Cheers for charity: Weekend wine tour is a toy drive

‘Home for the Holidays’ event welcomes tasters
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal Features Editor
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For the price of a small toy, oenophiles can spend this weekend tasting the offerings of 17 area wineries.

The Placer County Vintners Association and Placer County Wine Trail members have teamed up to present “Holidays in the Hills,” a winery open house taking place Dec. 10 and 11. The trail runs through Auburn, Newcastle, Lincoln and Loomis, and the boutique wineries are opening their doors – and their bottles – to those age 21 and older who donate a new, unwrapped toy to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.

This is the second year for the event; last year six wineries participated and collected more than 400 pounds of toys, according to Jocelyn Maddux, event organizer.

“It was a huge success,” said Maddux, whose family owns Lone Buffalo Vineyard. “There was just really a fantastic response from the community because of the toy drive. People were just super-excited to participate and donate toys.”

The vintners association formed in 2010, Maddux said, and this is its largest collaborative event to date. Last year’s toy drive was for Shriners Hospital for Children in Sacramento, and association members this year decided to find a local charity.

They found it in the Placer County Southwest chapter of Toys for Tots, coordinated by Frank Neves and assistant Harry Maker. Toys for Tots, founded in 1947, has distributed more than 435 million toys to children whose families couldn’t afford them.

“The need is greater than ever, I think, because of the economy,” Neves said. “More people are probably going to need to apply for help because they can’t afford to get everything they need for their kids – not only food and clothing, but toys.”

The wineries will waive their tasting fees for those who donate to Toys for Tots. Tasters can start at any participating winery, where they can also purchase food, gifts and other fun items from a variety of vendors stationed along the trail. The theme of this year’s tour is “Home for the Holidays” in honor of troops coming home and families reuniting for the holidays, and each winery has decorated with its interpretation of that theme.

Seven wineries will offer food, including Fawnridge, where Stephanie Perry will serve chocolate truffle cake to pair with red dessert wine. Guests can also taste the winery’s sauvignon blanc, chard-onnay, Old Vine zinfandel, port and Artist Series blend.

Perry said the decision to participate in such an event was a no-brainer.

“It’s a way to raise funds for our community – or toys,” she said. “To give something back to the local community.”

Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at


Holidays in the Hills
What: Open house tour of 17 wineries
When: Noon to 5 p.m. Dec. 10 and 11
Where: Placer County Wine Trail
Cost: One new, unwrapped toy per person, per day; 21 and over only; food sold separately
Information: Maps available at


Winery events
Bonitata: Barrel tasting; Silpada jewelry; handmade cards and wine baskets
Casque: 10 percent wine discount all weekend; New Age guitar music outside by the fire pits (noon to 4 p.m. Saturday); singer/songwriter Terry Sharp (5-8 p.m. Saturday); jazz music outside (noon to 4 p.m. Sunday); food from FireVine Mobile Wood-Fired Pizza; personalized gift wrapping for wine/wineglass gift packs with 10 percent discount
Ciotti: Wine tasting
Cristaldi: Wine tasting; Italian Christmas Market featuring Italian holiday specialties and samples of traditional panettone , biscotti and roasted chestnuts
Dona dal Cielo: Holiday gifts; live music by Double Shots (Saturday only)
Fawnridge: Chocolate truffle cakes paired with red dessert wine
Fortezza: Christmas cookies and desserts from Red Bike Café and Dine N Dash; classical guitarist Wayne Nelson (Saturday only)
Green Family: Wine tasting
Lone Buffalo: Special barrel tasting of 2010 Noble Beast cabernet sauvignon; Bushnell’s Nursery coupon giveaway; savory grass-fed beef and local vegetable pot pies from Lincoln Oaks Catering; local handcrafted jewelry from Two Sisters Trinkets (Sunday only)
Mt. Vernon: Holiday gifts
PaZa: New wine release; guitarist Chad Wagoner; samples and sales from Bella Familia Wood-Fired Pizza
Popie: Wine tasting
Rancho Roble: Wine tasting
Secret Ravine: Appetizer food and wine parings; holiday gift selections
Vina Castellano: Tapas for first 50 customers; hot mulled wine tasting; wine cocktails and dark chocolate samples
Wise Villa/Canta Ao Vinho: Live Christmas-themed jazz music; Italian cuisine from Buonarroti’s Ristorante (Saturday only); tapas-style cuisine from Source Global Tapas Restaurant (Sunday only)