Fiddle-Dee-Dee – Fourth Annual FiddleFest pours wines and bluegrass tunes for a good cause

Bob Dickey Photo

Bob Dickey Photo

Fiddlehead Cellars never took its name from the actual instrument or from its owners’ interest in music. Instead, the winery takes its name from the curly tip of a fern, which some cultures even pickle as a food. And Fiddlestix, the name of the vineyard, is a gosh darn ol’ swear word. But none of that matters in the fourth year of the FiddleFest, one of the Lompoc area’s favorite fundraisers, as wine tasting and bluegrass music will go hand in hand.

“Just as I started getting everybody that this was about the plant, then I went and added the twist of the fiddle music,” says Kathy Joseph, who owns Fiddlehead along with her husband

The event this year benefits People Helping People, the Santa Ynez Valley organization that provides transport, education and medical help to the less fortunate in the area. Attendees can sample products from 14 wineries, all who use grapes grown at Fiddlehead’s Santa Rita appellation.

“Everyone has a little different mix of clones, and they all pick their grapes at a different time, but it’s all pinot noir,” says Joseph. There will also be a barbecue put on by the Hitching Post, a selection of cheeses from Cypress Grove Chevre, a silent auction of some very rare wines, and four full hours of bluegrass music from the Southside Bluegrass Band, organized by Charlie Bockius.

Joseph started Fiddlefest to bring attention to the vineyard and to the people who work there, “a small group of dedicated winemakers,” as she puts it. The location is right across the street from the 50-year-old Sanford and Benedict vineyard, and takes place in an old refurbished bar that’s been lined with cedar, and with a window that now looks over the vineyard during the pour.

Wineries using the Fiddlehead’s pinot noir grapes include Bonaccorsi, Paul Lato, Rusack, Vogelzang, Dragonette and more. They’ll all be pouring their pinot noirs, but also they’ll be bringing a white or pink wine of their choice.

The nonprofit that benefits from the silent auction, People Helping People, has been assisting folks since 1992. Dean Palius, executive director, notes how the organization has grown from a starting budget of $80,000 to $1.7 million. That’s both good — the charity grows and grows — and bad, as an indicator of how many people need its services, filling in where government can’t. The Santa Ynez Valley is large, he says, and there is limited transport. A lot of the people that need the help of organizations like People Helping People are the ones working the wineries and fields of Santa Ynez. The Santa Ynez school district, which funded many of PHP’s services, recently cut its budget.

“It’s a tough time right now,” Palius says, “Most people think everybody’s wealthy out here. Certainly there are many wealthy people. Most of those people and the tourists here are being serviced by some very low-income folks.” But what Joseph is doing for the charity is a gift, he says.

Joseph seems aware of the broad income range, hence why FiddleFest wants to give back.

“Fifteen years later and some of the same people are still with me,” she says. “They are the ones who cleared and staked the land and watched it grow up with me.”

FIDDLEFEST
When: 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Fiddlestix Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills at mile marker 7.82 on Santa Rosa Road, Lompoc
Cost: $72.80 in advance, $85 at the door.
Information: (800) 251-1225, rsvp@fiddleheadcellars.com or www.fiddleheadcellars.com

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