesses of the event, and what they need to improve on for the future.

“We will make some changes to the morning seminar and we would like to add more vendors,” Wommack says.  “Otherwise, the changes are small, like adjustments to signage and staff.  There are always things we would improve at events, which is why we create a recap and review it at preliminary planning meetings for the following year’s events.”

Gray explains the association will continue as they have for 20 years with their mission statement in mind.

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