Fans of the Bravo television series “Top Chef” can see Marcel Vigneron at the 30th annual Paso Robles Wine Festival.
The celebrity chef brings his avant-garde style first to Justin Vineyards & Winery’s guest chef dinner this evening. At Saturday’s Grand Tasting in the City Park, Vigneron will be in the Justin tent, concocting sangria made with Central Coast citrus.
“It’s a celebration to inspire people to cook together and eat together, and to understand the importance of knowing where their food comes from,” said Will Torres, chef of the Restaurant at Justin.
It’s not entirely clear where all the ingredients of Justin’s $200-a-plate dinner were sourced, including the salmon and veal. But Torres is purchasing many from local producers, fishers and artisan food companies.
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To promote healthy food crusader Jamie Oliver’s first annual Food Revolution Day, also Saturday, Justin is donating 20 percent of the dinner’s proceeds to the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation. Funds will be used for education projects in the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia.
The trend toward whole, fresh ingredients is alive and well in San Luis Obispo County restaurants, Torres added.
“It’s the way things used to be,” he said. “The U.S. society as a whole has gotten away from that.”
Founded in 1981, Justin has been owned by Los Angeles-based Fiji Water since 2010. The winery is building a new 66,000-square-foot production and storage facility at the northeast corner of the city on Wisteria Lane. Justin declined to answer questions this week about the construction cost or purpose of the expansion.
In a written statement, the winery indicated the facility will open by the fall harvest.
Justin will continue to operate its original winery west of Paso Robles on Chimney Rock Road, it said, and “additional workforce will be hired at the Wisteria location.”
Grand Tasting set for Saturday
The Paso Robles Wine Festival Grand Tasting is returning to its original hours Saturday.
At noon, those with premium or reserve tickets enter the City Park.
Others are welcome at 1 p.m., with the festival ending at 4.
“We’re learning from how we’ve done things in the past,” said Chris Taranto, marketing director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. “Our goal was to create more of this fun, daytime atmosphere.”
The starting time is two hours earlier than last year, when the tasting was immediately followed by a dinner and auction event. Taranto said that fundraiser will become a separate event in August.
The change is also meant to maximize the cooler, shadier hours in the park. In reviewing seven years of weather records, staff found peak heat was around 4 p.m.
“There’s a little bit of science involved,” Taranto said.
More than 1,000 “locals only” tickets were sold to San Luis Obispo County residents for $30. The promotion, which ended April 30, was linked to the festival’s 30th anniversary.
“That was wildly successful,” Taranto said. “We definitely saw our locals taking new interest in our festival.”
The Grand Tasting features about 60 wineries, plus local restaurants, food trucks and artisan food producers. It typically draws about 4,000 attendees.
Same-day tickets will be sold at the Paso Wine Centre, 1240 Park St. Cost is $55, or $75 for early entry. Designated drivers and children pay $15, and that includes four non-alcoholic drinks.
From Adelaida Cellars to Zenaida Cellars, nearly 160 wineries have events planned through Sunday. For more information and a full slate of participants, visit www.pasowine.com or call 239-8463.
The Independent Grape Growers of the Paso Robles Area is offering two $3,000 scholarships for 2012-13.
Students attending Atascadero, Paso Robles or Templeton high schools — or Cuesta College — who plan to pursue a degree in viticulture or a related field at a four-year college may apply.
The deadline is May 31. The group said awards are based on academic excellence and financial need.
For applications, call Marilyn Curry at 238-1405.
For information about the organization, see www.pasorobleswine grapes.com.
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