Another California #WineCountry Fire and updates on a few festivals

As I write this, Ventura County is under fire once again. And that includes the Malibu AVA located near the ridge by the Mulholland Highway between the Pacific Coast Highway and the 101 freeway, which is under siege from the Woolsey Fire which started near the Borderline Bar in Thousand Oaks where 12 people were killed at a College Night by a man who also killed himself a few hours before on Weds. Nov. 7, 2018. Read more about Thousand Oaks in this personal essay here by Suzanne Roberts.

In addition to evacuation of people and pets, exotic animals are on the run also: Malibu Wines desperately needs help evacuating their giraffes that are part of the wild animal safari jeep safari they offer among the vines.

I imagine the zebras and other animals from the Malibu Wines Safari fit fine in the horse trailers but how do you move a giraffe — especially when the LA Zoo was also having to evacuate their animals because of a fire in the hills above Griffith Park.



UPDATE: Malibu Wine Safaris lied– they left animals behind.

As of 6pm, the fire had made it to the Pacific and most of the Malibu AVA had been hit with fire.

6pm Nov. 9, 2018; the Malibu AVA is on the ocean side of the 101 FWY and is entirely in the orange and red area

The fire, which began on Thurs. Nov 8 in the drought striken hillsides, was whipped by extremely high winds and heat as well as exceptionally low humidity of 3% as reported by PG&E’s John Lindsey.

Many first responders had been up most of the night at the Borderline Grill — and then as they were escorting the body of a fallen officer from Thousand Oaks to a Ventura Funeral Home on Thursday, their services were required at the scene of the Hill Fire in Camarillo, just a few miles away from me, and then at the Woolsey Fire a bit further toward Thousand Oaks.

When I stepped outside around 730pm on Thursday night, I felt like I was being blasted by a body sized blow dryer set on high — high heat and high volume.

While I couldn’t smell the smoke or see the glow of the blaze, we all knew the fire was only a few miles away, and with the wind, would advance quickly. Which it did — at one point gobbling 80 football fields within minutes.

Currently, the fire is out of control and being blown relentlessly to the Pacific Ocean where I learned it just jumped across PCH. Only this morning 75k people were under evacuation — and then all the residents of Malibu were ordered to leave. Both the 101 and the Pacific Coast Highway are closed in stretches except for emergency vehicles and evacuation traffic which is backed up for miles and moving at a snail’s pace.

The Woolsey Fire from my house in Ventura at 6pm on Nov. 9, 2018

As you can imagine, as a College teacher who lived close enough to walk to the Thomas Fire last December which burned hundreds of homes, many belonging to friends, these latest events are very distressing. What makes matters even more challenging and personal for me is that I am the host for this month’s Wine Pairing Weekend where we are focusing on wineries from fire ravaged regions around the world.

I’m supposed to be writing a happy post about fun wine festivals this weekend like the Garagiste in Paso Robles (keep reading, I do get to it) and about the recovery and fine work of first responders and wineries and two very special wines from The Ojai Vineyard to be published tomorrow for Wine Pairing Weekend along with my colleagues who are writing about these topics. But I’m incredibly distracted. by these two dramatic events.

Under these conditions, all events and visits at Malibu Wines as well as other wineries in the AVA are cancelled and closed plus three Ventura County food and wine gatherings have been postponed: tonight’s Taste of Conejo (Thousand Oaks is known as the Conejo Valley), the Ventura County Star’s Food and Wine event in Camarillo and Food Forward’s event at the Santa Paula Agriculture Museum.

Meanwhile The Ventura Wine Company and Cave plans to hold their event on Sunday Nov. 11 from 2-4pm saying ” We are very aware of the stress these fires are causing the community and sensitive to their far reaching impact. At this time, based on the knowledge we have of the weather and air quality the event is still going to take place. However, we are watching things closely and will update if this changes. Anyone who lives outside of the Ventura County area that is impacted with road closures or other side effects of the fires that has purchased tickets may contact us for a refund. We are sensitive to your situation and understand your need to cancel. Keeping you all in our thoughts.”

The Cave’s annual holiday kick-off Wine Tasting event is the biggest and best event they host each year and features over 100 of their favorites wines, along with light appetizers, live music, and more. Tickets are $50 per person and available for purchase in store or online:

However, the Cave may still cancel their Holiday Kick-off Party — they will let attendees know by 10am on Saturday morning. Last December they had to reschedule their December sparkling wine tasting event because of the Thomas Fire.

While it may be challenging to get to the Cave or to events further south because of major road closures, it is possible to go north– which is probably what we are going to do and to get out of the smoky air — because this weekend is the 8th Annual Garagiste Wine Festival which has been named the US’ “Best Wine Festival” in USA Today’s 10 Best Readers Choice Awards.

The Garagiste Festival highlights the American “garagiste*” wine movement, features the wines of commercial artisan winemakers who make under 1500 cases, and introduces these under-the-radar California artisan winemakers to wine consumers, members of the trade, and media like me and Sue!

According to Festival organizers, “*Garagistes (garage-east) is a term originally used in the Bordeaux region of France to denigrate renegade small-lot wine makers, sometimes working in their “garages” (anything considered not a chateau), who refused to follow the “rules,” and is now a full-fledged movement responsible for making some of the best wine in the world.  The Garagiste Festivals were the first to shine a light on the American garagiste winemaker in 2011.”

The Festival kicks off tonight FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 9 with a “Friday Night Rare & Reserve Paella Party” from 6:00-9:00pm for $59 per person The American Legion Hall 805 S. Main Street, Templeton, CA 93465. Experience over 30 of the best rare and reserve wines our garagistes have to offer at this event only along with paella from local chef John Carson (JC Catering) and additional nibbles from Vivant Cheese and Nana’s Hummus.

The main event is Saturday November 10 with a Grand Tasting from 2-5pm with over 60 winemakers pouring 200+ wines and 20+ varietals with Cheese & Charcuterie provided by Vivant Fine Cheese, along with food samples from local artisan vendors. Early Access Tickets give these attendees an extra hour of tasting from 1-2pm.

I’ve attended their events in Solvang twice and in Paso Robles once and have loved each one. Here’s eight reasons why:

1. Focus is on small-production winemaking.

Wines from all over California with a case limit of around 1500 per vintage: hands-on, high-quality winemaking.

2. Taste TWENTY different varietals.

Expand your palate and find new favorites!

3. Hard to find wineries.

The majority of these wineries do not have tasting rooms to visit and aren’t on the maps.

4. Affordable wines: average price of a bottle of red is about $40.

Taste world-class wines and find favorites without having to commit to the purchase of a whole bottle.

5. Casual fundraising.

No need to dress up to raise money for a good cause.

6. Room to roam.

Limited ticket sales ensure a comfortable, uncrowded experience, with the opportunity to talk to the winemakers.

7. Winemakers and Owners pour their wines.

Talk with the passionate people who make the wine, and hear their personal stories.

8. Help deserving students at Cal Poly.

This 501c3 Non-Profit Organization is dedicated to the education and support of future professionals in the wine industry through The Garagiste Festival Scholarships at Cal Poly University, San Luis Obispo.

Learn more and buy tickets here.

You’ll want to stay for the Rockin’ After-Party from 5:30-8:30pm ($20 per person), where guests and winemakers mingle, drink beer, and listen to live tunes from Stephen Rowe and the Lonely Loners.

Stay safe people! And if you want to help, please consider

either around here or up north:

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