About a year ago I was asked by Rancho Santa Fe resident JoAnne King to power the band at an event she was hosting with a mobile solar station I have access to. This was not just any event, it was being held in a vineyard on her property with great food and stunning views. How could I say no to an invitation like that? The event was one of her many 50 Friends events held every summer. 50 Friends is a concept JoAnne hatched to invite 50 friends to cultivate vacant land around her home, dig some dirt, move some rocks, plant some vines, make a vineyard and share the wine! That is the nutshell version of course. 50 Friends is a unique co-op experience in San Diego County. People buy in, they work the land, have fun and drink good wine and food. The event was one-of-a-kind and really fun and they are open to the public. Here is a conversation I had with JoAnne about 50 Friends.
This is unique twist on the co-op concept, where was your first exposure to a vineyard cooperative?
Actually, the 50 Friends concept is our first exposure to such a thing. It seems many of our talented friends had dreamed of the romance of owning a vineyard in some fashion. The hold back was the immensity of working the land and maintaining highest quality fruit without much additional assistance and guidance. We thought we’d give it a go together…and help support our local winemakers.
So you had the concept, a nice plot of land to grow grapes, how did it all come together?
On Valentine’s Day in 2011, we circulated a small prospectus to a handful of our friends and neighbors offering partnerships in this fun winegrowing adventure. Then one Friend told another Friend and it spread like wildfire until, indeed, we had 50 Friends all eager to buy in to the concept and build a vineyard from the ground up, by hand, no less.
What type of grapes are you growing and what kind of wine do you bottle?
Our inaugural vintage will be a Merlot which we hand -picked from Sunrise Vineyard in Escondido. Our grapes will not be ready for 3 more years. This forces our hands to reach out to other SD County winegrowers and create blends: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Sangiovese, Malbec, and even a Chardonnay for those white wine lovers amongst us.
Bringing top area chefs on board to cook for your 50 Friends events is a perfect complement to the wine element. What local chefs have you utilized and who do you have on tap for upcoming events?
Yes, one local achievement led us to celebrate the talent of other of our 50 Friends who excel in culinary expertise. Jay Berman is Friend #003, and the proprietor of Seaside Spice in Cardiff. He is a fine chef in his own right who caters within the county and creates beautiful dishes. Another talented chef is Susan Faeber, our Friend #005 who not only cooks, but also is Director of the Healing Foods Kitchen at Moore’s Cancer Center.
Your events combine a beautiful outdoor location right in the vineyard, great food and wine, and great area bands. What bands have you booked for these parties?
We are fortunate to boast talented musicians amongst our 50 Friends. Our first event on May 12th was a huge hit with Jeff Moore’s Witchdoctors. Jeff is Friend #015 and if you missed him, he’ll be returning August 11th for an encore performance. Our June 9th festival touts Cathouse Thursday, Friend#008. Our July 14th event brings back Aftershock Seven. We are privileged to have Stellar Solar providing our electricity to the stage at all of the events right at the top of our vineyard.
50 Friends are open to everyone, how do they find out about and RSVP for the events?
All local San Diegans are invited to join us as the group is quite inclusive.
It’s about celebrating our collective local talents while enjoying the pacific sunsets, fine dining, dancing, and musical entertainment. Each of our events is posted on our website: www.50Friendsrsf.com