Nothing can keep a group of determined women from having a party with a purpose. When the Gabilan Chapter Kinship Center’s 65th Annual Wine & Food Tasting kicks off at Paicines Ranch on Sept. 11, it will feel like victory, especially for Kris Waller, who has been active with the group since 1980, and has worked on the committee to put on the event ever since.
“We are so pleased to be having our annual event on September 11, at Paicines Ranch, with no restrictions,” Waller said. “We are so excited and so are our loyal supporters. We already have 27 restaurants confirmed, our sponsors from last year are all back.”
Tickets are on sale at gabilankinship.org/wine-and-food-tasting-event.
It’s a big deal to keep the Kinship tasting going, as it may well be the longest consecutively running wine tasting event of its kind in California. Although they weren’t able to hold an in-person tasting, the group didn’t let Covid-19 totally stop them last year.
“We were still able to host a successful Virtual Wine & Food Drawing in 2020,” Waller said. “Many of our current active members were not even born when this fundraiser began, so I think it’s important to share the history of how it started and evolved over the years.”
The group originally formed in 1956 with 35 charter members as the El Torillo Chapter of Children’s Home Society, with a mission to raise funds to support adoption and foster family care. The Children’s Home Society served all of California with multiple chapters.
Waller was in grade school when her mother hosted meetings at their home, using fine china, a formal tea set and crystal. In speaking with Marge Brady, an original charter member, she learned that President Margie Gabriel came up with the idea of having a wine tasting for their fundraiser.
“Marge told Margie, ‘it would never work.’ We are so glad she was wrong,” Waller said.
The first event was held in 1957 on the lawn of Bob Law Ranch in Paicines, kicking off a beloved tradition.
An article from the period stated, “Approximately 200 guests were present for the garden party which included the showing of the new fall styles from Towntry Fashions.” The only wines served were from Almaden Vineyard, and the cost to attend was $3 per couple. Cheeses from Marin French Cheese Company were served, and antique automobiles were grandly displayed.
An invitation-only affair, the “Wine Tasting Party” became the social event of the year, and was held at the Law Ranch from 1957 through 1974. It featured a fashion show to present the latest styles for the fall season—hence the September date. Among the most memorable was “Popular Paper Fashions,” designed by Mrs. Mette Paris of San Luis Obispo, with models dressed in paper clothing.
In 1975, the venue moved to the gardens at the home of Mrs. Joseph Annotti on Airline Highway. The food menu expanded beyond cheeses to include barbecued sausages and appetizers. For the next 14 years, the Wine Tasting Party was held here, each year adding more wineries to the roster.
Things changed in 1989, when the party moved to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Christensen on Santa Ana Valley Road. In addition to 12 wineries participating, local restaurants were invited to make trays of appetizers, and 23 of them answered the call. Waller said that they spent months pairing wines with the food. A rare thunderstorm forced them inside that year.
“Fortunately, Frank Christensen was the designer and manufacturer of the aerobatic sporting biplane, the Christian Eagle, and had a beautiful, large, spotless hangar that served as our alternate location ‘in case of rain!’” she recalled.
Children’s Home Society served all of California, and after about 35 years, the group wanted to see more money coming back to San Benito County, to help children and families in the local community. In 1990, the active members of Children’s Home Society unanimously voted to disband and reorganize under the Children’s Services Center out of Monterey as the Gabilan Chapter. Later, in 1995, the name was changed to Kinship Center and their offices were moved to the current location in Salinas.
Additionally, the big wine tasting event was relocated to its original location, the Law Ranch, which is now known as Paicines Ranch. In 2001, the ranch was purchased by Sallie Calhoun and Matt Christiano.
“The grounds are beautiful and have been expanded over the years to be able to accommodate the 28 wineries and 34 restaurants, along with an estimated crowd of over 1,000 in the past,” Waller said, adding that she’s hoping for a great turnout this year.
The Gabilan Chapter Kinship Center is still a group of 35-40 women, many of whom are third-generation volunteers. While the meetings have taken many different formats, the purpose remains the same: raising funds to support children in finding their forever homes.
According to Doreen Luke, who has been Kinship Development Director since 2017, “The organization’s growing continuum of child and family services throughout the Central Coast region of California annually provide some 1,500 youth caregivers with support to better understand and cope with trauma and stress, increase their compassion and resilience, and improve communication skills. Services include adoption and foster-adoption programming, innovative parenting classes, wraparound, outpatient mental health therapy, mobile crisis response, hands-on support to relative caregivers, staff-led parent/child playgroups, and play-based therapeutic activities and youth camps.”
The Gabilan Chapter Wine & Food Tasting has raised close to $1.5 million for Kinship Center to help support this mission.