Dark and rainy skies failed to dampen the enthusiasm for the Ramona Art & Wine Festival, which was spread across six wineries this year instead of its usual Begent Ranch home.
Participating wineries in the eighth annual festival held Friday, Nov. 6, to Sunday, Nov. 8, were Correcaminos Vineyard, Hatfield Creek Vineyards & Winery, Mahogany Mountain Vineyard & Winery, Milagro Farm Winery, Ramona Ranch Vineyard & Winery, and Schwaesdall Winery.
The format of the event, which included displays of art and hand-painted wine barrels up for auction, was switched to prevent large COVID-19 restricted gatherings at Begent Ranch, at 18528 Highland Valley Road. Traditionally, art, wine and food vendors hawk their wares at Molly and David Begents’ sprawling 52-acre ranch.
Participants this year were given a passport that enabled them to receive wine tastes, gourmet bites and discounts on bottles of wine as they traveled to the six wineries. Winery hosts wrote their initials on each passport as they served their guests.
Hatfield Creek Barroom Host Debbie Warren said business was consistent the first day of the event on Friday, and turned out to be quite busy on Saturday. She said the turnout was a bit surprising because the guests were sitting outside in the wind and the rain as a precaution against spreading the coronavirus.
“For the weather being like it is, we can’t believe the number of people who have been here,” Warren said as she offered customers tastings of Zinfandel, Petite Syrah and a wine blend. “It’s working out except for the weather. People enjoy seeing the location here because many of them have never been.”
Artist Lyn Feudner, who has painted five wine barrels for past Art & Wine Festival auctions, said she planned to stop at all six wineries this year.
“This is my first stop,” she said while sipping wine on a covered patio at Hatfield Creek. “It’s nice, it’s open. I’m impressed with it.”
Her companion Janet Givens was taking a much-needed break from a personal tragedy. Givens said her longtime home overlooking the Antelope Valley, 70 miles from Los Angeles, completely burned in a mid-September wildfire. Givens said she lost all of the work she created as a photographer and interior designer, along with all of her possessions.
“It’s been like starting over when you’re 17,” said Givens, 73, adding that she has recovered from post-traumatic syndrome-like symptoms. “I’m too old to rebuild.”
Givens said generous neighbors are allowing her to stay on their property at least temporarily, and although she’s considered moving to Ramona she said the homes in the area have become a “bit pricey.”
Artist Nancy Wiley returned for her fifth year of participating in the festival. She displayed a variety of jewelry and decorative art she created in a booth at Milagro Farm Winery. Some of her abstract pieces combined colorful acrylic poured on top of copper.
Wiley said she had a number of customers during the event, but overall fewer than usual.
Milagro General Manager Melissa Herring was upbeat about the festival. She said Saturday was busier than Friday at the winery despite the weekend rain.
Herring said Correcaminos Vineyard owners Doug and Sue Robinson told her about the opportunity to participate in the festival. The couple had sent a message to Ramona Valley Vineyard Association members on social media inquiring about which wineries would like to participate.
Herring said Milagro featured its popular Barbera wine during the festival, offering a 20 percent discount on bottles. Milagro was serving guests on a covered side patio instead of the uncovered main patio, she said.
“We’re still busy but it was a very slow start,” she said. “People are cautious about it.”
Throughout the three-day festival, bids were accepted on the six hand-painted barrels displayed at Hatfield Creek Winery. The virtual bidding was completed at 2 p.m. Sunday when the recipients were announced.
All proceeds from the event benefit the Ramona H.E.A.R.T. Mural Project, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. The organization supports the murals in Ramona displayed on the towns’ buildings to encourage economic vitality by increasing tourism, promoting community provide and celebrating Ramona’s cultural heritage.