CowParade SLO, World’s Largest Art Exhibit is Heading Our Way!

Another two months since we’ve posted!? Okay, okay, we wont make any more excuses, but we really have been busy! In fact, we’ve been mooving and shaking in our office helping to bring CowParade to SLO County!

San Luis Obispo County has been selected to host the CowParade™, the world’s largest premier public art exhibit. The CowParade brings together arts, education, agriculture and tourism by sponsoring life-size acrylic cow sculptures that are painted, placed throughout the county, and then sold at auction to benefit local charities.

Michelle Watson worked non-stop on her masterpiece during the Mid-State Fair launch.

Michelle Watson worked non-stop on her masterpiece during the Mid-State Fair launch.

Over 5,000 cows – no two alike – have delighted 250 million people in over 30 countries since the Cow Parade’s inception in 1998, benefiting scores of local non-profits with $30 million. CowParade SLO launch last month at the California Mid-State Fair. The CowParade SLO exhibit in the fair’s Ponderosa Pavilion showcased two life-size, 120-pound, acrylic sculptures painted and developed by Michelle Watson, a Cuesta College art student from Harmony, California, and Carol Paulsen, a seasoned artist whose work has appeared in public spaces throughout the county. Additionally, a sculpture by Randy Gilman entitled “Daisy’s Dream” from the 2000 CowParade exhibit in New York City was featured. “Daisy” was originally exhibited at ground level adjacent to Grand Central Station, was seen by tens of thousands of people and was the most-photographed cow in the 500-cow New York event.

The CowParade calls on sponsors large and small to commission artists to create original works of art on blank acrylic cow “canvases” for display around the county. Artists range from the amateur and unknown to the professional and renowned. The herd will then be unleashed to graze in various high-traffic locations around the San Luis Obispo County from January to August 2016 for tourists and locals alike to enjoy. The mooving exhibit will culminate in a gala and auction, with net proceeds benefiting multiple local charities.

Carol Paulsen worked diligently on painting the Town of Harmony on her Cow - the detail is incredible!

Carol Paulsen worked diligently on painting the Town of Harmony on her Cow – the detail is incredible!

A variety of events are scheduled throughout the year to exhibit these works of art until they are auctioned off for charity early in September 2016. Various levels of sponsorship are available ranging from sponsorship of a single cow to a herd of cows.

By participating in the CowParade, the Central Coast joins a worldwide movement that has spanned 80 major cities. Through the enthusiasm of the local community, its sponsors and artists, the CowParade has garnered incredible success and notoriety. visit for more information about sponsorships, artist and charity sign-ups, and ideas for getting involved in the moovement!

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Catching Our Breath: Reflecting on the 2015 Int’l Chardonnay Symposium


Wow. It’s been two months since we posted on The Dish: we’ve been working our tails off to launch several new clients and two major events, one of which was the inaugural International Chardonnay Symposium which descended on the beachfront communities of Pismo Beach and Avila Beach with seminars, dinners, and tastings that attracted the wine industry’s foremost winemakers, sommeliers, and journalists, as well as many devoted consumers.

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“The Chardonnay Symposium was an amazing opportunity to experience the tremendous quality we are seeing in Chardonnay today both domestically and internationally,” said Winemaker Michael McNeill of Hanzell Vineyards in Sonoma. “After tasting through the wines over the course of the event, I saw that California Chardonnay is not what it was even five years ago. I saw an energy and vibrancy throughout the wines here that was uncommon a short time ago.”

Attendees to the Symposium were treated to panels moderated by top industry experts, including Master Sommelier Fred Dame, Master Sommelier Brian McClintic, Master Sommelier Bob Bath, cheese educator and author Laura Werlin, and VP of Sales and Marketing for The Thornhill Companies Nicholas Miller; covering such topics as “To Oak Or Not To Oak?,” pairing food with Chardonnay, and the fashion, evolution and diversity of the world’s favorite white wine grape. Panel discussions also featured the culinary talents of Chef Christopher Manning of Thomas Hill Organics in Paso Robles and Chef Vatche Moukhtarian of the Cracked Pepper Bistro in Fresno, California.

