The 100 fortunate folks who’ll find themselves at Villa Creek Winery on May 14 will be privy to an idyllic experience featuring (deep breath) an outdoor, acoustic concert by singer/songwriter Sam Nelson Harris–who also fronts a little platinum album-selling band called X Ambassadors–in a bucolic setting rife with vineyards, oak forests and red tail hawks. There will be an artist meet-and-greet and wine reception as well as an early evening, farm-to-table supper created by acclaimed chef Clark Staub of Full of Life Flatbread in Los Alamos.
The event, designed to indulge all of the senses, was conceived of and produced by 88 Vines Entertainment, founded by Danny Cooper. Cooper is a 30-year music business executive with close ties to the wine industry. JoAnn Cherry, co-owner of Villa Creek, said the event presented an opportunity to “experience all of our arts together: wine, food, and music,” adding that the Paso Robles canyon where all of this will take place provides “excellent sound quality.”
“It should be pretty stunning,” said JoAnn’s husband and winery co-owner, Cris Cherry. “The weather that time of year is more often than not, great.”
And not just for once-in-a-lifetime events. It also allows the estate to produce some of the best—regularly rated in the high 90s—most sought-after wines in the country, and they’re made with organically grown grapes. The 60-acre property, which the Cherrys took over in 2001, has elevations that vary between 1,400 to 1,800 feet, calcareous soils, south-facing slopes and ample water, all of which moved California Winery Advisor to surmise that “grape growing conditions don’t get much better.”
Some, especially those who show up May 14, might call those conditions ideal. Cris is quick to clarify that notion, reminding everyone that Villa Creek is very much a working winery.
“Yeah, it may look perfect but you should have been here yesterday when we were fixing the grey water line,” he said.
What distinguishes all of those is not only what the Cherry’s do, but what they don’t: no herbicides, very little watering; they work with the soil and atmospheric conditions rather than trying to overpower them. It is a more nuanced approach that produces wines made with organic grapes, that reflect that refinement.
“Wine, like music, is extremely subjective. We’ve noticed among consumers who may just be getting into this journey of enjoying wine that they’ll say, ‘Wow these wines have a lot of personality and energy and they’re delicious,” Cris said.
“You get layers of flavors rather than the one-dimensional flavor you get with mainstream wine that’s all fruit or all wood,” JoAnn added. “These wines extract a lot of interesting characteristics. The dimensions are a tangible and continuing thing. They’re like the wine version of an everlasting gobstopper.”
Like Villa Creek, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2021, Sam Nelson Harris and Clark Staub have enjoyed sustained excellence in their chosen fields of art. Harris just released a new album, “The Beautiful Liar”, with X Ambassadors while Staub, who’s been featured in the book “1,001 Restaurants to Visit Before You Die,” continues to garner international interest, and customers, at Full of Life Flatbread.
Given the opportunity to finally do something together, in person, JoAnn said she and Cris were eager to take advantage. It may not be the last time.
“We grow grapes and make wine and love great food and music,” JoAnn said. “If, two or three times a year, we can do something really cool like this, sure it’s a nice marketing component, but we love this because it brings us all together.”