Set along the picturesque Mendocino coastline, Winesong is more than just an exhibition of California’s wines. Last weekend’s two-day event—which ran from September 7th to 8th—was a full entertainment experience, marked by wine, food, fine art, music, merriment and charitable giving.
Now in its 34th year, Winesong has become something of a nationally-recognized event, drawing loyal locals and tourists from far and wide. To date, the event—put on by the Mendocino Coast Hospital Foundation—has raised more than $7.5 million for improvements in local healthcare, including equipment, facilities and services at the Mendocino Coast District Hospital.
This year’s Winesong gathering was yet another memorable time, culminating in numerous social opportunities, a bevy of wines and fervent bidding on hot-ticket auction items. The event was also an opportunity to recognize iconic winemaker Dan Duckhorn (Honored Vintner) and 2018 Artist of the Year, Tom Rodrigues of Maple Creek/Artevino.
Raise a glass to the winemakers
Kicking off Winesong 2018 was a sophisticated toast to lighter varietals with A Pinot Noir Celebration: Meet the Winemakers. Held at the Little River Inn, guests were treated to the tastes of pinot noir from the renowned Anderson Valley, along with wines from several other award-winning pinot regions.
More than just a chance to delve into the complexities of unique pinot noirs from 35 different wineries, the social event also gave guests a chance to appreciate the significance of Mendocino’s vibrant coastline. With seaside views just back from the Pacific coastline and the airy, jazzy sounds of the Dorian May Quartet mingling with the ocean air, it was a truly idyllic way to introduce Winesong.
“Our visitors come from all over the country and beyond, but many come from the Bay Area due to our close proximity and outstanding natural beauty. It is an easy drive through some of the most beautiful sea land and seascapes on the planet. We offer world-class wines, food and hospitality – but in a relaxed, easy-going style,” said said Michelle Roberts, Executive Director of the Mendocino Coast Hospital Foundation.
Eating well in the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
Winesong’s festivities truly kicked off on day two, with the Wine & Food Grand Tasting in the Gardens. Guests had the chance to mingle in the lush Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens with a glass of their favorite varietal in hand. Tasting options included a wealth of vintages, poured by world-class wineries from Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa and beyond.
For those looking to broaden their palates, beer, ciders and spirits were also on hand, alongside a diverse spread of food from more than 40 different purveyors. Desserts from A Sweet Affair, olives from Bonanno Family Gourmet Olives, baked goods from Costeaux French Bakery and an assortment of other delectable food options paired with the wines, setting the mood for laidback Mendocino mingling.
Music from various groups—including stylings from jazz, classical, blues, calypso and folk-rock genres—serenaded guests as they sampled and socialized their way to the auction tents.
Raise a bidding paddle for charity
As the centerpiece events behind Winesong, both silent and live charity auctions marked must-see activities on day two of the event.
Silent auctions held in the morning showcased everything from high-value vacation packages to original works of art, for bidders seeking to take home a treasure and make a serious contribution to Mendocino Coast District Hospital.
Live auctions took place in the afternoon at the gardens, featuring 47 unique lots, ranging from spectacular wines from the world’s most prestigious wine producers to rare vintages and large format bottles, as well as special vertical and horizontal collections. Also up for auction were original art pieces from acclaimed California artists, including Lowell Herrero. Featured lots also included winery tours with iconic winemaker Dan Duckhorn and his wife Nancy, as well as a Discovering New Zealand tour with noted wine journalist Dan Berger and his wife Juliann serving as personal guides through three distinctive regions (Auckland, Marlborough and Central Otago). Other hot-ticket items included a three-night trip to America’s Cup Sailing on San Diego Bay, wine experiences at Paso Robles and Baldacci, and more.
“Winesong is special because it is the largest single source of funds for donations to the hospital. For a small, rural community, it means the difference in providing state of the art medical equipment and services to residents and visitors alike. It is also the largest charity event in our county and it brings visitors who may be discovering the coast and all its offerings for the first time,” said Roberts.
The Winesong 2018 auction brought in over $400,000 alone, with an additional $275,000 for the Fund-A-Need donations for expanding cancer care for their Oncology Department. That was a record breaking Fund-A-Need, surpassing the previous record of $210,000.
Settling into the Mendocino Coast in style
My time at Winesong was made complete by the absolutely breathtaking lodgings of the Noyo Harbor Inn and Restaurant in Fort Bragg. My stay at this regaling abode was not my first and certainly won’t be my last; the Noyo Harbor Inn and Restaurant is nothing short of impressive in everything it has to offer.
Cozy, comfortable rooms, gardens throughout the inn, instant access to 12 miles of Mendocino coastline, a pre-Prohibition era bar and sophisticated furnishings are just a select few of the reasons this destination stands apart. For anyone seeking a true Mendocino Coast experience—complete with friendly hospitality—you can do no better than the Noyo Harbor Inn and Restaurant. It represents the charm, allure and serenity of this area, making it the perfect lodging extension for events like Winesong.
After more than a few inspiring glasses of California’s wines and the sweet sounds of various musical stylings, it’s impossible not to slip into the charm that defines Mendocino County and Winesong. It’s no wonder the success of the event mounts each year and why visitors flock to Winesong every September to celebrate “America’s Best Charity Wine Event” (as named by ENObytes).
Come for the wine, stay for the festivities and experience the Mendocino Coast. Few events—wine-inspired or otherwise—cultivate an atmosphere quite like Winesong.
Photo Credit: Randy Lutge
Photo Credit: Jennifer Boden