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Rock on at this harvest party! 

Weekend event showcases SLO and South County wines

- MUSIC MAKER::  Jean-Pierre Wolff of Wolff Vineyards is in the band the Crush Tones. -  - PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE SLO VINTNERS ASSOCIATION
  • PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE SLO VINTNERS ASSOCIATION
  • MUSIC MAKER:: Jean-Pierre Wolff of Wolff Vineyards is in the band the Crush Tones.

When fall arrives, my husband Dan is always ready for some Sunday football. I, on the other hand, am always up for good times at our great local wine fests. But there’s another reason I’m looking forward to the Rockin’ Harvest celebration in SLO wine country, Nov. 4 to 6. The wineries in South County have gone all out this year, and their events are sure to sate the appetite of every food and wine lover. The grand tasting and auction held in Avila Beach Resort will feature 60 wineries, an array of gourmet foods from SLO County restaurants, and an auction where the winemakers entertain the crowd as they brag about the auction lot they provided. It’s all for a good cause; one beneficiary is CASA of San Luis Obispo, which supports abused and neglected children. The live auction has some fascinating lots this year, including autographed albums by Jerry Garcia, the Beatles, and Eric Clapton; an electric guitar signed by the Eagles; epicurean wine country getaways with bed and breakfast included; and wine collections for connoisseurs, like Lot 5 Magnum Force, which includes a magnum (a 1.5L bottle that’s equal to two regular bottles of wine) from each of 11 SLO members of the SLO Vintners Association.

Here’s good news for those who waited until the last minute to decide to attend: You can easily get into this terrific event the day it takes place. Executive Director Becky Gray promises there will be tickets available at the gate for “Rockin’ Harvest 2011” taking place Saturday, Nov. 5, in Avila Beach. Your event bracelet and wineglass will serve you well on Sunday, too, providing free entry into all of the cool tastings taking place at wineries during the “SLO County Wine Tour” on Sunday, Nov. 6, in Arroyo Grande, Avila, and Edna valleys. Despite the rain last year during Saturday’s main event in Avila Beach, spirits certainly weren’t dampened as hardly anyone left. The rain may have helped the auction since people found refuge from the rain under the big tent.

It was the first year the SLO Vintners Association introduced the new theme, “Rockin’ Harvest.” And we wine aficionados discovered some of our local winemakers have hidden musical talents. They impressed the crowd with their makeshift band, the Crush Tones. The men banded up again this year to make a special appearance during one set. The main event features the popular local reggae band, The Kicks. The bands perform on the main stage where you can sit down to listen or dance. You’ll also enjoy their music while cruising along the row of tents where wineries are pouring their finest releases, and restaurants satisfy your appetite with an array of gourmet treats.

Here’s another tip for latecomers: Three of the excellent Friday night winemakers’ dinners may have seats available if you act fast. That means putting New Times down for a minute and calling now. The Niven family wine estates dinner at Ventana Grill in Pismo Beach features a different brand with each dish served. Chamisal Vineyard and Claiborne & Churchill have teamed up to provide a Cuban-style feast by chef Maegen Loring at Chamisal. At Edna Valley Vineyard, event coordinator Tina Hoppe created a four-course Old World menu, prepared by Two Cooks Catering, paired with a great lineup of their wines. The interesting pairings include Roman-style roulade of chicken with herb au jus and Edna Valley Vineyard 2008 Pinot Noir, and much more.

“Most of the dinner is Roman, but the ingredients were chosen to show how people would preserve, grow, or store their foods back in the Stone Age,” Hoppe explained. “Take, for example, the salt cod cakes; they preserved their fish by salting them.”

These dinners offer great value considering the array of food and wines. But don’t wait to call past Thursday, Nov. 3, if you want to reserve your place at the table. Go to slowine.com for details and contact info. Just reading the menu descriptions had my mouth watering for great dinners.

SLO Wine Country on Tour

These fabulous events will be going on all day along the wine country trails, and it’s free to those with grand tasting bracelets and logo wineglasses.

Of course the public can get in, too, for a small fee. Start your Sunday morning off with a soulful “hair of the dawg pancake breakfast” at Salisbury from 9:30 to 11 a.m. The Salisbury family is also serving up sausages, lots of pancake toppings, and “backward mimosas.” It’s only $10 per person to the general public (without bracelet and wineglass). Beginning at 1 p.m., Salisbury will have the Bluz Dogz performing while they serve 1950s-style sliders with their wines.

Here’s another great Sunday event that made me very hungry: At Edna Valley Vineyard Tina Hoppe organized a street taco cook-off. The participating chefs are competing for a prize, and you’ll get to vote for your favorite taco. See if these enticing tacos don’t send you running to the fridge for something to quell your stomach pangs: The Embassy Suites’ chef is preparing New York steak tacos with cilantro, lime, and spaghetti squash slaw, served on a pasilla chile corn tortilla, topped with chipotle mango cream fraîche; Sea Shanty is making pork tacos; chef Phil at Bon Temps is making duck tacos topped with celery root remoulade; Splash Café is offering ceviche tacos with avocado and oranges; Mamma’s Meatball is offering Italian tacos; and In Good Taste Catering is making coconut-crusted fish tacos with coriander slaw and mango salsa. It’s only $10 for the general public. SLOWine.com provides all of the wineries’ details on times, prices, and special offerings. I have a feeling there will be many people like me who are really looking forward to this weekend.

Contact New Times Cuisine columnist at khardesty@newtimesslo.com.

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