Creative Vine blends creativity with dining and wine

By Pixie Sulser

Gina Walter of Ramona sniffs the customized barbecue rub she created at a Creative Vine event at Highland Hills Winery.

“Create, Dine and Wine with Friends!” is the slogan of a new business in town known as The Creative Vine, an enterprise that intertwines social gatherings with the sensory delights of food, drink and creativity.

Calling upon her 30 years of experience in event planning, Ramona resident and Creative Vine owner Barbara Blankenbaker coordinates with local chef Kitty Brisendine of Something Delicious and a variety of resident artisans to offer intimate get-togethers where guests participate in a creative activity while enjoying food and wine at one of Ramona’s wineries.

“This has been a wonderful experience, bringing together so many local resources as well as designing fun events,” commented Blankenbaker, who came up with the idea after being invited to “paint and sip” classes outside of Ramona. “The events were always down the hill, on a weeknight and usually just farther than I wanted to drive. Also, they were more like art classes where participants were invited to bring their own food and wine and everyone painted the same picture. I thought there has to be a way to do this closer to home and to provide a wider scope of activities.”

Part of Blankenbaker’s business plan is to keep things as local as possible. “Our venues are all in and around Ramona, many of the artisans are either from Ramona or a neighboring area, and even the food from Something Delicious always includes produce from local farm stands.”

The Creative Vine’s inaugural event was a sold out affair at Turtle Rock Ridge Winery and featured the creation of a small multimedia painting that could be turned into a greeting card. Subsequent events have included personalized wine glasses, home accent pieces from wine barrel staves, stamped jewelry making and customized barbeue rubs.

“The Barbecue rub event was a great idea,” shared participant Julie McCall, who has attended four other Creative Vine events. “It got the husbands or boyfriends involved and besides, who doesn’t like barbecue? The Highland Hills Winery was a beautiful backdrop for learning about different barbecue techniques, creating customized rubs, sipping wine, eating good food and watching the sun set.”

“The positive feedback after each event has been wonderful,” said Blankenbaker. “I have a handful of guests, men and women, who come every time. People enjoy getting together with friends old and new, sharing scrumptious food and incredible wines in new and beautiful settings.”

What has been her biggest challenge in getting this venture off the ground? “The weather,” laughed Blankenbaker. “Once the occasion is planned and calendared, it will go on.”

A spring event at the Vineyard Grant James began with a mad scramble to clean out a storage barn on the property when one of this year’s rare rainstorms blew through.

“It all worked out, though,” said Blankenbaker. “We were nice and cozy with heaters inside the barn, the food and wine were just as delicious as ever, and the activity, painting wine glasses led by Lorri and Candy, owners of Rusty Scraps located at Affordable Treasures was a wonderful way to spend a rainy day.”

Working for concert promoters most of her adult life and growing up in Connecticut with a mother who took her three daughters to visit the art world of New York City made the birth of The Creative Vine a perfect blending of Blankenbaker’s life experiences.

“My goal is to introduce others to exceptional local artists, delicious culinary treats and to the burgeoning wine business of the area,” she said. “We are a small community with a lot to offer!”

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Posted by Maureen Robertson on Jul 10 2014. Filed under Business. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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