Commentary: Michael Bonaccorsi Scholarship Fund event at Wally’s canceled

Michael Bonaccorsi at Spago on Jan. 11, 1997
(Los Angeles Times)

Top Central Coast wineries, 50 of them, were set to pour their wines for the ninth annual Central Coast Celebration for Michael Bonaccorsi at Wally’s in West Los Angeles on Sunday.

But there was bad news on Thursday: Due to a permit snafu, the event, which benefits the Michael Bonaccorsi Scholarship Fund at Allan Hancock College’s department of viticulture and enology in northern Santa Barbara County, has been canceled.

A statement from Wally’s tells what happened:

“Wally’s has hosted the Central Coast Wine & Food Celebration benefiting the Michael Bonaccorsi sScholarship Fund ince 2004 and over the years we have successfully raised over $300,000. This Sunday’s event was scheduled to be a huge success and was slated to raise an additional $50,000 for the charity. Unbeknownst to us, within the last year the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control has changed their regulations on licenses and permits for wine-related events. Despite our exhaustive efforts with the ABC, consultants and attorneys, due to the change in regulations, the ABC was unable to grant us permitting for this event. Due to these unfortunate circumstances we must cancel the Central Coast Wine & Food Celebration that we have all come to care so deeply about. We will continue to hold charitable events in the future.”


It seems such a shame. Since 2004 when the Bonaccorsi family founded the event, the fundraiser has brought in nearly $350,000 in for the scholarship fund. Bonaccorsi, a master sommelier, was wine director at Spago for a decade. In 1999, he left to pursue his dream of making wine under his own label in the Santa Ynez Valley.

After his sudden death in 2004 at age 43, his widow, Jenne, has continued to run Bonaccorsi Wine Co. and produce limited quantities of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. In 2004, the 2002 Bonaccorsi Pinot Noir was served at the White House for a dinner honoring then-British prime minister Tony Blair.

Now suddenly, because Wally’s couldn’t obtain a permit for the event, all the wineries that had promised to participate -- including Alma Rosa, Brewer-Clifton, Chanin, Demetria Estate, Dragonette Cellars, Fiddlehead Cellars, Foxen, Gainey, Happy Canyon Vineyards, La Fenetre, Melville Winery, Palmina Winery, Qupé Winery, Rusack Vineyards, Talley Vineyards, Tyler and Whitcraft -- along with craft breweries including Figueroa Mountain Brewery, Firestone Walker Brewery and Telegraph Brewing Company have Sunday free.

Central Coast restaurants had planned to be there too, with their signature dishes. That group would have included the Hitching Post II in Buellton, Full of Life Flatbread in Los Alamos, S.Y. Kitchen and Brothers Restaurant at the Red Barn in Santa Ynez. Los Angeles restaurants including République, WP24, Westside Tavern, Succulent Café and others would have also participated.

It would have been great fun for a good cause. Why do the powers that be make these permits so difficult?

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