Three walls and a rocky foundation is the skeleton that remains of Paradise Ridge Winery’s Tasting Room and Events Center. The devastating firestorm of 2017 that raged through Sonoma County did not spare this mecca of food, wine and art. But the Sonoma County winery, this beloved hub of culture, is resilient in its revelry.
The winery is hosting the Sept. 20 kickoff of the Sonoma County Wine Auction with the “Best Party Ever,” showcasing Paradise Ridge as the poster child for the county’s rebirth.
“We’re a survivor and Sonoma County is a survivor, but we’re coming back bigger and better,” said winery co-owner Sonia Byck-Barwick. “We’re not just healing, but we’re coming back a stronger community.”
The theme of renewal will pervade all the weekend’s events, with the highpoint of the rollout Saturday’s live auction at La Crema at Saralee’s Vineyard in Windsor. The ticket price, $2,500 per person, covers the entire package of events, including Friday night’s vintner dinners.
At the Best Party Ever, guests will get a glimpse of the live lots to be auctioned off on Saturday. They’ll also witness the whimsy of the revival theme when they hear a Baptist choir singing gospel music, but Motown will quickly take center stage. The band — Big Swing & the Ball Room Blasters — is expected to keep the dance floor busy.
“We want to be a factor in the revival of Sonoma County post fire,” said Honorary Chair George Hamel Jr., the co-vintner of Sonoma’s Hamel Family Wines. “The idea was to kick off the weekend in this emotional place, but to make it lively, the best party ever.”
Organizers expect to draw 200 to 300 people to the party, inviting some who lost their homes in Fountaingrove and Coffey Park, as well as some first responders. The party will be at the amphitheater on the 155-acre property, about a half a mile from the events center.
While the wildfires sidestepped most of the wineries in Sonoma County, Paradise Ridge took a direct hit. In addition to the tasting room and events center, a wine-making building, three homes and several outbuildings burnt to the ground. But the winery is beginning to rebuild this month, with plans to open its tasting room and events center in October of 2019. The goal is to precede that opening by relaunching the “Wine & Sunsets” event on Wednesday nights next summer in the amphitheater. There will be bevy of food trucks and Paradise Ridge wine available for tasting.
The winery is best known as a gathering place for everything under the sun — weddings, poetry readings and art exhibits as well as tours and tastings.
“Being active in the community means even more to us today, after the fires, than it has in the past,” Byck-Barwick said.
The co-vintner said the new events center will look similar to the former one in order to inspire a homecoming of sorts.
“The idea is to pay tribute to the building that was and also give people the sense of coming home,” she said. “So many people got married there, and they have wonderful memories.”
Right now, the Marijke’s Grove 3-acre sculpture garden as well as the two-story tall LOVE sculpture and the Temple of Remembrance, is open to the public on weekends from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Oct. 28.