Aug 5, 2011 2:41 AM by Jeanette Trompeter

No Place Like Home: Winemakers Cookoff

We have done so many stories about the tough financial woes schools and students in our area are facing. Tonight we have a story of how people in the community are stepping up to make a big difference. And they're having a ball in the process. It's another reason, there's no place like home.

Even on a weekday, the tasting room at Tobin James Cellars in Paso Robles is plenty busy. But the leader of the "James Gang" himself, Tobin James, has his mind on the grill instead of the grapes this week. "It's competitive. You gotta' do a good job, 'cuz there's some guys that come up with some really great recipes." says James.

Tobin and his grilling crew are getting ready for this weekend's Winemakers Cook-off. "Everyone wants to know what the James Gang is going to do and we won't disappoint." He'll be competing with his buddy and fellow winemaker Gary Eberle.

Gary and Tobin love to grill and came up with the idea to start a competition for a good cause 13 years ago. And with help from the Paso Robles Rotary, and dozens of fellow winemakers, they have raised almost 350-thousand dollars over the years for Paso Robles high school seniors who could use some help getting to college. "'Cuz I got to school on a scholarship. Without a football scholarship there was no way I was going to go to college. I was going to a steel mill back in Pittsburgh." says Eberle as he's shopping for spices for his entry into the competition. James says the rivalry is half-the fun, but to know where the money goes to makes it a really great event. "It's such a worthwhile cause for these kids who are getting straight A's but they just, financially are held back."

Their good will means you'll be sampling some of the best wines from about 25 local vitners, and the best grub off the grill you'll find anywhere. "Some recipes are from people's grandmothers and some are from just all over the world. There's fish dishes, and all kinds of...everything you can imagine on a barbecue grill, it will be out there." says James.

The only rule is whatever they pair their wines with, has to be cooked on a grill. And their quest to get your vote for the people's choice award adds an extra element of fun to the event. "You're allowed to bribe. You can bribe people. So it makes it a lot more interesting." says James. "Giving away hand rolled cigars, truffles, tastes of 20 year old wines from big bottles." adds Eberle. "The competition between wineries is a blast."

It's also an example of the spirit of our central coast vitners, and how they serve up more than just award winning wines, but heartwarming proof, there's no place like home. "I mean where can you go to taste 25 different dishes? It's hard to even eat that much food really, so come hungry!" says James.

Tickets are 75-dollars but if you consider you're getting a full meal, great wines, dessert and a band...plus it goes to a good cause, it's easier to fork over the cash. And if you're the designated driver and not tasting the vino, you can eat to your heart's content for $40.



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