Wining, dining and ogling shoes: While those pursuits may sound a little self-centered, a pair of events next weekend put the focus on helping the community while wining, dining and ogling shoes.
Even though both wine-tasting fundraisers have similar goals, each event will provide an experience as distinctive as the organizations they will benefit.
The first, A Taste of Grace, hosted by Grace Episcopal Church, will offer guests a music-filled evening with all proceeds going to the Alliance Against Family Violence and the Bakersfield Homeless Center. Wine, Women & Shoes puts its most fashionable foot forward with a fashion show and an evening of shopping to raise funds for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Kern County.
"We try to set this up to be an affordable and fun evening for the community that would allow us to make it accessible to a lot of different people," said Miriam Raub Vivian who has coordinated A Taste of Grace since its inception in 2009.
The Grace parishioner and CSUB history professor manages the "many hands and feet" of the community volunteers who help with the execution of the event, keeping both costs and ticket prices low.
"Everybody working is volunteering their time -- everybody from the pourers to the performers," she said. "We have a lot of wonderful people working very hard for free on this, and that helps us be able to give more to the Alliance."
Unlike typical wine-tasting events, where individual wineries send their products along with a representative to pour, the wine selection at A Taste of Grace is a mix of donations from wineries as well as private collections.
The result is an incredibly diverse assemblage of wines, featuring familiar Napa Valley and Central Coast favorites such as Rutherford Ranch and J. Lohr, and slightly more exotic selections from Italy and Argentina.
Included in the $30 ticket are hors d'oeuvres, a chance to bid on silent auction items, and an evening of live entertainment as varied as the wines being poured.
In addition to DJ and master of ceremonies Peter Wonderly, there will be live performances interspersed throughout the night, including a Latin dance group, a jazz ensemble, classical violinists and even a madrigal choir.
Wine, Women & Shoes
But if you wear out your dancing shoes, don't worry: Chances are, they'll be serving up a fresh pair the next day at Wine, Women & Shoes.
Founded by Elaine Honing of Napa Valley, Wine Women & Shoes is a nationwide event dedicated to help raise money for charities that benefit women and children. Earning more than $100,000 for her organization last year, CASA resource manager Teresa Fahsbender was more than happy to try this footwear-themed fundraiser on for size a second time.
"It was a great opportunity for people from the community to get together and support a great cause. We had people of all ages -- people brought their sisters, their wives, their grandmothers and their mothers. It just gives you a chance to get away for the day and have some fun, do some shopping and drink some great wine."
Speaking of shopping, there will be plenty of it, in the form of the many silent and live auction items and the season's latest shoe fashions, served up on silver platters by the dashing "Shoe Guys."
The featured shoes of the afternoon are paired with an accompanying wine -- so a rich, leathery syrah might be paired with a chunky, suede boot.
There will be even more shopping in the "designer marketplace," where 12 vendors will be selling accessories you may need to complete your new shoe-centered ensemble.
Each pair of shoes starts at about $40, but here's a thought to help keep any pesky feelings of buyer's remorse at bay: A portion of the proceeds from every pair of shoes or any other item sold will be donated directly back to CASA.
As for the wine, there will be unlimited pours provided by 14 of the Wine, Women & Shoes partner wineries. Two scheduled to make an appearance at this event are Justin Vineyards and Sextant Wines.
But if you want to experience the thrill of scoring a killer pair of boots while knowing your money will be going to help a great cause, you'd better act quickly: Fahsbender said tickets are going fast and will not be available for purchase on the day of the event.
"I think people of all ages will have fun at this," she said. "But the most important thing is that we're raising money for CASA and to help these kids. Or, as we like to put it, 'change your shoes, change a child's life.'"