The 2nd annual Wine Festival kickoff is this weekend

by The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey

With the Sonoma and Napa Valley only an hour away from the big cities, Northern Cali is known for its exquisite wineries that are ranked, because of their texture and taste, right up there with the great wineries of France and Spain, they serve their wines in coolers at the right wine serving temperature, and their taste is a complete pleasure.

Melody-Fuller-198x300, The 2nd annual Wine Festival kickoff is this weekend, Culture Currents
Melody Fuller

Melody Fuller is the founding director of the Second Annual Oakland Wine Festival, which starts on July 16, 2016, and the Oakland Wine and Food Society, and I wanted to talk with her about her organization as well as this very important festival that is organized locally for an international audience. Check her out in her own words.

M.O.I. JR: Who is the Oakland Wine and Food Society?

Melody Fuller: The Oakland Wine and Food Society is a nonprofit educational and charitable corporation whose purpose is to promote the knowledge and understanding of wine, winemaking, viticulture and the appreciation of wine and food. We will accomplish these objectives through our intimate workshops, special events, unique excursions, customized wine camps and by building relationships with winemakers and chefs around the world.

M.O.I. JR: Why was it created and what’s its mission?

Melody Fuller: The Oakland Wine and Food Society was created because of the demand expressed from many of our patrons and supporters who attended the First Annual Oakland Wine Festival and our year-long events in 2015. These wine curious and wine enthusiasts wished to have a place to meet the winemakers, chefs and others on a regular basis; hence the Oakland Wine and Food Society was founded in the fall of 2015.

M.O.I. JR: Why did you create the Oakland Wine Festival?

Melody Fuller: The Oakland Wine Festival was created to invite world class winemakers who are also my friends to spend time in Oakland with some of their loyal patrons and friends. Oakland residents and the Greater Bay Area residents provide tremendous support to the Napa Valley and Sonoma County wineries.

Michael Silacci, winemaker for Opus One, KR Rombauer III of Rombauer Vineyards and Russ Weis of Silverado Vineyards are the core co-thinking-founders and key supporters of the Oakland Wine Festival. We envisioned what it would be: Something that was unlike any other, and we succeeded!

M.O.I. JR: What is going to happen at the Second Annual Oakland Wine Festival this year?

Melody Fuller: Amazing things! California’s first ever double blind tasting for consumers, the media, trade and Sommeliers is happening. This is an Oakland Wine Festival first!

Wine enthusiasts, buyers, Sommeliers, winemakers, winery owners and the curious and YOU are invited to taste and privately rank the wines.

Every attendee will privately score each wine tasted by depositing a score in the sealed box in front of each wine. Winemakers and vintners, trade, media, Sommeliers and wine enthusiasts will have different scoring colors to further designate who and how your wine was scored.

We will also have intimate winemakers’ luncheons, elegant seated grand tasting, Winemaker Supper Club and a series of winemaker dinners. Our silent auction is a treat, as will be our Wine Pull.

M.O.I. JR: How do you choose which wineries will be in the festival?

Melody Fuller: Participation is by invitation only to winemakers. Participating winemakers are comprised of 99 percent people we know and who call us friend. This year we have expanded to invite more of the winemakers and winery owners in Sonoma County. We are getting to know them at our Kick-Off Party, which will be held on June 11 at Pican Restaurant in Oakland from 1 to 5 p.m. Drop in!

For July 16, we have an iconic winemaker flying in from Spain to be with us. A separate press release will announce who that winemaker is. Stay tuned!

M.O.I. JR: What makes a good wine cultivation-wise and taste-wise?

Melody Fuller: Spending time with us at one of our seated events where you get to meet the winemaker or winery owner.

M.O.I. JR: What else do you do besides this festival throughout the year?

Melody Fuller: We have monthly kick-off seated tastings and soirees with our Honorary Steering Committee members. Each member is featured on their selected month. We have special events. We are gearing up for the First Annual Oakland Wine Camp, which will happen Nov. 5-9, 2016. We have donated to over a dozen charitable organizations in 2016 so far. I am a writer, editor and soon to be a publisher. Stay tuned!

Fire-destroys-10-businesses-73rd-MacArthur-East-Oakland-052116-3am-by-PNN-228x300, The 2nd annual Wine Festival kickoff is this weekend, Culture Currents
These photos of the terrible, mysterious fire that destroyed 10 businesses at 73rd and MacArthur in the wee hours of May 21 ran on the front page of the June Bay View. Fires tend to increase in neighborhoods like this one that are under heavy gentrification pressure. – Photo: Poor News Network

I am deeply involved in the threads of my community. I shed tears when I saw what looked like an implosion on 73rd and MacArthur. I am outraged that the block being burned has not been turned up and that no buckets are being passed and no cameras are still rolling to keep the 73rd burning a topic of discussion.

I don’t know how, who or what happened. I just know that if a whole block of businesses in any other part of my city had been burned like that, I would know everything about that block, those businesses, their families, their customers.

See why I stay focused on what I can do with wine to raise up my city? I have to. Its’ my job to do the best at what I can do. We were named Best Westerner by Sunset Magazine in 2015, our first year, for what we do.

I want one of my community programs for the Oakland Wine and Food Society to be a way to provide a four course seated dinner to the parents of those in my community at large who may not have had such a meal or who don’t get to do that type of dining so often. I want the Oakland Wine and Food Society to do for others as I would like to have done for me if I could no longer have four course meals or a meal to remember that has even one course.

I tied my grief of 73rd and my love of my city to another reference to the number 73 – the Warriors and their never to be forgotten 73 wins. How does the Oakland Wine and Food Society and providing a luxurious meal to parents and partners and the burning of 73rd tie together, you ask?

I want to claim and name it, as I have, the 73rd Project, so that 73rd and MacArthur, too, is never forgotten. The 73rd Project takes that number, Oakland’s beloved street, our main corridor, and we uplift families and do something of substance for them.

While only God knows what happened on 73rd or why the number 73 may now have additional personal meaning for Oakland folks, the 73rd project needs a launch, love, community and a voice. Will you help me to do that?

I guess you could say when I am not doing work on the Oakland Wine Festival and on the Oakland Wine and Food Society, for which the planning is a 364 day process, I am focused on community, especially my community. I am a native daughter of Oakland, California, graduated from Parker Elementary School, which is a few short blocks from 73rd Avenue. I am Oakland.

M.O.I. JR: How could people keep up with you and the festival online?

Melody Fuller: Twitter: @OaklandWineFest, Instagram: @OakWineFest, Facebook: search for Oakland Wine Festival. Thank you, JR. Thank you.

The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’“ and “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2“ and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe“ and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at He can be reached at