Times have changed in Berkeley since I was a kid.
Growing up in Southern California as a pre-teen in the 1960s and a teen in the ’70s, everything I heard about Berkeley involved the word “radical.”
The people who went to school there were radical. The university professors were radical. The politics of the people was radical.
Raised by loving but hopelessly “square” parents, I came to equate “radical” with hippies, long hair and everything that was wrong with our country.
So, it was only natural that I’d feel the same way about Berkeley.
But times change and so do attitudes (if one has an open mind), and I have a completely different perception and opinion of Berkeley today.
For one thing, it’s home to one of my favorite restaurants anywhere – Alice Waters’ wonderful Chez Panisse, where I first learned to love food that was prepared with sustainable ingredients that are good for me.
Good AND good for you? That’s Chez Panisse.
For another thing, Berkeley is home to one of my favorite places to hear live music: a wonderful space known as the Freight & Salvage. A couple of groups called Wake the Dead and Rubber Souldiers – one a Celtic jam band that pays homage to The Grateful Dead, the other a rockabilly/jam band that specializes in Beatles tunes, are headlining the Freight tonight. Wish I could be there…
And while there remains a radical vibe in the town – even if it’s somewhat subdued – Berkeley today also is home to some very refined entertainment.
Take, for instance, the Berkeley Wine Festival at The Claremont Hotel, Club and Spa. It’s really not a festival in the traditional sense, but rather a series of winemaker dinners.
These are not dinners that the radical hippies of the 1960s and ’70s would have populated. Reason: They are expensive – ranging from $130 to $185 per person. For that amount of money, you could buy a lot of supplies at the local co-op.
But, as I’ve noted, there are different times, and I have no doubt that several of the scheduled dinners will end up with waiting lists for seats.
In case you might like to grab one or two of those seats, here is the dinner schedule along with the participating wineries:
* March 17 – Far Niente, hosted by Larry Maguire
* March 31 – Frog’s Leap, hosted by John Williams
* April 7 – Cliff Lede Vineyards, hosted by Jack Bittner
* April 14 – Duckhorn Wine Co., hosted by Dan Duckhorn
* April 21 – Silver Oak Cellars, hosted by Daniel Baron
* April 28 – Cakebread Cellars, hosted by Dennis Cakebread
* May 5 – Phelps Vineyards, hosted by Damian Parker
For further information, go to berkeleywinefestival.com, or call 510-898-0040.