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Getting Down to Earth

Posted March 30, 2015

‘Sustainability’ is a hot term in the last several years that seems to get over played and watered down almost as much as ‘farm-to-table’. But what does sustainability really mean? Ecologically speaking, sustainability is how biological systems remain diverse and productive. But Vineyard Team, a locally based organization promoting sustainable winegrowing, thinks even bigger than that. For over 20 years, Vineyard Team has helped their partner wineries to achieve Sustainability In Practice, and being good stewards of the planet, is only the beginning.

“I’m SIP Certified, because it’s the right thing to do,” says Niels Udsen, owner of Castoro Cellars, which hosts the Earth Day Food & Wine Festival’s marquee event located on Paso’s famed Hwy 46 West. Udsen is one of the early pioneers of the Paso Robles wine boom, opening Castoro in the early 80’s. “SIP takes a broader approach than just being organically farmed; they also take into consideration community, business practices, and welfare of employees”.

“Over a million and a half cases of our wine currently hold the ‘SIP Certified label,” says Vineyard Team Executive Director Kris Beal. So, what does that mean if your favorite winery is SIP Certified? Beal says, “It was made with fruit on a SIP Certified vineyard, that’s been independently inspected and verified, and meets a strict standard in terms of water, energy, integrated pest management, even air and soil quality”.

Vineyard Team celebrates their passion for these ideas, their passion for our planet, and their passion for a damn good time, with their annual event, The Earth Day Food & Wine Festival.

The Earth Day Food and Wine Festival’s main event is Saturday April 18, and is not only a celebration of Mother Earth, but a collection of over 200 like-minded farmers, chefs, food purveyors, winemakers, musicians, even falconers. Yes, falconers, with falcons. A low-waste event, one year Beal said they had just over a pound of real trash after hosting over 1000 visitors. Yes, you read that correct. Impressive.

Take it from one that frequents a ton of these local events, this is NOT your typical wine event. At many of these things, food sometimes is an afterthought. I always call this a ‘FOOD …and wine event’. The food is excellent, plentiful, and portions and selections will be pleasantly surprising, not to mention, satisfying.

With a variety of exciting earth-minded events throughout the weekend of April 17-19, Saturday’s main event runs 2-5pm at Castoro Cellars in Paso Robles. Their website explains the general admission ticket as, “All the wine, beer and sweet and savory nosh you can enjoy in a fun-filled afternoon. Unlimited and all inclusive”. Not a bad afternoon, and well worth the $75 ticket price. If you want to step up the experience, check out the premium tickets that offer early entrance, table reservation, and more.

The main event will also feature live music from one of the hottest central coast bands, Proxima Parada. These guys have not only abundant talent to entertain and make infectious music, but also appropriately on and off stage match the charm and good nature of the farmers, chefs, and winemakers that the main event will be bursting with.

Outside of the main event, the weekend offers a variety of exciting excursions, wine & cheese pairings, luncheons, and some special winery dinners. One of my absolute favorite chefs on the planet, Maeghen Loring of Niner Wine Estates will host the Earth Day Food & Wine Dinner at Niner in Paso. If you have had the fortune to meet Maegen, you like her. If you have had the chance to taste anything she’s created, you’re a fan.

South county sparkling and pinot-power-house Laetitia Winery will also host a dinner in their cellar hosted by their head winemaker Eric Hickey. Eric is engaging, and as personable as they come. Both of these dinners will be worth every penny, and are sure to be home runs.

There really are a bunch of events to consider, take a second and check them out here.

While at the 9th annual Earth Day Food & Wine Fest event, or whenever you see that SIP Certified logo, you’re encouraged to snap a pic, get social, and hashtag #ISpySip.

I can’t think of a better and more central coast way to celebrate Earth Day than the Earth Day Food & Wine Festival.

For any and all event info for the Earth Day Food & Wine Fest, visit www.EarthDayFoodandWine.comUse promo code: shareSLO web to receive $10 off your tickets!

For info on the good work of Vineyard Team, visit www.VineyardTeam.org