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A silver legacy

That venerable favorite, the Central Coast Wine Classic, has aged beautifully

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GRAND MASTER :  A classic in his own right, Archie McLaren originated the Central Coast’s signature wine celebration. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • GRAND MASTER : A classic in his own right, Archie McLaren originated the Central Coast’s signature wine celebration.

The Central Coast Wine Classic (CCWC) celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and though it’s more aged than most SLO County wine festivals, like good wine the classic evolves with each vintage. The silver anniversary of CCWC will provide a four-day extravaganza of educational events. Whether you attend its educational seminars, tastings of exclusive and rare wines, winemakers’ dinners, or the cooking class and luncheon, you’ll walk away better informed about the wines and foods you love, and hold unforgettable memories of the experience.
 
CCWC was created by chairman Archie McLaren, a bon vivant who works tirelessly at promoting Central Coast wines to connoisseurs around the world. By the time the event takes place, he’s already working on the next year’s event. And his work hardly stops there. He ensures many worthy charitable organizations benefit from the CCWC. This year there are 13 beneficiaries, including the CC Alzheimer’s Association, KCBX Public Radio, Transitions Mental Health, Prado Day Care Center, Food Bank of Santa Barbara County, Santa Maria Philharmonic Society, and several others. Asked what has been most gratifying over the past 24 years, McLaren first thought of CCWC’s beneficiaries:

- THE 25TH CCWC :  For full details about the CCWC seminars, a preview of the auction lot catalog, reservations and/or tickets, visit wineclassic.org. Tickets will only be available at the door for Thursday’s Barrel Tasting and Sunday’s reserve wine tasting, both at Dolphin Bay Resort. If the auction at Avila Beach Resort does not sell out in advance, tickets may be available at the door. To become a patron sponsor and be invited to the Hearst Castle dinner you must contact chairman Archie McLaren at 805-544-1285 or email archie@slonet.org. -
  • THE 25TH CCWC : For full details about the CCWC seminars, a preview of the auction lot catalog, reservations and/or tickets, visit wineclassic.org. Tickets will only be available at the door for Thursday’s Barrel Tasting and Sunday’s reserve wine tasting, both at Dolphin Bay Resort. If the auction at Avila Beach Resort does not sell out in advance, tickets may be available at the door. To become a patron sponsor and be invited to the Hearst Castle dinner you must contact chairman Archie McLaren at 805-544-1285 or email archie@slonet.org.
“It’s been two-fold: sustaining public radio for 18 years; and then our new foundation having conferred grants totaling almost $1.25 million to over 50 nonprofits in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties whose missions are in the healing, studio, and performing arts. And the promotion of the Central Coast as a destination that provides outstanding lifestyle, food, and wine elements.”  

He noted that recent averages show CCWC supporters come from 200 California coastal communities, 30 states, and a handful of foreign countries.
 
No matter how many Champagne, Chardonnay, Bordeaux blend, or Zinfandel seminars have been conducted in the past, McLaren keeps CCWC fresh each year by changing the seminars and bringing in renowned winemakers and chefs from other notable wine regions. You’ll find those varieties the subject of this year’s offerings.

“I pick symposia that I think would interest budding aficionados of the subject, and I try to give them an array that will add contrast to the educational process,” he said.
 
