I am fresh back from the SXSW music fest in Austin, Texas. And I am rejuvenated, inspired, impressed!

I was there thanks to the exquisite Heidi Richman, Program Director of Wente's Discover the Wine, Discover the Music campaign.

Founded in 1883 by C. H. Wente, Wente Vineyards is California's oldest family owned and continuously operated winery.

For more than twenty years, the Wente Family Concert Series has hosted headliner artists ranging from Ray Charles to Buena Vista Social Club at their stunning Livermore Valley ranch.

Discover the Wine, Discover the Music puts a new spin on the Wente Family's passion:

Spearheaded by Karl Wente -- fifth generation winemaker, fine musician and exceptionally evolved human -- the program pairs Wente's 100% estate-grown wines with breaking new artists in innovative ways. For example, neck tags on participating Wente wines include codes for free music downloads and info on how songs like Under the Influence of Giant's joyous "In the Clouds" pair with the crisp and honeysuckled notes of Wente's Riverbank Riesling; how Jesse Dayton & Brennen Leigh's
"We Hung the Moon" mesh with Wente's appley, oaky Morning Fog Chardonnay.

It's a program that sings to me in every sense. And I wanted to be part of Heidi's high-profile promoting of it, built on her years of experience and success, at SXSW.

After all, I impressed upon her, I can pop, open, pour, have been talking and writing about wine since long before it was legal for me to drink, and have not ceased from exploration. And somewhere in the midst of it all, I entered the music industry....

And so, happily, I was invited along for what has proved one of the most pleasurable rides of my life.

While I savored Wente's ripe, luscious Riva Ranch Chardonnay and their long, smooth Southern Hills Cabernet on the front porch of a gracious Garden Street home, Karl and fellow Front Porch singer/songwriter Megan Bradford played covers of my favorite songs (John Prine, Bob Dylan, Counting Crows, Tom Petty), introduced me to new ones (Brothers Lekas, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tally Hall, John Gorka) and knocked my socks off with their own work.

On March 13, at The Moonshine Veranda, Wente treated musicians, industry execs, lifestyle and entertainment press to one of the most intoxicating blends of standout wines, spicy food and mellow tunes that it has ever been my privilege to experience.

And then, it was time to get on the bus!

The Wine Bus, that is -- festooned with Karl's image and his “Discover the Wine, Discover the Music” tag outside, and offering up a cool, acoustically correct, wine-laden lair within.

Karl, Megan, Simi Sernaker of Suffrajett and Jason Russo of Hopewell played music while we made our way to the hottest (and I’m talking 95 degrees that day) venues. At stops that ranged from the swank Whole Foods Lamar St. parking lot to the controlled chaos of Maria’s Taco Xpress, festival goers, fellow musicians and VIP press would get on board to play music, drink wine, conduct interviews and such. I popped, poured, talked about the wines that I had come to know and love, and held my own (that particular time).

Then my official "tour of duty" was over!

I was free to soak up all the strangeness and beauty that is SXSW (1500 bands, 400 films and an embarrassment of parties) in Austin, Texas (a town I love so much I could live there) in Spring (redbud, wisteria, birdsong, splendiferous beyond words).

Mostly, I hung out on the Garden Street front porch and imbibed all the Simi, Karl and Megan music I could.

I bought running shoes and cowboy boots, but spent my time barefoot.

It felt SO GOOD!

Flying home, I read an endnote that Kevin Smokler had written for Austin Chronicle:

“How Your South-By High Can Last Through the Rest of the Year:

Was it a dream? Where do I go from here? What’s this business card stuck to my toothbrush?

Where, in little changes or giant swings, can you draw on SXSW as the start of something new instead of just letting what happens in Austin stay in Austin?”

I think I know....

In significant (and not unSchrodingerlike) ways, I’m still on the bus, inside the music, drinking enough Wente for all of us.

And if they'll have me, I hope my Livermore friends will keep their corkscrews handy:

When next I can, I’ll wend my way West for more of their wine, music, kind.

Meantime, from my perch to their porch, I send admiration, appreciation, LOVE.

For me, this party is so not over! In fact, it’s just begun....

Schools, Food, Community


I encourage you to join our group of practitioners, parents and advocates for Schools, Food and Community -- an inspiration and action-packed day and a half of panels, workshops, resources, entertainment and networking.

The program -- produced by Baum Forum and the Nutrition Program of Teachers College -- takes place on April ll and 12th at Teachers College of Columbia University, Broadway between 120 and 121st St.

It will focus on strengthening the resolve and ability of children to eat nutritious, fresh foods by:

* Connecting holistic food and nutrition messaging in our classrooms, cafeterias, after-school programs, homes, and neighborhoods

* Fostering relationships among children and their communities that focus on food, cooking, and gardening

* Exploring the nuts and bolts of cross-sector (i.e. health, education, food service, and agriculture) public and private collaborations

* Committing to actions we can take.

Last year's program sold out. So here's hoping you will register soon and looking forward to seeing you there!