Third annual Toast to East County

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East County enjoys abundant good weather and communities featuring small-town friendliness, all close to land that can produce fine agricultural crops and products. That theme permeated the third annual “A Toast to East County,” staged by the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce on the outdoor patio of the El Cajon Elks Lodge #1812 on Oct. 22.

East County enjoys abundant good weather and communities featuring small-town friendliness, all close to land that can produce fine agricultural crops and products. That theme permeated the third annual “A Toast to East County,” staged by the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce on the outdoor patio of the El Cajon Elks Lodge #1812 on Oct. 22.

East County is now the fastest growing winery area in the country, program emcees disclosed. And East County wineries and vineyards were central participants, joined by local craft breweries, product makers, and restaurants. Route 94 wineries were well represented at the event.

Attendees could experience wine tastings, quaff craft beers, and sample menu highlights from the participating eateries. And that made for a happy, buzzing crowd wandering around the patio tables. Adding to the festive atmosphere was stage music from local Americana singer-songwriter Kathryn Cloward.

Risa Baron, of Jackie’s Jams in El Cajon, was serving spoonful tasters of the company’s handmade jams, and she summed up the sentiments expressed by most vendor participants. “This is wonderful, a really good event, friendly and exciting to be part of local craft food, wine and beer,” she said. “East County is really well-suited for it. There is a special kind of camaraderie here, with lots of mutual support among area businesses.” 

Risa is a co-owner with her husband, David Baron, of the company, which the couple purchased seven years ago from the enterprise’s founder. They have been members of the Chamber for a year, and this was the company’s first time at the Toast gathering. Their involvement stems from their then-five-year-old son, who would eat no peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but ones made with one of Jackie’s Jams. “My husband and I realized that taste matters,” Risa Baron explained. They craft a jam featuring Maness Vineyards wine. Their jams are used in several local restaurants, and the company prefers locally sourced ingredients. The Blood Orange Marmalade, for example, is delicious and is crafted with blood oranges from a Rancho Del Sol grower.

As in prior years, the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce produced the event, with support from the El Cajon Elks Lodge, the San Diego County Vintners Association and Maness Vineyards.

Eric Lund, President of the San Diego East County Chamber, was pleased with the turnout and the success of the event, “We’re just happy to bring together agricultural produces and showcase their great products. And that is what the Chamber is all about.”

Chamber Board Chairman Bob Burton agreed, “This event is growing every year. We thank everyone who came out to enjoy the day. Helping small businesses here in East County is what we do in the local Chamber.”

The event further included presentation of Trail Blazer Awards to individuals who have made significant contributions to the growing local viticulture industry. A representative from the office of State Senator Joel Anderson was also on hand to deliver certificates of recognition for outstanding community service. 

And the unannounced fourth Trail Blazer Award was a surprise one for Greg Maness, who presented the earlier three awards recognizing talented individuals who have been contributing to the rapid growth and success of East County’s wine industry. The Maness Vineyards and on-site Casi Cielo Winery are located in Jamul.

Ticket prices to attend the event ranged from $30 to $45. More information at the Chamber can be found online at www.eastcountychamber.org.

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