- IN MEMORIAL:  Santa Barbara County wine country has lost one of its rising young stars, Bailey Paul McKeon-Phillips, May 23, 1980 – May 26, 2009. He is survived by his parents, Susan McKeon and Ardison Phillips, and his two-year-old daughter, Bella. Winemaker at his family’s McKeon-Phillips Winery in Santa Maria, Bailey passed away at home in his sleep at the age of 29. The winery was founded by his parents, where Bailey worked his way up to become the winemaker and vintner in the tradition of Europe. Bailey had formal training at Allan Hancock College and at U.C. Davis. Since 2002 he had been making wines alongside his father, who designated their reserve Cabernet Sauvignon “Bailey.” - “The vintages became increasingly exquisite under his unique influence and care,” Ardison explained. “And they have continued to show remarkable growth in quality and maturity.” Like his father, he was a talented artist and he created two of their wine labels - The Phillips’ are conducting a memorial luncheon and art exhibit in tribute to their son’s life on Sunday, June 28, 1:00 p.m., at McKeon-Phillips Winery, 2115 S. Blosser Rd., Suite 114, in Santa Maria. RSVP by calling 805-928-3025. A fund has been set up at Rabobank for Bella Lossing McKeon-Phillips. -
  • IN MEMORIAL: Santa Barbara County wine country has lost one of its rising young stars, Bailey Paul McKeon-Phillips, May 23, 1980 – May 26, 2009. He is survived by his parents, Susan McKeon and Ardison Phillips, and his two-year-old daughter, Bella. Winemaker at his family’s McKeon-Phillips Winery in Santa Maria, Bailey passed away at home in his sleep at the age of 29. The winery was founded by his parents, where Bailey worked his way up to become the winemaker and vintner in the tradition of Europe. Bailey had formal training at Allan Hancock College and at U.C. Davis. Since 2002 he had been making wines alongside his father, who designated their reserve Cabernet Sauvignon “Bailey.” “The vintages became increasingly exquisite under his unique influence and care,” Ardison explained. “And they have continued to show remarkable growth in quality and maturity.” Like his father, he was a talented artist and he created two of their wine labels

    The Phillips’ are conducting a memorial luncheon and art exhibit in tribute to their son’s life on Sunday, June 28, 1:00 p.m., at McKeon-Phillips Winery, 2115 S. Blosser Rd., Suite 114, in Santa Maria. RSVP by calling 805-928-3025. A fund has been set up at Rabobank for Bella Lossing McKeon-Phillips.

It’s probably difficult to imagine, but 25 years ago wineries in SLO and Santa Barbara counties rarely caught the attention of national publications. The national wine magazines favored Napa Valley or Sonoma County then, and most Central Coast winemakers felt slighted. That’s certainly not the case now, considering the New York Times description of Paso Robles as “The Next Great Wine Region in California.” Fortunately, our winemaking pioneers recognized this region’s potential. Those renowned vintners, Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Doug Beckett of Peachy Canyon, Bob Lindquist of Qupé, Justin Baldwin of Justin Vineyards, and Gary Conway of Carmody-McKnight, whose names are synonymous with the Central Coast, actively support CCWC. The wine media flock to CCWC annually because of the opportunity it provides to find the Central Coast’s great winemakers gathered together in place.
 
“When I created the concept of the Wine Classic, I knew these wines would stand side-by-side with the world’s greatest wines. I wanted to show they were equal,” McLaren remembered.

Asked which were among his favorite seminars, he, not surprisingly, picked one featuring Justin Vineyard’s 1994 Isosceles, winner of a French competition in Bordeaux as the world’s greatest red blend.

“One that really resonated with me was the Chateau Pichon Lalande and Justin Vineyards and Winery vertical vintage tasting, particularly since Madame May Elaine de Lencquesaing (owner and administrator of Pichon Lalande in Pauillac) came from Bordeaux to attend,” he recalled, “but there have been others (comparative tastings) with a similar impact.” 

He considers this year’s auction lots some of the best he’s seen in 25 years: A trip to Spain’s wine regions includes dining at cutting-edge restaurants; a comprehensive trip to France visits Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, and the Rhone with dinners at Michelin-rated resorts; one-of-a-kind art from local talent includes Yuroz, Robert Burridge, James-Paul Brown, and Joanne Ruggles; and there’s a comprehensive collection of rare and collectible wines.

“Lexus is donating a brand new RX 450h SUV, that has yet to be released to the public,” McLaren added. “Given the value, I suppose you could say that it’s our premier offering.”
 
McLaren foresees continued success for CCWC: “I think it has a great future. A year ago, I was interviewed by Wine Spectator and was asked that question. I believe those who educate the public and promote the hospitality industry stand a better chance of sustaining themselves, and that has been proven. The Wine Classic was the first charitable wine auction to include educational symposia, and I can’t see why that should change.”

Contact New Times’ Cuisine columnist at khardesty@newtimesslo.com

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