Our Laguna: 'Most successful Grapes for Grads' yet

Many a glass was raised at the sixth annual Grapes for Grads, hosted by Rotary Club of Laguna Beach, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year.

The wine tasting/birthday bash, held April 17 at Tivoli Too, raised funds for scholarships for Laguna Beach High School graduates and students attending the Laguna College of Art & Design.

"Grapes for Grads is a good fit with Rotary," said Bank of America Vice President Jeff Redeker, who co-chaired the event with Stephen Dotorotos.

Rotary, which jointly sponsored the previous fundraisers with the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, became the sole host this year.

Laguna's Rotary Club was founded in 1931 by 12 local business men. The club now has 54 men and women actively supporting the international organization's goals. They meet Fridays at the Aliso Creek Inn.

President Linda Saville attended the fundraiser and helped Mayor Toni Iseman cut the birthday cake for the event at Montage Resort & Spa.

"We were thrilled with the event," Saville said. "It exceeded our expectations in turnout and the number of wineries that supported us. We had to squeeze them in, but that added to the excitement. It was our most successful Grapes for Grads to date."

And the weather was perfect for the event, if a little chilly for the folks who were dressed for the hot temperatures of the previous day.

"Cooler weather is better for the wine," said Peter Jones, formerly the wine meister at Pavilions in North Laguna and a member of the event committee.

More than 80 wineries participated this year, including Zonin, which supplies the Italian sparkling wine Prosecco to Harry's in Venice, Italy, where Bellinis were invented.

Bellinis are a mixture of Prosecco and peach juice instead of orange juice and champagne like a mimosa.

Grapes for Grades is the brainchild of Redeker and Tom Simpson, started in 2005, when both were on the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. The first event was so much fun and so successful, the founders decided to make it an annual event.

As the event grew, so did the funds raised for scholarships.

"We netted about $15,000 this year, all of it going to scholarships," Redeker said. "We focus on students who show excellence in academics or at and a strong commitment to community and who may otherwise lack the resources for the very best education."

Laguna Beach High School graduate Sophia Patrico offered thanks for the scholarship she received in 2010 helped her to go to Claremont McKenna College, her first choice. She said the fundraiser supporters make it possible for students to get a jumpstart on achieving their dreams.

Camille Borges, an alumna who received a scholarship in 2010, said Grapes for Grads allowed her to go UC Berkeley.

Laguna College of Art & Design student James Bertucci said he was able to continue his studies at the college because of the scholarship he received last year..

"With the rise in tuition prices and being from a middle class family with two other siblings in college as well, this year was difficult," Bertucci wrote in thanks. "However, with the support of the generous donors who make the Grapes for Grads scholarship possible, I was able to support myself for this school year."

The scholarship investment in LCAD junior Courtney George paid off this year. Her logo design was chosen for Grapes for Grads VI.

"As a student at Laguna College of Art & Design, I find it very important to be part of the event as it gives back to arts education in Laguna Beach," she said.

Maria Dudley, an LCAD alumna with a master's degree in fine arts and now a member of the college staff, was among the artists who showed off their techniques or experimented with new media or styles at the event.

Sophomore Damien Enriquez was trying his hand at bas relief for the first time. Enrique Escobade has begun working on larger sized canvases.

"I want to go even bigger," Escobade said.

Rebekah Kim was painting a portrait of the past — herself and her sister as children.

"I will do mostly portraits for my graduation portfolio," said Kim, a senior.

Calvin Newland, also a graduating senior, said art can't get more sophisticated than portraiture. His mediums are oils and printmaking.

Brian Maldini and Jim Cook both work in oils.

"Nudes are my favorite," Cook said.

Drawing and painting major Michelle Farro displayed her woodcuts.

The event also included a buffet prepared by K'ya Bistro that included crostini with beef, mozzarella and olive skewers, cheddar chicken empanada with cilantro chili sauce, mini crab cakes, curried chicken, falafel balls and gyro meat.

Event coordinator Maggie Hempen helped serve.

The Alexander Burke Trio performed.

Kerry Redeker and chiropractor Veronica Nice chaired the live auction. Among the donated items: a session with Nice; Pageant of the Masters tickets, a quilt handmade by event committee member Marge Earl; Robin K. Hall's note cards; art glass by John Barber; Simpson's seats at an Angels game; and a Marine Room Tavern sweatshirt donated by Councilman Kelly Boyd, who attended the event with his wife, Michelle.

Other donors included Cindy Stalnaker, David Solomon, Lu Campbell, Scott Moore, Debra Steel, Joyce Lowder, Fred Eck, Rosanne Nitti, Pamela Simpson, Lawrence Sherwin, Cynthia Britain, the Sawdust Festival, Laguna Playhouse and Laguna Beach Live!, and Rick Lang, who shot the photograph of Saville and Iseman. Local restaurants Claes, La Sirena and Polina's Salerno also contributed.

Kimberly Salter was in charge of raffle ticket sales. Prizes included a year of oil changes from USA Express Tire & Service—Goodyear; a gift certificate from Laguna Art Supply and a CIA money clip.

The opportunity prize was a one-night stay at the Montage.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Doctor's Ambulance Service, the Kenneth A. Picerne Foundation, K'ya, the Hill and John L. Campbell insurance agencies, Lippa Insurance Services, Schiffer & Buus APC, Coldwell Banker Laguna Beach, Christopher Tower and Bob Celio, Lauren and Richard Packard, the Marine Room and Super Dave's Print & Mail sponsored the event

In the crowd at Grapes for Grads: Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson, City Treasurer Laura Parisi, Arts Commissioner Mary Ferguson, Festival of Arts board member Anita Mangels, John and Rebecca Barber, Zahide and Harry Lawrence, Gayle Waite, Harry Bithell, Dave Sanford, and Dennis and Leslie Power.

BARBARA DIAMOND can be reached at (949) 302-1469 or coastlinepilot@latimes.com.

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