The sprawling, idyllic grounds of the Mertz Ranch, located along the south bank of Putah Creek in rural Winters was transformed from a riparian oasis into a relaxing and welcoming venue for attendees of the Winters Food & Wine Gala, held on Saturday, May 19.
Food and wine-tasting booths ringed the main lawn of the property, where more than 400 guests strolled from one booth to the next, sampling everything from fine wines to tasty treats.
Wine vendors ranged from local wineries like Berryessa Gap Vineyards and Turkovich Family Wines to more iconic Napa and Sonoma Valley wineries, such as Grgich Hills and Kendall Jackson. Food offerings were more local, and included classics like tri-tip sliders from the Buckhorn and cookies and cupcakes from Lester Farms Bakery, as well as small scale scrumptious offerings like olive oil cake from local producers Ciarlo Fruit & Nut, crackers with berries and goat cheese drizzled in honey from Pure Honey, and everyone’s favorite — barbecued oysters prepared by “Big John” Neil himself.
Throughout the breezy and enjoyable evening, the Lambazz jazz group provided perfect musical ambiance as people tasted, visited and cruised by the silent auction table, where a treasure trove of prizes was available: dinner at Park Winters, pontoon boat tours on Markley Cove, a flight in a 1943 Stearman and even a night sky observatory tour.
According to Rotary President Jack Vickrey, there were more than 30 vendors serving food, wine, and beer from Yolo, Solano, Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties at this inaugural event, which is anticipated to become an annual fund-raiser for the Rotary Club of Winters. The gala proved to be a major fundraiser for the local Rotary Club, and Vickrey says the final number for funds raised is still being calculated, but expected to be well over $10,000.
Vickery says these funds will be well-spent, and will go to support the Rotary’s annual scholarships for Winters High School Seniors as well as various local projects. In past years, the Rotary Club of Winters has been a major donor to Project Playground ($30,000), the building of a community garden at Walnut Park and Munchkin Summer Camp.
All in all, Vickrey gives the Winters Food & Wine Gala high marks.
“From everyone within the club that I’ve talked to, the event was spectacular. We are extremely pleased with how well-attended it was, the weather could not have been better, and Stan and Katie Mertz worked tirelessly to make sure the venue was absolutely perfect.”
Event chairperson Jessica Kilkenny said she got glowing remarks from many in attendance.
“Everyone that I spoke to had nothing but wonderful things to say about the event,” says Kilkenny. “They loved the outdoor venue and were raving about the wine selection.
“A big comment was also that at some events like this, they go away hungry, however, at ours, the portion sizes were generous and the food was amazing. They loved that it was not so crowded, and that each vendor had the opportunity to talk about their wine or food when serving it to them.
“I also heard nice comments about booth and food presentation. Everyone said to me, “please tell me that you’ll do it again.”
With such great success, chances are good that that’s exactly what happen; look for the Second Annual Winters Food & Wine Gala next spring.
The Winters Food & Wine Gala is a resurrection of a former popular Rotary event, the Rotary Wine & Food Jubilee which enjoyed much success for many years, but was discontinued in 2010. The Rotary Club decided to bring the vent back, bigger and better than before. Rather than jamming everything into St. Anthony Parish Hall or the Community Center, where attendees squeezed through crowds to visit each table, the move to the Mertz Ranch gave the Gala a much more airy, easy atmosphere.