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Judy Foreman: Archie McLaren Celebrates Success of Recent 31st Annual Central Coast Wine Classic

Post-production party includes presentation of $70,000 donation to Léni Fé Bland Performing Arts Education Fund

Archie McLaren, right, founder and chairman of the Central Coast Wine Classic, with artist James Paul Brown, whose neo-impressionist oil painting of a vineyard and mountain scene was the centerpiece of an auction benefiting the organization. Click to view larger
Archie McLaren, right, founder and chairman of the Central Coast Wine Classic, with artist James Paul Brown, whose neo-impressionist oil painting of a vineyard and mountain scene was the centerpiece of an auction benefiting the organization. (John Flandrick / Flandricka Photography photo via Central Coast Wine Classic)

Archie McLaren, founder and chairman of the Central Coast Wine Classic, recently hosted a thank-you gathering for donors and supporters of the ambitious annual event, which took place in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties in mid-August.

“The concept,” McLaren said of the 31st version of the Central Coast Wine Classic, “was somewhat intimidating and challenging ... considering that an array of patrons come from throughout the U.S., and this year from Hawaii and the West Coast to Florida and New England.”

Adding to the challenge: A total of 18 activities were held at locations throughout the two counties Aug. 10-14.

During the reception in the ballroom of the Belmond El Encanto on Santa Barbara’s Riviera, McLaren credited the success of the event to “the chefs, wineries, staff and volunteers of each and every venue, including of course our staff and volunteers.”

One of the most comprehensive fine food and wine events in the United States, the Central Coast Wine Classic raises funds for local nonprofit organizations. This year’s beneficiaries were the Boys & Girls Club of North San Louis Obispo County, the Hearst Castle Preservation Foundation and Friends of Hearst Castle, and the Léni Fé Bland Performing Arts Education Fund in Santa Barbara.

The latter organization was created by 2016 Wine Classic honoree Sara Miller McCune to honor her good friend, visionary philanthropist Léni Fé Bland, who died in 2015 shortly before her 100th birthday.

McCune was on hand at the Belmond El Encanto to receive a check from McLaren for $69,191.

McLaren, who moved to Santa Barbara in 2015, has dedicated decades of his life to the world of wine and charity. In addition to a network of Wine Classic support in San Luis Obispo County and the Napa Valley, he has chaired the San Luis Obispo Vintners & Growers Association and served as a consultant for the American Institute of Wine & Food.

“The results of the event this year were extremely positive,” McLaren said. “There has never been a charity auction that has bridged two counties ... but it was worth the effort to enjoy such diversity of event and venue.

“Our patrons indicated that they were thoroughly edified by the proceedings.”

The Wine Classic concluded at Bella Vista Ranch & Polo Club in Summerland with a Rare and Fine Wine & Lifestyle Auction. Among the prizes were trips to Burgundy and Bordeaux, accommodations at Voss House at Post Ranch Inn Big Sur, dinner at The Hitching Post featuring 50-year-old world-class wines, excursions to Bhutan and China, and an AMA Waterways Cruise through the Bordeaux region of France. Auction proceeds totaled $781,830.

After a champagne toast, McLaren treated guests to a tasting of a unique, not-yet-released pinot noir, “Genuflection,” the result of a collaboration with his friend, Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat.

The artwork on the bottles containing the limited-edition wine was another collaboration, this time between McLaren and renowned artist Yuroz, a longtime friend.

The final treat of the afternoon was an auction of a large, colorful oil painting of a Central Coast vineyard and mountain scene, created by local neo-impressionist artist James Paul Brown. Highest bidder was Rudy Schreiner, who, with wife Kristin, owns the AMA Waterways cruise line.

The 32nd Annual Central Coast Wine Classic will be scheduled for the summer of 2018, with details announced next year.

— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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