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Review And Update On Cheese And Wine
CW update
In 2021, the wine tasting at the Riverbank Cheese and Wine Expo was held once again at the Antigua Event Center where there were a very limited amount of wines to taste. The wine tasting experience and location may change this year. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

The Riverbank City Council and the public were given an update on the Cheese and Wine Festival at the city council meeting at the end of February. The city will continue the partnership with Simply Divine Events, LLC for the 2022 festival and there was discussion about moving the wine tasting event back to the Community Center.

With the festival only eight months away the city, along with Tamra Spade, owner of Simply Divine Events, will begin planning. Spade gave the overview of the 2021 event and the potential plans for the upcoming event this October. When the City of Riverbank took over the event in 2014 the Parks and Recreation Department took the reins led by Director Sue Fitzpatrick that contracted with Chris Ricci Presents, Inc. for the first six years. Last year was the first year that the city contracted with Simply Divine.

“This event is challenging but they did a good job last year,” stated Fitzpatrick. “The first year is always the hardest for a new contractor but they learned a lot and have some good solutions for this year. Coming off the pandemic was challenging as costs all increased and it was difficult to get help, have things delivered on time and get all the wineries involved as we would have liked.”

The item on the agenda was only a discussion and there were no direct or specific decisions made. Spade gave an overview of last year’s festivities.

She explained that with the pandemic there were several challenges and concerns but they learned a lot in their first year. She said the set up and the take down went well and when she spoke to each vendor they were all very happy and most would like to return.

She added that the partnership with the Sheriff’s Department, Fire Department and hired security went well with no significant incidents that occurred.

The Wine and Vibes Car Show was a first at the event last year which Spade said was a success with almost 40 cars and this year would be better and the show will likely grow over time.

She said, “We think it was a good addition to the festival.”

Fitzpatrick and Spade are consulting about hosting another event prior to the weekend festivities like the dinner they hosted the night before this past year.

With merchants not wanting vendors in front of their stores and having road closures for the current location, Spade suggested moving the festival back down Santa Fe and having the wine tasting event held at the city’s Community Center once again and the carnival in the park.

“We are thinking about using the Community Center again for the wine tasting,” remarked Fitzpatrick. “This is something we need to review with the Police Chief and our staff to see how all that would work. We have some ideas that we are looking at. If that for some reason cannot work we will use the Antigua again. We are hoping to use the Community Center and the plaza and be creative how to tie all that together.”

She also suggested that the city increase the vendor fees and the wine and cheese tasting fees as everything else has increased and inflation is at an all-time high. Spade added that the wine tasting should be an experience with a variety of wines paired with cheeses, music and an area to relax. She will be visiting and consulting wineries in the area to improve the cheese and wine tasting experience at the festival, which may eliminate the craft beer booths.

Fitzpatrick shared that they are in the planning stages and the Riverbank Cheese and Wine website will be updated soon. The Riverbank Cheese and Wine is slated for Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 8 and 9.