Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Beer Or Wine festival in Clayton, CA ?


This past Weekend (April 30/May 1), I wandered over to the 10th Annual Clayton Art & Wine Festival. This is a sleepy little town of about 10 to 11,000. It is composed mostly of college grad families with a household income averaging a hair short of $105,000 per year. It’s located just north of the base of Mt. Diablo and east of the San Francisco bay area. It’s a nice little town with some old buildings dating back to the late 1800s.

If the crowds I walked among on Sunday of the festival were any kind of barometer, then the event overall has to be called a big success. However, the “wine” part of the festival’s title is a little misleading. First of all, there are no wineries in Clayton itself. The very closest winery operations are found in Martinez and Walnut Creek, and there are only a couple of those. The next closest major winegrowers are located in the Livermore/Pleasanton area, to the south of Mt. Diablo. I thought I would be finding some small wineries from these areas and even possibly from the Sonoma & Napa Appellations. Well, they were there sort of?

The first wine booth I ran into was that of Robert Mondavi with wine pouring from their Woodbridge label out of Lodi, California. They were delightful and refreshing wines with my corn dog, garlic fries, tri-tip slab and dessert of cotton candy. Robert Mondavi was just recently acquired by Constellation Brands out of New York (now the largest wine producer in the USA, surpassing Gallo of the Central Valley.)

The next booth offered a wine of which I had no previous knowledge, called "Alice White." Then I noticed the Kangaroo logo on the label and immediately knew it was Australian. When I got home, I immediately went to my computer to look up this wine. On the Website it is claimed be, “Imported and bottled by Alice White Winery, Gonzalez, CA.” The site also indicates that one can contact them at "Alice White Vineyards, 4614 West Turner Road, Lodi, CA 95242." The web site introduction page lists the wine as coming from Alice’s Roo Ranch. So who is this? Well, its one of the many labels of Constellation Brands, out of New York.

Then I moved on to the next wine booth. It was that of the "Wine Thieves," a local based wine club. They were pouring a pretty good mix of wines from all over.

The next wine I found was is “Smokin Loon,” which belongs to Don Sebastiani (In 2004, the 16th largest wine producer in the USA) out of Sonoma.

Finally, I came to the wine booth of "Sutter Home" from Napa (owned by the Trinchero Family, the 6th largest wine producer in the USA).

In the final analysis, there were only three “wineries” at the festival: Constellation, Trinchero Family and Don Sebastiani & Sons. All solidly good ordinary wines, but no true premium varietals: No boutique or cult wineries were in attendance.

The music was great; the food was dripping in cholesterol or sweet. The people watching were fun and oh yeah, drank some wine and observed some art, too! With or with the wineries, I’ll go back next year. You know, when reflecting back, I think there were more beer than wine booths. Maybe I’ll recommend a name change for next year to Art & Beer Festival.

May 2, 2005, Copyright by John Olney, 1325 Imola West, #409, Napa CA 94559


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