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Get ready for Wet Zeppelin in Cayucos

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THE WILDEST PARTY :  Red Zeppelin winemaker Stillman Brown is bringing this year’s unusual Wet Zeppelin party to Cayucos on Sept. 25. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • THE WILDEST PARTY : Red Zeppelin winemaker Stillman Brown is bringing this year’s unusual Wet Zeppelin party to Cayucos on Sept. 25.

- SEPTEMBER 2009—CALIFORNIA WINE MONTH:  This is the fifth year that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proclaimed September “California Wine Month.” He pays tribute to 2,800 wineries and 4,600 winegrape growers in California for their 200-year-old agricultural tradition, positive impact on the state and national economies, and commitment to sustainable winegrowing practices, according to the advocacy group the Wine Institute in San Francisco. The proclamation praises the wine community’s numerous contributions: “Our wineries attract tourism and provide countless jobs for Californians. Many are also committed to serving their communities and promoting socially and environmentally responsible farming practices,” Governor Schwarzenegger noted. - The SLO County Visitors & Conference Bureau teamed up with the Central Coast Vineyard Team, Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, and the San Luis Obispo Vintners to promote our excellent local wines and tourism. They’re also offering outstanding rewards for locals who visit wineries along our wine country trails: you’ll find the tasting rooms offer specials like complimentary tastings and discounts on case purchases; restaurants offer winemaker dinners, tasting flights of local wines, or they have dropped the usual corkage fee if you bring in local wines. Even our hotels are offering “staycation” deals for locals. For details on winery, restaurant, and hotel specials in SLO County, go to the SLO County Visitors & Conference Bureau’s website: sanluisobispocounty.com. Why not take a local vacation, skipping the hassles of traveling nationwide, and enjoy the fun tourists experience in SLO County wine country? -
  • SEPTEMBER 2009—CALIFORNIA WINE MONTH: This is the fifth year that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proclaimed September “California Wine Month.” He pays tribute to 2,800 wineries and 4,600 winegrape growers in California for their 200-year-old agricultural tradition, positive impact on the state and national economies, and commitment to sustainable winegrowing practices, according to the advocacy group the Wine Institute in San Francisco. The proclamation praises the wine community’s numerous contributions: “Our wineries attract tourism and provide countless jobs for Californians. Many are also committed to serving their communities and promoting socially and environmentally responsible farming practices,” Governor Schwarzenegger noted. The SLO County Visitors & Conference Bureau teamed up with the Central Coast Vineyard Team, Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, and the San Luis Obispo Vintners to promote our excellent local wines and tourism. They’re also offering outstanding rewards for locals who visit wineries along our wine country trails: you’ll find the tasting rooms offer specials like complimentary tastings and discounts on case purchases; restaurants offer winemaker dinners, tasting flights of local wines, or they have dropped the usual corkage fee if you bring in local wines. Even our hotels are offering “staycation” deals for locals. For details on winery, restaurant, and hotel specials in SLO County, go to the SLO County Visitors & Conference Bureau’s website: sanluisobispocounty.com. Why not take a local vacation, skipping the hassles of traveling nationwide, and enjoy the fun tourists experience in SLO County wine country?
Looking back, the Central Coast’s most unusual wine event first rocked the tiny town of Cayucos in 2006. The irrepressible Stillman Brown, winemaker and owner of Red Zeppelin, threw a 50th birthday party for chef Wilhelm “Bill” Hoppe of Hoppe’s Garden Bistro, titled: “Hoppe, Hoppe Birthday, Baby.” One year later, Stillman repeated his popular party for his own 50th birthday. Better described as a hard rock concert, he named it “Swillapallooza” after one of his numerous monikers, Swilly Idle. In 2008, it was the Monkey Ball, an extraordinary birthday bash for his partner in life, Alexis Louise Fontenot. This year, Stillman has taken his annual party, undoubtedly the wildest wine event on the Central Coast, to a new dimension.

Dubbed Wet Zeppelin, this live concert offers a night of mayhem that’s as close as it gets to a backstage pass for Metallica’s post-concert party. But here you’ll rub shoulders with rock stars and winemakers. Now Stillman has taken his annual bash up several notches; it’s a fundraiser for a nationally ranked, comprehensive college university. Somehow that seems appropriate, doesn’t it? This year the proceeds will provide scholarships for Cal Poly’s enology and viticulture program for students who are deemed potential assets to the local wine and vineyard community in the future.

The concert takes place on Friday, Sept. 25, beginning at 2 p.m. and ending at 2 a.m. Get there before 5 p.m. and you can help set up the pierside social hall. It is, undeniably, a dress-up party, but whatever you do, forget about the little pointy birthday hats or your black-tie finery. At Wet Zeppelin they’ll expect your best Elvis, Elvira, ACDC, or Metallica gear. This is one dressy party where only the dweebs come in tuxedos. “If there’s only one sentence you quote me on,” Brown insisted during the interview, “make it this: Wet Zeppelin is the wildest wine party you’ll ever experience!”
The bands include notables like: Dread Zeppelin, Dario Rosa, Meth Leppard, Maxx Idle, Sexy Time Explosion, Elvis Kokopelli, Donald Elvis Prieto, Butt Flutes, Stimulus Package, and Architecture of Destruction. The infamous dancing cage will be there, too. The wines, mostly Stillman’s excellent Red Zeppelin line-up, will be filled out with wines by his many winemaker friends in attendance. In addition Stillman created a special barrel of Red Zeppelin in collaboration with Robert Hall winemaker Don Brady.

With the open bar serving wine throughout the evening, Stillman ensured good food was available. He invited chef Adam Pollard of Taco Temple to provide dishes from his outstanding menu during Wet Zeppelin. Pollard will offer five dishes, each priced at $8, and they’ll serve until they run out of food. Knowing Taco Temple’s popularity, they’ll run out long before this show is over. “We’re making dishes that are wine-oriented since this event will have all kinds of good wines to taste,” Pollard explained. “We’ll be serving potato, chile, and chorizo sausage taquitos, salmon tacos, barbecued tri-tip tacos, ceviche, and Temple nachos.”

Considering all that’s included, the entry fee requires only a donation for Cal Poly, credit cards accepted. There is a certain amount expected, say the price you’d pay for two glasses of wine in a restaurant or a wine bar, $20. The price for a bottle of two-buck Chuck, however, won’t do. Of course, those who are most generous will certainly get the V.I.P. treatment for their large donation.

According to Keith Patterson, Ph.D. in the crop science department at Cal Poly, many students struggle to find ways to pay their tuition. These donations can make all the difference for them. “We have several wine events that provide scholarships. It’s amazing how generous people are to our kids, and our kids work very hard at what they do. The benefactors look at many criteria in giving awards: some choose students with good grades, some prefer students who are passionate. We love people like Stillman who just want to help.”
Stillman said he wanted to support Cal Poly because, unlike Davis and Fresno, its enology and viticulture program puts students in the heart of wine country: “U.C. Davis enology students are taught how yeast converts grapes into wine; Fresno State viticulture students are taught how to make grapevines grow; but Cal Poly students are taught how to grow, make, and sell great wine, plus we have a better climate,” he quipped.

From recommendations provided by Cal Poly faculty, Stillman described the type of students who will earn a scholarship: “I’m looking for people who have their eye on the horizon. The Central Coast has the potential to be the greatest and most versatile winegrowing region in the world. Passion, creativity, intelligence, and a palate are on the list. Plus cage-dancing skills … the Cal Poly faculty can’t do all the work!”

You can reach New Times’ Cuisine columnist at khardesty@newtimesslo.com.

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