Scenic sips in Sonoma: Gay Wine Weekend raises funds for HIV nonprofit

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Tuesday July 2, 2024
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Attendees at a previous Gay Wine Weekend event<br>(photo: Out in the Vineyard)
Attendees at a previous Gay Wine Weekend event
(photo: Out in the Vineyard)

Drink to your good health from July 19-21 when Out in the Vineyard, an LGBTQ+ tour and event company, offers its annual series of events that promise a great time to be had by all. With an itinerary filled with wineries, restaurants and more, attendees will not only be partying for three days, they'll be raising funds for Face to Face, an HIV/AIDS organization in Sonoma County.

Attendees at a previous Gay Wine Weekend event (photo: Out in the Vineyard)  

Gay Wine Weekend will bring together lovers of fine wines at events where people can connect and make new friends. According to Gary Saperstein, founder and owner of Out in the Vineyard, the weekend will be filled with delicious wines and with the love that exists in the LGBTQ+ community.

In an interview with the Bay Area Reporter, Saperstein spoke extensively about what's planned for the weekend, and about the work done by Face to Face.

David-Elijah Nahmod: First please tell us how Gay Wine Weekend came to be. Is this an annual event?
Gary Saperstein: Gay Wine Weekend is now in its 13th year. It actually started out as a one-day event called the Twilight T-Dance. It began as a way to bring our queer community together in the Sonoma Wine Country, as I felt that no one was talking to us at all.

Attendees at a previous Gay Wine Weekend event (photo: Out in the Vineyard)  

At the first T-Dance 300 people showed up. It was amazing and I will never forget one person coming up to me saying that he never knew or felt that we were being acknowledged here in the region. Then we did the T-Dance for more years and each year people would ask where to stay, dine, and wine as they wanted to make a weekend out of it. Hence, Gay Wine Weekend was born.

Please tell us about Face to Face, who they are and what they do.
Face to Face began at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Sonoma County, in Guerneville, in 1983. It became the place where young men from San Francisco would go to live out their last days. It was a group of women who saw the need to help out these young men during these awful times.

Over the years Face to Face continues to evolve where their mission is their community in Sonoma County. Every day they open up their doors, and mobile van, to Sonoma County residents, especially for those at risk of chronic disease or illness. Rooted in their longstanding work as a response to the AIDS crisis, they support with no judgment and make it easy for a person to connect to what they need with a listening ear and a warm heart.

Attendees at a previous Gay Wine Weekend event (photo: Out in the Vineyard)  

Can you say something about continuing to support people with HIV?
HIV is still with us. It is not over. There is now an entire generation of young people who are not aware of what happened, or just how awful a time it was. Education is so important to make people aware. HIV rates in Sonoma County have gone up in recent years. We need organizations such as Face to Face to bring awareness to HIV and its prevention and care programs. The work is far from over.

Please share some details about the eight diverse events that make up the weekend.
When guests arrive for Gay Wine Weekend, they start by attending a VIP opening Wine and Biz Expo. It's a great way to try a number of wines from the Russian River Valley Wine Region of Sonoma County while getting to meet other attendees of the weekend.
On Friday evening, there are winemaker dinners in a number of locations for guests to choose from.

Attendees at a previous Gay Wine Weekend event (photo: Out in the Vineyard)  

On Saturday Wine Tours take guests all around the region for tasting and tours. Saturday evening is the signature event of Gay Wine Weekend, The Twilight T-Dance at the La Crema Winery Estate, our premiere Gay Wine Weekend sponsor.

On Sunday we start with a Drag Queen Brunch hosted by Ruby Red Munro and friends, followed by a wine auction with our most fantastical auctioneer Michael Tate.

The weekend ends with a Chill Pool Soiree that is hosted at a private estate in the region. And I almost forgot to mention that there are afterparties on both Friday and Saturday evenings. This year the Friday after party has a theme, Sparkle.

Attendees at a previous Gay Wine Weekend event (photo: Out in the Vineyard)  

Is this an event that everyone can enjoy?
Absolutely. I want Gay Wine Weekend to be a tapestry of our community, and it is getting more and more diverse each year. It is open to all, including allies. It's about community and connection to me.

It takes a village to make this event happen and it has become a signature yearly event here in Sonoma County. It proves that marketing to the LGBTQ+ community proves to be beneficial to the community. I am most proud that the event has helped raise over $600,000.00 for Face to Face over the past decade.

Gay Wine Weekend at various Sonoma County venues, July 19-21, $45-$1050

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