ATASCADERO — As temperatures reached the upper 90s Saturday, the shade trees at Atascadero Lake Park provided shelter for hundreds of wine enthusiasts as the 23rd annual Atascadero Lakeside Wine Festival brought together more than 50 wineries, all the benefit the nearby Charles Paddock Zoo.
Tira Hoeft with Peachy Canyon Winery said that she’d been pouring the cold whites steadily all evening.
“People are all about the cold wine today,” she said. “It’s been hot, hot, hot. But we love being out here by the lake, it’s so beautiful, there’s so much shade, so much space, it’s awesome. We love it.”
The festivities began Friday evening at the Atascadero Lake Pavilion with the seventh annual Atascadero Kiwanis Club Mayors’ Winemaker Dinner, an event that pairs attendees with a winemaker who pours a different wine with each course of a catered dinner. Another 33 wineries provided tastings at the event before dinner began.
Proceeds from the event go toward a different good cause in the community each year and in the past has paid for improvements at the lake pavilion, the new bandstand at the lake park and contributed funds toward the efforts of local nonprofit organization Parents for Joy who are planning to build an inclusive playground at Colony Park designed for children with special needs.
This year, for the third year in a row, the dinner raised money for the local Boys and Girls Club.
“Kiwanis is very much focused on not only ‘we build stuff,’ like the bandstand, but also children, we want to do things to support children like the Parents for Joy park and the Boys and Girls Club,” Atascadero Mayor Tom O’Malley, a member of the Kiwanis Club, said.
O’Malley said that the dinner has raised about $200,000 for the Boys and Girls Club so far, helping the club get established in the North County and the fund raised were matched by local nonprofit organization Must! Charities.
“It’s a real value of after school programs and enrichment programs and it simply would not have happened in our community unless we, Kiwanis and Must! Charities, came together to get it jump started,” O’Malley said. “It’s kind of grown to a point now where I think the community can support that on an ongoing basis and that was our desire, to get something started and see it ongoing.”
The next morning eager wine enthusiasts from all over the state converged on Atascadero Lake Park to taste through the offerings of 57 wineries, seven breweries and two cider houses and browse other booths selling arts and crafts, clothes, food and more.
“We have them from as far as Orange County, the Central Valley and the Bay Area as well,” said Atascadero Chamber of Commerce President Linda Hendy. “And then there’s a lot of locals too — we call it the locals’ favorite.”
For the past 23 years, proceeds from the wine festival have go to the Charles Paddock Zoo, helping to pay for several new exhibits including the flamingos, the red pandas and the new Madagascar exhibit.
“It started from day one supporting the Charles Paddock Zoo,” Hendy said. “All of the proceeds from this event go to the zoo and each year we have different exhibits that we fund. It’s the only fundraiser, I believe, that the zoo has.”
So far, the event has raised more than $200,000 for the zoo.
Karen Tallent, of the Groves on 41, was at the festival providing sample tastes of a variety of olive oils and agreed that the event has a local-friendly vibe.
“This is a little bit of a local thing,” she said. “You see a lot of people you know here and they see us and it’s a lot of fun. And then the people from out of town like to try something besides wine. It’s great for us, we like it. It’s a good festival, it’s mellow.”