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What: Art and Wine with Something MORE
Who: Mother Lode Rehabilitation Enterprises Inc.
Where: El Dorado County Fairgrounds, 100 Placerville Drive in Placerville
When: Saturday, Jan. 18, 6-9 p.m.
Cost: Tickets are $30 per person or $50 per couple
Information: morerehab.org or 530-622-4848
When Oakstone Winery in Fair Play burned to the ground a year-and-a-half ago, wine lovers’ hearts were crushed like grapes when they learned that Lot 27 of Slug Gulch Red was destroyed in the blaze. The full-bodied, rich, fruity wine inside a bottle with a whimsical label had become a customer favorite over the years.
Not only was 1,500 cases’ worth of Lot 27 boiled away into history but what was left of Lot 26 also was vaporized in the July 7, 2012 fire.
“We always figured we’ve had more and we’ve had customers offer us $100 a bottle, saying that they suspect we’ve hidden some away,” said Oakstone’s Liz Ryan, who is married to winemaker Steve Ryan. “But we just don’t have any more Slug Gulch Red.”
Guess who does?
Mother Lode Rehabilitation Enterprises found itself the proud possessor of two cases of Slug Gulch Red, a prized batch from Lot 26, and MORE is going to offer one of the cases at auction during its biggest annual fund-raising event coming up Saturday, Jan. 18 at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds, 100 Placerville Drive in Placerville.
The 10th annual Art and Wine with Something MORE is set for 6-9 p.m. that Saturday inside the Mark D. Forni Building.
In addition to the apparently now-rare bottles of Slug Gulch Red, some 20 local wineries will be offering their best to taste and 20 local restaurants and caterers will cater the affair.
Proceeds from the festival benefit MORE, which serves clients with developmental disabilities and local youth programs.
Promising “the best art, wine, food and microbrews in El Dorado County,” the annual event attracts a large crowd. Tickets are available at MORE, 399 Placerville Drive in Placerville, or by visiting the Website at morerehab.org.
Tickets are $30 per person or $50 per couple for the evening of great food and great wine, with art by 114 MORE clients, unique and fascinating works offered for sale in silent and live auctions.
Call 530-622-4848 for more information.
Susie Davies, executive director of MORE, reminds the public that not only will Slug Gulch Red be offered for auction, but other participating local wineries will have their best available.
“In addition to the case of Slug Gulch Red, dk cellars is donating wine tasting for eight with a pairing of appetizers,” said Davies. “Winery By the Creek is donating a tasting for six, which I hear is ‘to die for.’”
Other sponsors are not to be outdone during the annual fundraiser. El Dorado Disposal is donating a dumpster along with two hours of complimentary grounds maintenance from MORE’s crew; Red Hawk Casino donated a $500 gift basket with $150 gift certificate for any restaurant at the casino; there will be gift certificates from local restaurants (Independent, Hey Day Café, Bricks, Torino’s and Cascada); and a Pleasant Valley Epicurean Adventure on the Short Bus — all will be offered at auction.
Chances are the bidding will be brisk when old No. 26, featuring a label that is a drawing of Oakstone founder John Smith and winemaker Steve Ryan, is offered on the auction block, where the coveted case will be offered during the live auction portion of the program that begins at 8 p.m.
“It’s not just about owning a bottle of Slug Gulch Red; those participating know they are helping out a great organization, so the bidding reflects that,” said Liz Ryan, who added that she and Steve will probably attend the event just to see how the popular wine fares.
The Ryans opened up a smaller version of Oakstone and Obscurity Cellars, directly across Slug Gulch Road in the Fair Play AVA from where the former winery stood, a few months after the blaze, the cause of which remains unknown.
Oakstone owners John and Susan Smith opened their winery nearly 17 years ago, in March 1997 and it quickly became a mainstay of any trip to the South County for wine tasting outings.
Slug Gulch Red was sold not only at the winery but also found its way onto local grocery store and deli shelves, where it was quickly snatched up at a bargain price, under $10 a bottle.
The Smiths sold the business to the Ryans after the fire and now all wines are available only on premises, which is located at 6470 Irish Acres Road, just a quarter-mile away from the former Oakstone.
While Oakstone produced between 8,000 and 10,000 cases of wine each year, Obscurity is happy to offer 2,000 cases of fine wines each year.
The granite-laced, rich soil of the Fair Play area, at an average 2,500 feet elevation, lends itself to producing quality wines, and the Ryans were happy to announce a successor to Slug Gulch Red, with Lots 1 and 2 of Phoenix Rising Red long sold out. Lot 3 is scheduled to be bottled in February and sold in March, Liz said.
Perhaps because of its more than reasonable pricing, the public didn’t realize that Slug Gulch Red was actually the careful blending of quality grapes and not just a chance blend of whatever was left at the end of a crush, according to Liz.
“We would choose those grapes first and it was a very deliberate blend,” she said, adding that the same process is observed in creating Phoenix Rising, which sells for $18 a bottle and soon will, again, feature a drawing of winemaker Steve on its label — with one addition: “It’s going to have my goofy picture on it,” said Liz.
Liz Ryan was business manager for Oakstone for four years and could be spotted pulling other duty at the winery on weekends.