Back in 1986 when José and Gloria Ferrer opened a winery in the windswept hills south of Sonoma, Spain’s paella dish and flamenco dance were as uncommon in the area as pinot noir.
Maybe 50 people showed up for the first Catalan Festival the Ferrer family held that year to feature the culture of their home region on the Iberian Peninsula and celebrate the winery’s opening on Arnold Drive.
“At the beginning, no one knew Catalan,” said Eva Bertran, who was an intern back then and is now vice president of marketing. “Now, people arrive wearing red shirts and Spanish soccer jerseys.”
More than 1,200 people gathered Saturday and Sunday at the sprawling 250-acre winery in the Carneros wine region for the 22nd annual Catalan Festival.
Catalonia is a region in northeastern Spain where people speak Catalan, a language that evolved from Latin with influences from Spanish, French and Arabic.
The Gloria Ferrer Winery event is a fundraiser for the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation. Last year, the winery donated $15,000 to the foundation, and this year Bertran said they hope to top that with proceeds brought in from $75 admission tickets and an auction of paintings, sports memorabilia and vacation packages.
On Sunday, the event drew fans of Ferrer’s signature sparkling wines including a group of labor and delivery nurses from Stanford Children’s Health hospital, a tight-knit group who can rarely share a day off together.
Carleigh Burdine, 30, of San Mateo had helped deliver a 7-pound, 11-ounce girl hours before she was stomping grapes at the Catalan Festival Grape Stomp.
Burdine pointed to scrapes on her legs as proof of their determination to stomp the most juice out of the grapes, but they came up short.
“We lost, even with all the preparation. I’ve been doing the bar method, running and hiking, I’m in good shape,” Burdine said.