Wally's Central Coast Wine & Food Celebration, a nonprofit wine and food tasting event that began eight years ago to support the Michael Bonaccorsi Scholarship Fund, has unexpectedly been cancelled this year.
"We just don't have a place to do the event," says the event's volunteer publicist, Jannis Swerman. "Wally's has always hosted [the event] but told us they can't this year."
The Michael Bonaccorsi Scholarship Fund was founded in 2004 at UC Davis in memory of Bonaccorsi, the former director of Spago's wine program as well as a winemaker (and the 20th American to receive a Master Sommelier designation).
According to the Bonaccorsi Foundation's website, the more than $150,000 raised by Wally's Central Coast Wine & Food Celebration over the past eight years (get a slideshow of past events here) has been the primary source of funding for the foundation's annual academic scholarship at UC Davis' Department of Viticulture and Enology. More recently, the foundation added a scholarship at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria.
"It was a tough decision because it was Michael," said Mario Moya of Wally's Wines when LA Weekly contacted him yesterday (If you didn't know Bonaccorsi, ask around, and you'll find he elicits similar "it was Michael" admiration across the board). "But the city was coming down on us, [requiring] extra permits with the cooking and other things," he continues. "Upper management and ownership decided we couldn't do it this year."
If an alternative event sponsor is not found (Suggestions anyone?), Swerman suggested donations be made directly to the scholarship fund at UC Davis. But celebrating a wine lover's life and career with good food, good wine, and good friends is a whole lot more fun. Restaurants that have participated in the past include Mozza, Jar, Spago, Lucques, Mélisse -- we could go on. Not to mention the great Central Coast wineries (Au Bon Climat, Melville, Alma Rosa, Talley, Palmina among them).
And so here's to hoping, in honor of Bonaccorsi, his family, friends and those students who have received viticulture scholarships, that this local -- and refreshingly glam-free and grassroots -- fundraising event finds a new sponsor in the coming months.