Amour for Amador
Wine events warm up LGBT fans
by Jim Gladstone
After the hustle of the holidays, the New Year provides an opportunity to rethink one's priorities, reignite one's curiosity, and open new chapters in life.
Such a process, on a much grander scale, is familiar to Jack Gorman, a Lodi native who, after living and working in Washington, D.C. for almost two decades, returned to California three years ago, settling with his partner (now husband) in rural Amador County, 45 miles east of Sacramento.
The longtime lobbyist and politico traded in his suits and ties for blue jeans, and began working as the tasting room manager for Scott Harvey Wines.
On the weekend of March 24-26, Gorman and his community of local friends are welcoming members of the LGBT community from far and wide to take a sip of rural reflection for themselves. The first ever Come Out to Amador food and wine weekend is aimed at introducing the region to first-timers, building connections between new friends, and sending attendees home as enthusiastic Amador ambassadors.
Come Out offers an agenda of tastings, pairing lessons, vineyard visits, hikes, farm tours, local history talks, yoga sessions, and delicious meals. Participants will choose among several simultaneous offerings at Saturday's morning and afternoon sessions, with everyone sharing four wine-soaked meals: Friday dinner, Saturday lunch, Saturday dinner with a 'Beer vs. Wine' theme, and a progressive brunch on Sunday.
"We're limiting overall attendance to 75 and most activities will have no more than 15 participants," says Gorman. "I hope it's going to feel like camp. I'd like people to come with old friends and leave having made new friends. The activities aren't available a la carte because we want to build a sense of community over the course of the weekend."
Transportation between activities will also be provided, allowing for non-stop merriment and no run stoplights. A ticket for the full weekend costs $325, exclusive of housing (Three sponsor hotels are offering discount rates).
Amador County, about a two and a half hour drive from San Francisco, is home to more than 45 wineries, particularly notable for their zinfandels. More than 2,000 of the county's 3,300 acres of vineyards are dedicated to zinfandel grapes.
"Nothing against my brethren in Napa or Sonoma," says Gorman. "But wine-tasting here is a completely different experience. And among people who live in Northern California and have been wine tasting for decades, there's a desire for something different."
"When you come tasting here, it's not uncommon to have the vineyard owner or grower doing the pouring," Gorman adds. "It's rare to find a wine snob, but it's common to find people with deep expertise and passion they want to share. I think it's the sort of experience you might have had in Napa or Sonoma twenty years ago. Some of the tasting rooms don't even have a fee," says Gorman, "And it's rare you'll find a bottle over $50."
The county's topology and geology lead to its straddling two distinct appellations –California Shenandoah Valley and Fiddletown– providing opportunity for fascinating comparisons:
Shenandoah Valley zins from the northeast of the county tend to be full-bodied and earthy, combining dark plummy body with notes of forest flavor including cedar and clove. Fiddletown's finest, grown to the west of the valley at higher elevations, reveal a tinge more acidity and bright cherry fruit tones.
"For Come Out to Amador," says Gorman, "We're going to highlight some of these unique aspects. It's going to be very in-depth and one-on-one with makers and providers. We're not having any events that are just tastings. Everything's going to include a lot of perspective."
Gorman explains that the local wineries and restaurants who have collaborated on this first-of-a-kind event are "basically presenting this all at cost. We want people who have never been here to end up telling friends, 'They're doing some cool stuff up there' and sending more visitors our way.
"Our gay community is small, but growing. I have to admit, I had a little trepidation when I first moved to this small rural area. But from the very beginning, I feel like we've been embraced with open arms. And I'm an outgoing person. I've made myself pretty present here."
Last May, Gorman and his partner got married in the wine town. "A lot of our guests were gay and had never been here before," says Gorman. "They told me they felt incredibly welcome. When they went wine tasting in the days before and after, people working in the tasting rooms would ask where they were from and what brought them to town. When they said they were here for a wedding, they'd regularly hear, 'Oh! You're here for Jack and Kyle!'"
Eventually, Gorman says, "some of the business people in town who I most admire asked how I thought we might get more gay people up here. We view this as a steppingstone event for Amador."
For tickets, directions and further details, see www.comeouttoamador.com