Wine, Beer, and Bluegrass Fill the Night


Saturday night was a big night for fans of good wine and great music – or good music and great beer. The inaugural Santee Wine and Bluegrass Festival took over the Town Center Community Park, and over 200 fans of music and drink gathered to help raise funds for the Santee Parks and Recreation programs. In addition to the music and drinks, nearly two dozen local food establishments provided samples of their best and three silent auction tables gave patrons the chance to win great prizes and add to the total money raised. Proceeds from the event will all go to the Parks and Recreation Department’s Voucher Incentive Program (VIP), which provides funds for qualifying Santee families so they can take part in recreation classes, and to the upkeep and upgrading to local parks and other recreation facilities.

The event was organized by the Santee Parks and Recreation Committee (SPARC), a twelve-member volunteer group that helps advise the city on issues concerning the parks and recreation facilities and programs. They also are active in raising funds for the program, and can be seen at every big event selling hot dogs, sodas, and other goodies. The group meets the first Thursday of each month at the Santee City Complex on N. Magnolia, and visitors are always welcome.

Nearly a dozen wineries were represented at the event, including several local vineyards and a few from a bit farther away. From points north came wines from Colloquy Cellars, Tantara Winery, and Zaca Mesa Winery. The local vintners included North County wineries Milagro Farms and Lenora from Ramona and La Serenissima from Warner Springs, and East County vineyards Rock Canyon, Gloriosa, and Dubé. A nice mix of reds and whites were available for patrons to sample, using the commemorative glasses everyone received.

Although the breweries participating were smaller in number, their samples were no less popular. The two most mentioned, however, were Lightning Brewery from Poway and Santee’s own Manzanita Brewing Company. Also on hand were Starz Beer, Pizza Port Brewery, The Lost Abbey, and Stella Artois. There were also samples of more unusual alcoholic beverages to provide a dash of spice to the mix.

Of course a wine and bluegrass festival is nothing without some good music, and this one had two great local groups performing. First on stage was the Shirthouse Band, followed by Gone Tomorrow. Both groups have developed strong followings in San Diego, and were featured performers during Bluegrass Day at the San Diego County Fair this past summer. Also on hand for the evening was Wayne Rice, host of The Bluegrass Special on KSON.

In addition to the wine, beer, and music were nearly two dozen restaurants from in and around Santee. Among these were Michaels Grill, recent 10 News A-List winner for Best New American Restaurant, and Smokin’ Joe’s Barbecue, fresh from taping an episode for The Cooking Channel’s program “Food Crafters” (check out the story on Santee Examiner). Also on hand were several Italian-style restaurants, including Italia Ristorante, Nicolosi’s, Jimano’s Pizzeria, Olive Garden, and Papa John’s. Cafe and home-style restaurants were also well represented, as well as more unusual eateries like L&L Hawaiian Barbecue and Nam Long. One of the big hits, though, turned out to be the fancy chicken tacos from Rubio’s, with a spicy salsa and a slice of avocado.

Several Santee and East County leaders and celebrities attended, including Mayor Randy Voepel, Santee Chamber of Commerce President John Olsen and Vice President John Morley, and writer and promoter Sam Mejia, perhaps better known as “Sam Sparrow, the Last Real Pirate.” Local candidates for office also took time out of their schedules to set up booths and talk to patrons of the Festival, including City Council candidate Rob McNelis, Padre Dam Water District Board candidate Ronn Hall, and Santee School Board candidate Gabriel Piña.

Enjoy a few more pictures of the evening’s fun.

Enjoying Samples of the Wines and Beers

Silent Auction Table


Gabriel Piña, local businessman and candidate for Santee School Board


Ronn Hall, 2010 Small Business Owner of the Year and candidate for Padre Dam Board, pours a sample of one of the many drinks available


Enjoying the music of Gone Tomorrow


Santee Chamber of Commerce members John Morley and John Olsen


Michael’s Grill – 10 News A-List winner for Best New American Restaurant

Rob McNelis, Santee Chamber Past-President and City Council Candidate


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