After a meet that has been plagued by cushion track difficulties, Santa Anita hosted five hours of wine, food and art in the paddock at its first Santa Anita Uncorked event Sunday.
“We had such a disaster in January,” said Santa Anita director of print and graphics Candace Coder-Chew. “I thought it would be nice to do something upbeat…You can have food, wine, watch a race, come back and have more food and wine. That’s what we have going that’s different from everything else.”
The 2008 Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award was also awarded that day to Richard Migliore.
Rainy weather may have kept some people away but eventually the sun came out and 230 people altogether attended the event, raising about $14,000. Half of the proceeds went to the Rotary Club while the other half covered the cost of putting on the event.
“As soon as we saw the event advertised a few weeks ago we signed up for it,” said Shirley Halon who attends Santa Anita racing regularly.
“Hopefully they’ll have a second one,” said her husband Jack who enjoyed La Petite France bakery’s desserts. “We’ll definitely come back.”
While wineries such as Chateau St. Michelle, Ventana Vineyards and Coppola Winery were the main vendors, a few choice restaurants served small portions of their dishes. Among them were La Parissiene which served a savory salmon and spinach en croute (in puff pastry), Restaurant Lozano, who served spicy crab on a wonton and a chocolate bread pudding that was more like moist cake in texture, but still beckoned for another serving and the Langham Hotel and Spa served elegant shrimp on slaw.
“It’s a neat event to bring people together from the community and bring together people from the track and people who wouldn’t normally come here to expose them to this” said Sandy Chang, whose parents are Rotary Club members. Chang’s relative Jennifer Chang enjoyed the Langham’s shrimp most as well as the Tamari wine from Turlato Wines and she said she plans to attend the event next year should it continue.
Between races, jockeys Mike Smith and Alex Solis spoke about their 2006 Syrah, which was poured all day at the event and is the first in their Jinetes (Spanish for jockeys) line of wines they are making together from Eagle Point Vineyards.
“I’ve been tasting wine for 20 years and have always wanted to make a wine,” said Solis, who has collected over 3,000 bottles of wine. “Syrah and pinot are my favorite grapes…Next year we’re hoping to do a Pinot and then maybe a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with a Syrah.”
Some of the Syrah was bottled early just for Santa Anita Uncorked, but Solis said the rest will age until June and in August it will be sold on their website, the wine connection, restaurants, a few local stores and hopefully Santa Anita and other tracks.
Food and wine critic Peter Dills said the Syrah was “smooth” and though the general consensus was that the wine was “young” since this batch was bottled early, people still enjoyed the wine.
“The wine is excellent and has good body to it,” said track regular Matthew King. “It has a nice aftertaste and is one of the better Syrahs we’ve had.”
Art, much of it horse-related, by Laura Wynne, Patty McGeeney, Erica Nordean, and others was also on display.
Coder-Chew said that since she had only six weeks to plan Santa Anita Uncorked after she conceived it and the Sierra Madre Wistaria Festival and another La Crescenta food event occurred that weekend it was difficult to get food vendors to commit.
“It seems my colleagues and management were pleased so most likely we’ll have the event next year,” said Coder-Chew. “The biggest change next year will probably be that it will be bigger and have more restaurants.”