Former South Pas and Mammoth lakes chief of police Dan Watson (center with cap) and his entourage of visitors to the gourmet event peruse a program of participating restaurants. Photos by Henk Friezer

Early returns for the 8th annual Rotary Club’s Taste of South Pasadena, known this year as Eats on the Streets, which took place on April 16, is that it was an overwhelming success with more people than ever before swarming along Mission Street and Fair Oaks Avenue in downtown South Pasadena.

The overriding consensus for this year’s event was the food and the wine were hugely successful and was one of the reasons people came out like never before.

“There were so many people this year,” said Laurie Wheeler, president and CEO of the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce. “I couldn’t believe how crowded it was. It was great. I think more people were enjoying the food and wine from all the local merchants than ever before.”

South Pasadena Rotary President Charles Wiggington said in an email to The Review that the club raised nearly $30,000 from the wine and ticket sales from the more than 1,200 people that attended this year’s affair. The event raises money for various charities supported by the local Rotary, including a water project in Uganda and building a family home in Tecate, Mexico in a single day. (See related story on pg. 7)

“Our largest fundraiser had over 1,200 attendees and we raised nearly $30,000,” Wigginton said. “I want to thank the 34 restaurants and 15 wineries for making this a memorable event and I want to also thank the Canoe House for allowing the Rotary Club the space and the support. I would like to also thank Marchelle Sellers, Kathy Selders, and Reda Beebe for their work.”

Last year, the event drew just over 1,000 people and raised about $35,000, officials said. The year prior to that saw around 850 people walking the sidewalks of South Pasadena and raised about $25,000. Organizers said they’re pleased the event is growing year after year.

The event this year, held from 6 to 9 p.m., last Tuesday, featured the Garagiste Festival, a micro-wine movement that’s sweeping the nation. The festival has become a mainstay for the event.

The Garagiste Festival portion of the Rotary event featured about 15 micro-wineries this year. Many of the small wineries are experimenting with new ways of making wine, sometimes outside the rule book of wine-making, according to officials.

In fact, Garagiste is a term originally used in the Bordeaux region of France to denigrate renegade small-lot wine makers, sometimes working in their garage, who refused to follow the “rules.” Now it is a full-fledged movement responsible for making some of the best wine in the world, according to officials with the Garagiste movement.

“Many of these wineries are small,” Tom Lake, a longtime So Pas Rotary member, said during an earlier interview. “They don’t have tasting rooms and each one has an incredible story.”

Doug Minnick, one of the founders of the Garagiste movement explained it this way.
“Most of these outstanding, cutting-edge winemakers do not have tasting rooms and can’t be found on wine country maps, but you can taste the incredible range of varieties and styles – and meet the winemakers themselves,” Minnick said in an earlier email to The Review. “Founded in 2011, these casual, fun, limited-ticket events – now held annually in Paso Robles, Santa Ynez, Sonoma, and Los Angeles – typically sell out. See for yourself why we were named the #1 Best Wine Festival in America by USA Today, Best Festival by Sunset Magazine, and Top Ten Incredible Epicurean Destination in the world by ABC News.”

He also said the movement was proud to be a part of the South Pasadena Rotary event again this year.

“The Garagiste Festival is excited to again be bringing 15 under-the-radar micro-wineries to the Taste of South Pasadena,” Minnick said in an earlier email to The Review. “Winemakers of this size are true artisans, making their wines by hand. These exciting, cutting edge-wines will never be found in supermarkets, and believe me, you can taste the difference. The full-size Garagiste Festival returns to LA (Glendale actually) on June 22 of this year.”

Wheeler echoed Minnick’s comments about the excellent wines on display.

“They were great,” she said. “They always are. It’s a special part of the event. I just wish I had more of a chance to sample the food. We came a little late and everything was pretty closed up around 8 p.m. Maybe next year they can adjust. I love tasting the different types of food.”

The Rotary extravaganza also featured cuisine from eateries and bakeries up and down Mission Street and Fair Oaks Avenue and this year the event had a record-breaking 32 restaurants participating.

“Last year we welcomed 1,100 visitors to the Taste of South Pasadena, the largest event yet,” Wiggington said. “This year promises to be even bigger, with the record-breaking number of both restaurants and wineries. We are so excited to host an evening where people can reconnect with one another, enjoy the outdoors, spend time with their families and meet new people. Proceeds from this fundraiser support local and global efforts including eradicating polio, providing clean water, purchasing books, supporting health programs, and much more.”

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Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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