Christine Ryan

Melody Fuller is the mastermind behind Oakland's first-ever wine festival.

There’s no shortage of places to sip a casual glass in the Bay Area—or events that pair many sips and bites. But when was the last time you took a deep dive with a vintner at a wine festival?

Former Oakland community-relations strategist (and now wine writer) Melody Fuller saw a need to be met. As she says, “When I travel, I get to meet with winemakers. Why shouldn’t everybody else get that too?” The result: a gathering of hand-selected winemakers to be held at her alma mater, Mills College, on July 18 (from $220).

Q: Walk us through the day.

MF: I picked the winemakers I’d love to hear on a panel—from Napa Valley, Sonoma County, throughout California, and Italy and France—for the morning master classes and seminars. We’re also doing intimate luncheons, where each vintner will be seated with seven people. In the afternoon, people will sit with a winemaker in groups of five, and they’ll get 20 minutes to taste two wines. Then a series of receptions—our fabulous chefs from Oakland will be plating—and winemaker dinners.

Q: Chefs—who?

MF: James Syhabout at Commis, Tanya Holland from Brown Sugar Kitchen, Paul Canales from Duende ... do you want me to keep going? I call them our Oakland All-Stars.

Q: And why Oakland?

MF: At Sonoma and Napa and Central Coast tasting rooms, a huge part of their business comes from Oakland area zip codes. We would not get Smith-Madrone, Rombauer, Silverado, Opus OnePride, and Hestan if the market weren’t here. When people talk about the new Oakland, I say, “No, you are new to Oakland!” We’ve always had a deep, rich food history. When I was growing up, my parents took me down to Swan’s Market and Housewives’ Market. That was the first farm-to-table.

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