Two grand tastings featured hundreds of Chardonnays in multiple styles, from dozens of appellations from across the globe, in addition to two separate wine auctions benefitting Cal Poly University’s Wine & Viticulture and Recreation, Parks & Tourism Administration departments. The La Paulée dinner at Lido of Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa included vintners’ favorite library wines and cuisine by Chef Jacob Moss and Guest Chef Ari Kolender of Leon’s Oyster Shop and Saint Alban in South Carolina. And the “Taste Like A Somm” dinner at The Gardens of Avila at Sycamore Mineral Springs showcased the talents of Chef Gregg Wangard and Chef Michael Avila, whose cuisine was paired with several Chardonnays for a double-blind tasting.

The Symposium also focused on professional development, offering an all-day Vintners’ Tech Symposium in which 20 vintners from across California shared best practices, led by veteran Winemaker Larry Brooks of Tolosa Winery in Edna Valley; as well as The SOMM Journal’s “Sommelier Challenge” in which a dozen top sommeliers blind-tasted 32 Chardonnay wines and weighed-in with their favorites. The winners of the “Sommelier Challenge” were announced at the La Paulée Dinner as such:

  • Best Classic Style Chardonnay
    Talley Vineyards 2013 Chardonnay, Arroyo Grande Estate
  • Best No-Oak Chardonnay
    Presqu’ile 2013 Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley
  • Best Old World-Style Chardonnay
    Cotière 2013 Murmur Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
  • Best New World-Style Chardonnay
    Capensis 2013, Western Cape, South Africa
  • Best of Show
    Mattina Fiore 2012 Murmur Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
  • Somm’s Choice
    Dalrymple 2012 “Cave Block,” Piper’s River, Tasmania

Sponsors of the 2015 International Chardonnay Symposium include: Avila Beach Tourism Alliance, Pismo Beach Conference & Visitors Bureau, SLO County Tourism Business Improvement District, The SOMM Journal, The Tasting Panel Magazine, Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Biddle Ranch Vineyard, Farm Credit West, Grape Encounters, The Krush 92.5, Riedel, Sustainability In Practice (SIP), TricorBraun, and Vivant Fine Cheese.

The 2016 International Chardonnay Symposium will be hosted in the beachfront communities of Pismo Beach and Avila Beach on May 12-14, 2016. For more information and to be added to the mailing list please email us at

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2015_PasoWineFest_Webheader 10[1]Starting in April, the Central Coast grows abuzz with many, many festivals that celebrate the best things in life: wine, beer, food, music, and friendship. One of our all-time favorite festivals at Parker Sanpei is the Paso Robles Wine Festival, now in its 33rd year, May 14-17.

Paso Robles Wine Fest spans four days with tastings and seminars to interest wine lovers of every stripe and color:

  • paso_wine_festOn Thursday, May 14, Thomas Hill Organics and Il Cortile Ristorante welcome you to join them along with several participating winemakers for delectable winemaker dinners. During each Winemaker Dinner, multiple Paso Robles wineries are at the same table, with wines perfectly paired with each course. Get your tickets quickly: seating for both winemaker dinners is extremely limited.
  • On Friday, May 15, select wineries feature their Library, Reserve, White/Rosé, and Futures complemented by fresh and local gourmet bites at the RESERVE Event.
  • Start your morning on Saturday, May 16 with a fun and educational Winemaker Seminar. Following the seminar, more than 70 wineries come together in the Paso Robles Downtown City Park to showcase their wines during the Grand Tasting. Be sure to also check out the Educational Experiences by the Rhone Rangers and CAB Collective within the park, all included in your ticket price! There will also be a Garagiste Lounge where you can taste from some of the small-lot producers in Paso Robles. And in a new, expanded band and picnic area of the Grand Tasting, the Damon Castillo Band will provide the perfect music to complement your wine tasting experience.
  • On Sunday and throughout Wine Fest weekend, travel beyond the Park to explore more than 140 winery events throughout the weekend including live music, barrel samplings, library tastings, and more!

For more information on how to join Wine Festival, please visit

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Seeking foodies and artists: Historic town of Harmony revives.

