The 7th annual Laguna Beach Grapes For Grads Wine Tasting & School Scholarship Fundraiser event took place Sunday, April 29, at in the Canyon, and was hosted by the Rotary Club of Laguna Beach. Funds raised are used to provide scholarships for college-bound students of (LBHS), and for students of (LCAD). Rotary Club members, community leaders and volunteers contribute to this event each year. Rotary Club President Jim Cox passionately expressed what it’s all about.
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"We are proud to serve this artful community, but never so much as we do for those young individuals just beginning to realize the wonderful return one receives on an investment in humanity. The youth are in whom we must entrust the future of our community, therefore the Rotary views this as a small investment.” said Cox.
There were over 100 vintages at the event, so with glass in hand, I was off to see the ‘wizards of wine’. My first stop, one of the oldest family-owned wineries in the land of Los Angeles, was Maddalena Vineyards, owned and operated by the Riboli Family since 1917.
Sales Representative Billy Hampton commented on the winery, saying “They were around during prohibition and forced to shut down the operation. Thankfully they were able to get up and running again, and are very proud to be participating in this great event today.”
As I walked around Tivoli Too, it was more than obvious that the record crowd of over 550 were truly enjoying the day. Event Co-Chair Stephen Dotoratos was very pleased about the great turnout.
“This is the most well-attended and successful Grapes for Grads event to date. Just look around at who’s here today to support this great event! It’s fantastic!” Dotoratos remarked.
Throughout the grounds, there were several art students giving attendees a first-hand look at what they are here in Laguna to do. Art student Leah Kranz said she got there very early to find the perfect spot in the garden. When asked about the effects of the college on her work as an artist, she replied, “My education at LCAD is priceless. I never thought that I could be as good of an artist as I am now. I am very grateful."
LCAD President Jonathan Burke also expressed his gratitude towards the Grapes for Grads supporters.
“Supporters of Grapes for Grads play an integral role in helping LCAD students remain in school so they can enrich our world with their creativity, skill and vision,” Burke said.
“Creativity is the essence of change. We do more than prepare our students for employment. Our academic mission drives us to educate the whole person to take creative control of their careers and become leaders in their discipline to invent and refine the careers of tomorrow,” he added.
Further along the way, I spoke with two other artists, Radha Tague and Amber Foote, who echoed their appreciation for the opportunity to do what they are passionate about.
Guests were treated to hors d’oeuvres from the , and delicious food and deserts from . Many settled into the beautifully decorated tented area to enjoy their food and entertainment.
Before going in, I spoke with Steve McClean, owner and operator of Ten Acres Winery in Paso Robles. He was happily pouring Simone, 77% Zin & 23% Petite Syrah.
"I can be found on my small but mighty Ten Acres on any given day, barefoot and bouncing off the walls. I’m determined to provide my clients with smiles, laughs and great wine," McClean said.
Carolyn Kelly offered Prestige’s European organic wines, while Youngs Market shared wines such as Mark West, Four Wines, Benziger, Avalon, and the Seeker.
While the resounding merriment continued outside, I wandered inside to view the silent auction. Dr. Veronica Nice, along with Kerri Redeker and other volunteers, were responsible for getting this quite sizable auction together. Everything from Arthur Murray Studio dance lessons to gift certificates lined the tables and quietly went to the highest bidder.
Entertainment going on inside the tent for seated guests was being provided by Magnolia Memoir, a very lively and talented four-piece group consisting of singer Mela Lee, bass player Gordon Bash, Austin Farmer on drums, and Alex Burke on keyboards.
Rotary president Jim Cox took the stage to present the Honorary Paul Harris Fellow Award to Peter Jones.
“For his exemplary efforts and support of Grapes for Grads and the ideals of Rotary, we present this award to Peter Jones,” Cox said. "The event could not go on each year if it were not for Jones’ efforts as wine liaison in getting wineries and distributors to participate in the event."
Jones accepted his award, then exited stage left, only to receive more adulation.
Event co-chair Jeffrey Redeker could not say enough about Peter Jones and his efforts. At one point, Redeker said to Jones, “We have only given out four of these awards since the Rotary began in 1931—now you being the fifth, Peter. You have done so much for this event over the years, and you have made so many people happy," Redeker remarked.
“It’s very easy to make people happy when you are giving them wine,” Jones replied humbly.
My last stop of the day was with Kris Riggs, owner of American Vines and home of Happy Ending Wine, which I found very fitting—it was indeed a happy ending to a very successful 7th annual Grapes for Grads event.