The Vines of Ramona

Let the harvest begin!

Being in the music business is not always easy, but if you dive in, the perks often open doors that make up for it! There are opportunities to travel, meet interesting and diverse people, and often experience things you may never have expected. 

karen about_0.JPGSuch was the case many years ago, when after enjoying my gig one Sunday afternoon a few of my devoted followers invited me and husband Trader Dave, to join them on a special outing to taste some good wines. Both of us being people who love people…  and wine, we didn’t skip a beat to say “Sure!”

It was a beautiful drive up winding hills not too far from the bustle of the city to a magical world of wine, and an abundance of homemade delicious food, friendly people of all ages and stages of life, and soothing live guitar music!! THIS was my first experience visiting a winery. 

Herman-tnWe were immediately introduced to Herman Salerno, the proud owner and creator of the winery, and former opera singer, born in Italy and raised in New York. Well, it was instant bonding. My maiden name is Giorgio (“That’s Italian”) and I was raised in New York!!

This day was the start of many such days that followed over the years. We gathered just about every Sunday. Sharing recipes and talking of who would bring what next time was all part of it…often deciding who made the best _____ (fill in the blank).  “Karen, will you bring gazpacho? Mary always puts too much garlic in hers! But don’t tell her that!”  

Let The Harvest Begin

We loved the yearly “grape harvesting” day. Which began at 6AM. One lady was always proudly in charge of preparing the huge and delicious Mexican breakfast. Then…ta dah…the stomping of the grapes!!  Yes, with our feet, of course! Very Lucy-like and really fun! Now that is an experience I never dreamed of.  And, we always had to taste the latest wine creations. Someone had to do it!!!   Herman would proudly unveil the latest wine label design which was often gifted to him by local artists.

Herman quickly discovered I could play just about any Italian aria he knew, so he bought a keyboard and sound system and we evolved into the spotlight on Sundays. I then began playing for others, singing and entertaining. One never knew who might suddenly show up!  

Among them some of Herman’s best friends. One time it was an infamous conductor from Barcelona who gave me a huge compliment. Another time it was the three internationally-known Romero Brothers who often delighted us by strumming their guitars. Music, and, of course, the wine were the perfect pairing to bring us all together. My heart was full. 

Echo Sicilia

Picture this: Sicily, 1912 ... Wait, wrong picture ... San Diego, 21st century: The sun is just setting over the mountains. At dusk the shadows of 3 guitar players strumming are the backdrop as the sun sets. Our bellies are happily filled with homemade delicious (true) Italian pizza created on the spot by proud owner Herman Salerno who also designed and built a huge pizza oven. 3 dogs playing happily amongst all of us after having cooled off a bit in the homemade fountain…yes, designed and built by…you guessed it, Herman!

I got rhythm, I got music!   And…we got plenty of delicious wines to enjoy!   Who could ask for anything more?

This recollection brought up another memory. For my first Cabaret show performance, a few years later, at a huge theatre, over 300 people showed up to lovingly support me and cheer me on!!  One of these lovely ladies even hosted an after party at her local pizza place in Little Italy. Not quite Herman’s pizza and wine but his “spirit” was definitely there. 

Alas, Herman is no longer with us but the seeds of his efforts live on and have multiplied. The Ramona area in San Diego county is now a thriving wine country. You will find many fascinating small, family wineries amid the hills of northern San Diego county. There are many, mostly weekend, wine-tasting tours based in downtown San Diego.