Harmony,ca_townsignThe tiny coastal community of Harmony, California, population 18, has been many things to many people over the years—dairy town, artists’ colony, picturesque pit-stop on the road to and from Hearst Castle, Central Coast Wine Country and Big Sur—all of which the town’s new ownership embraces and plans to incorporate into the town’s future.

Purchased for an undisclosed amount in 2013 by a third-generation California dairy farmer and San Luis Obispo local, the town of Harmony is currently being scrubbed down and dolled up in preparation for the addition of the Harmony Valley Creamery Dairy Shoppe that will showcase locally-sourced dairy products, a farm-to-table restaurant and gardens for large gatherings from corporate parties to weddings.

A drawing of Harmony from 1883

A drawing of Harmony from 1883

Harmony’s heritage as a haven for music and visual arts will be preserved with galleries and studios like Harmony Glassworks, Harmony Pottery Works and the Painted Sky Recording Studio continuing their leases.

Harmony’s new owner, Alan Vander Horst—a dairyman by trade and a Cal Poly Agriculture graduate—fell in love with Harmony and the Central Coast while attending school. Today, his dream of reviving Harmony’s dairy-processing past is in full swing.

“Harmony has always been a special place for many people,” said Vander Horst. “Given its background as a dairy town, we’re looking to bring that element back and expand it a bit while keeping Harmony’s authenticity, charm, and artists’ studios intact.”

HarmonyCreameryA long-established fixture of California’s Central Coast, the town of Harmony has a rich supporting history. Founded in 1869 around a burgeoning local dairy industry, Harmony served as the capital of Central Coast dairy production for nearly half a century.

6605170713_e0459902fdFollowing the ultimate closure of the creamery, Harmony’s population steadily waned as the community saw much of the state’s dairy production transition from the Central Coast to the Central Valley. While undergoing periods of relative dormancy in the years leading up to its current renovation, today the 2.5-acre, 1-block town of Harmony looks to bustle once again. Currently the town is undergoing needed renovations and proper ADA access, and the creamery courtyard is being expanded to accommodate the new storefronts.

Harmony looks to attract the region’s local foodies and visitors traveling scenic Highway 1 as well as brides and grooms searching for the perfect wedding venue.

IMG_2618“The Harmony Chapel has seen a lot of weddings in its time, and we’re not about to change that,” said Vander Horst, adding that chapel weddings can host up to 60 guests and up to 100 outdoors once the garden grounds are completed. A limited number of dates to rent the entire town—including the Dairy Shoppe, restaurant, and gardens—for weddings and events of up to 250 guests are planned.

For more information about Harmony’s revival, please contact Elissa Wiese, Parker Sanpei, at 805-543-2288 or

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It’s the world’s favorite grape. Is it yours?

Logo for EventbriteWe at Parker Sanpei love a good Chardonnay: everything from Burgundy and Chablis to the Finger Lakes and Edna Valley gets us purring. So when we heard that the world’s foremost gathering of Chardonnay producers will take place in our backyard, we bought our tickets right away. The International Chardonnay Symposium will feature top global Chardonnay winemakers during this year’s events, May 28-30, 2015 at The Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa and The Cliffs Resort in Pismo Beach, California.

310 Sat Tasting _MG_3688


A sampling of panel discussions includes:

  • Hanzell Vineyards and Mount Eden Vineyards Retrospective Tasting, moderated by Fred Dame, MS
  • To Oak Or Not To Oak?: Exploring Chardonnay as the Chameleon of Vitis Vinifera, moderated by Brian McClintic, MS, Proprietor of Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant, Santa Barbara, CA
  • Diversity in Balance:  Pairing Chardonnay and Food, moderated by Bob Bath, MS, Wine Instructor for the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, Napa, CA
  • The Fashion of Chardonnay: Examining Winemakers’ Stylistic Influence on Chardonnay, moderated by Nicholas Miller, Bien Nacido Vineyards, Santa Maria, CA

213 Sat Seminar & Lunch  _MG_3557Additional events include a Vintners’ Wine Tech Symposium, artisanal sausage and Chardonnay pairings, Sommelier Chardonnay Challenge, two Grand Tastings and La Paulée Dinner and Awards Ceremony. To learn about participation in these events or for tickets, please visit


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LOCAL LOVE, LOCAL FLAIR: Downtown San Luis Obispo Farmers’ Market Gets An Upgrade



Three decades after its inception, the world-famous Downtown San Luis Obispo Thursday Night Farmers’ Market is stepping up its game.

Over the next six months, the San Luis Obispo Downtown Association will unveil several improvements that build on the market’s success, including better access and infrastructure; technology that puts shoppers in real-time contact with farmers and their produce; and augmented hands-on educational opportunities for people of all ages.


To celebrate the refresh, on Thursday, April 9th from 6- 9 p.m., the Farmers’ Market is kicking-off with a free, all-city street party that starts with the unveiling of the new Downtown Association farmstand and market information booth. At 6 p.m., Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson will be on hand to christen the farmstand with seasonal produce from the market at Chorro and Higuera Streets, offering drawings and giveaways of new Downtown SLO Farmers’ Market merchandise like trucker hats and tees.

Then at 6:30 p.m. the market’s mascot, Downtown Brown, will lead the way to the first of the Downtown San Luis Obispo Farmers’ Market “Fresh Picked” Concert Series presented by the San Luis Obispo Collection featuring local favorite, The Damon Castillo Band, at the Harvest Stage located in the Union Bank parking lot.

“After an internal review, we realized that there were a few things that we could do to really take our market to the next level,” says Downtown Association Executive Director, Dominic Tartaglia, whose organization oversees the Farmers’ Market. “After thirty-two years holding this event we had to dig deep to see what those improvements were but, ultimately, we developed a strategy to make the user experience more pleasant and the vendors’ experience more profitable. We want this to be a market that locals continue to attend each week and be proud of when they bring guests with them.”

While improvements roll out, the Thursday Night Farmers’ Market will forever remain:

  • all about LOCAL
  • DIVERSE in its offerings and appeal
  • dedicated to HEALTH and WELLNESS
  • honoring of its rich HISTORY
  • an unforgettable EXPERIENCE, and
  • the HEART of San Luis Obispo and the week.

Established to provide the community with a positive gathering space that also supports local businesses, “Thursday Night Promotions” (as it is officially named) began in 1983 when the San Luis Obispo Downtown Association closed six blocks of Higuera Street from 6-9 p.m. to offer entertainment, special activities, food and shopping every Thursday night. Not long after, farmers were invited to sell their harvest and the event soon became known as the Thursday Night Farmers’ Market.

Since then, Thursday Night Promotions has developed into a weekly, year-round street fair that is consistently named among the nation’s best, complete with top-shelf entertainment; abundant local produce, proteins and grains; family activities; delectable prepared foods; value-added products; and a bicycle valet.

Pierre Rademaker

Pierre Rademaker

“Higuera Street is truly this community’s ‘living room,’” says Pierre Rademaker, longtime resident and owner of Rademaker Design, “and Thursday Night has become our way of sharing it with family, friends and visitors.”

Amber Bixler

Amber Bixler

“Every week, I look forward to Farmers’,” says Amber Bixler, owner of Elevenses Mind & Body Therapy. “My senses are stimulated by the aroma of delicious food from the street vendors, the sound of local musicians and the bright colors and textures of locally-grown foods. This is one reason I love SLO: We are a community that fosters family-run farms and businesses. There’s no better way to showcase that support than through our Thursday Night Farmers’ Market.”

Ken Hampian

Ken Hampian

“The Farmers’ Market is an economic and tourism juggernaut, to be sure,” says former City Manager for San Luis Obispo, Ken Hampian. “But more than that, it’s a civic gathering place, an opportunity for local residents to interact.”

Mike White

Mike White

“From day one, the Farmers’ Market has meant so much to us,” says Mike White, owner of Boo Boo Records, one of Rolling Stone magazine’s top record stores in the nation. “Aside from the statewide (and beyond) spotlight it brought to SLO that has resulted in year-round attention, the actual Thursday night spike in business has been huge.  Really, the Farmers’ Market took SLO to the next level in terms of our ranking among small towns in America and Boo Boo’s is forever grateful.”

For more information about improvements to the Thursday Night Farmers’ Market or the April 9th kick-off party, please visit or call the San Luis Obispo Downtown Association at 805-541-0286.

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“Why Gewürztraminer?” And other good questions.

Clay Thompson & Fredericka Churchill

Clay Thompson & Fredericka Churchill

Full disclosure: We at Parker Sanpei represent Claiborne & Churchill Winery. But it’s equally true that we absolutely love their Alsatian-style dry white wines and cool-climate Pinot Noir. So when we heard that the 2014 Dry Gewürztraminer was being released, we caught up with Founder, Clay Thompson, to get the skinny on the foibles and triumphs of this fascinating, outlier grape. After all, Thompson is known as “The Godfather of Gewürz.”

What does this crazy German word Gewürztraminer mean?

Clay Thompson: “Gewürztraminer” is actually TWO words. The first part (“Gewürz”) is a normal German noun, meaning “spice.” The second part (“traminer”) is not a normal noun but a variant of a place-name, a town called “Tramin,” located in the German-speaking area of Northern Italy.

What are Gewürztraminer’s origins?

For decades we’ve all been spouting the party line that the Gewürztraminer grape originated in Tramin/Termeno, and in fact there are thousand-year-old records of a wine there called “Traminer.” Now along comes DNA research showing that Traminer is actually a variant of a somewhat obscure grape called “Savignin Blanc” (not to be confused with Sauvignon Blanc), and its home is northeastern France and Southwestern Germany rather than northern Italy.

How and why did you get into Gewürztraminer?

My wife [partner, Fredericka Churchill] and I were always rather “European” in our wine preferences. We were both very fond of German and Alsatian wines, so when we got this wacky idea to leave our comfy jobs in academia and move to California “to start a winery” (as if that were a simple thing to do), we took our inspiration from those wines. In the summer of 1983 we went to Alsace and hiked along the “Wine Road” from village to village, tasting the wines and talking to the vintners. We came back inspired and in the fall bought eight tons of Gewürztraminer and Riesling grapes from a local vineyard and made the first vintage – 550 cases – of Claiborne & Churchill.

How does Alsatian-style Gewürztraminer differ from, say, German Gewürztraminer?

Dry_Gewurztraminer_no_vintage_lIt’s generally agreed that the Alsace versions of this wine are more aromatic than their German or Italian cousins. But historically there is another major difference between Alsace wines and the German wines across the border. In a nutshell: Germans make ‘em sweet, Alsatians make ‘em dry. Everybody knows how lovely the delicate sweet Mosel wines are (and how cloyingly sweet the inexpensive versions like Liebfraumilch are). And everybody knows how firm and dry and well-structured an Alsatian Gewürz or Riesling is. For years we have explained our C&C wines in this way. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve said, “try it, it’s fruity but dry,” I could have retired long ago.

Where does C&C Gewürztraminer come from?

In the early years, our Gewürz came from here in the Edna Valley, then from neighboring Santa Barbara and Monterey Counties, finally settling on the latter; especially the Arroyo Seco area, where a very cool microclimate produces wonderful aromatics.

What are the typical aromas and flavors associated with wine made from Gewürztraminer?

Some common descriptors are quite flattering (“damask rose” as one wine writer said of ours), and some, really weird (“cold cream”). The most common is probably lychee. Sometimes Gewürz goes through a grapefruity phase as it develops, and takes on rich and heady notes of ginger, allspice, and other baking spices.

What are the challenges of making it?

As Gewürz ripens on the vine, the famous spicy flavors and aromas start to develop just as the acidity starts to drop. It is important to catch this moment and harvest it before the acid disappears, leaving you with a very flabby wine. In the cellar, fermentation should be temperature controlled (i.e. cold), so you don’t lose all those aromatic esters.

How long between harvest, bottling, and release?

At C&C, it is always the first wine to be bottled, soon in the new year. It can be released after a few weeks’ bottle-aging, although there is something very special about an older (five to ten years) Gewürz, when it has acquired the rich and complex patina of age.

How do you enjoy Gewürztraminer best?

I enjoy Gewürztraminer best in months that contain a vowel, preferably on days that contain a “d.” But seriously, it is not only a great aperitif wine, but is also a great wine to pair with spicy, exotic, foods like Thai, Indian, Szechwan, and Japanese. It also matches up well with those in-between dishes, like pork, ham, turkey and salmon.

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