Celebrating Lands, Legacy, and Love of Country at A Western Affair 2019

August 9th, 2019 by Alyssa Rolen

In June, the Rangeland Trust brought together urban and rural communities at A Western Affair 2019 at Wente Vineyards in Livermore, California to celebrate our Western heritage and mutual love of land, legacy, and all things country. Hosted by the Wentes, a family with a long and rich history in both winemaking and ranching, the event highlighted the importance of keeping our land and country vibrant and available to support and improve California for generations to come. And since red meat and red wine go so well together, the event was extra special with a culinary experience like no other.

Image of people gathered around wine barrels
Eric Wente leads Friday night’s VIP wine-blending class.

The weekend kicked off on Friday, June 28 with an exclusive reception and VIP wine blending class at Wente’s Wine Maker’s Studio. Led by Eric Wente—a man who brings humor and a lifetime’s worth of expertise to the art of winemaking—guests uncorked their inner winemakers by blending their own custom creations. After the class, guests mingled with one another, enjoyed delicious food and wine paired to perfection, and watched a spectacular performance by California Rangeland Trust’s Emeritus Director Scott Stone and his band, Stone’s Throw.

The following day, friends of the organization gathered for the main event, A Western Affair. Before entering the venue, they were immediately “wowed” when they spotted the Rangeland Trust’s new showstopper— a traveling bar and educational system to be used for outreach events on ranches. This would later be auctioned for use at a personal event to the highest bidder. After reveling over the trailer’s endless possibilities, guests checked in and were greeted with a superb glass of wine, live country music by Buck Ford, and friendly faces both familiar and new. Next, they headed over to the Tirage building and stepped into a world of Western wonder complete with stunning décor, carefully planned to the very last detail by the Alameda County Cattlewomen, and a silent auction filled with an array of specialty items. It was clear the evening would be one to remember!

Image of tear drop trailer converted into a bar.
The Rangeland Trust’s new teardrop trailer was a huge hit during the live auction.

Following the cocktail hour, California Rangeland Trust Chairman Mark Nelson welcomed guests and thanked Eric and Arel Wente and the Wente family for hosting the event, along with the group of generous sponsors including Raley’s, Murphy Austin Attorneys, Panorama Organic Grass-fed Meats, Farm Credit, E&J Gallo Winery, Rabobank, East Bay Regional Parks District, Lucas Public Affairs, and Westervelt Ecological Services.

As the meal of mouthwatering grass-fed Panorama beef was served, California Rangeland Trust Chief Executive Officer Nita Vail announced the 2019 Conservation Impact Award recipient Russell Austin and Conservationists of the Year Recipients Marilyn and Jerry Russell. While accepting her award, Marilyn brought the audience to tears as she recounted her family’s history in ranching, her reasons for donating the development rights on their Mendocino County ranch to the Rangeland Trust in 2017, and her plans (with no children of her own) to pass on the land to her long-time ranch caretakers. “I didn’t have a lot of wants or wishes, I just wanted to make sure that I was leaving my family’s ranch as a heritage to my parents, and to the wildlife, and to the landscape, and to agriculture; that’s when I sought out California Rangeland Trust,” she said. “When I read the easement language, I thought, ‘Yes! This is the organization that’s by and for ranchers.’”

Mark Nelson and Nita Vail with award winner Russell Austin.
Mark Nelson and Nita Vail with award winner Russell Austin.
After listening to Marilyn’s heartwarming story, Mark returned to the podium with California Rangeland Trust Director Bonnie Atmore to emphasize the importance of bringing various groups together around a common table. “Whether you’re a mother in the city worried about the type of food you put on your family’s plates, a rancher working to preserve the watersheds and natural habitat that pull toxins from the air, or a developer looking to balance the need for more housing with the need for natural resources preserved by grazing, we all have common concerns, and we are all connected,” Mark said. And as Bonnie so beautifully articulated, “If we lose our connection to the land, we will lose our connection to each other and to the bonds we have built on the land. In bridging our diverse communities, we can find common ground and common purpose. And we can celebrate those whether at A Western Affair, or with friends like you year-round.”
Image of people seated around table.
Award winners Marilyn and Jerry Russell enjoying the evening with friends and family.
As the program ended, auctioneer Jake Parnell introduced an exciting lineup of one-of-a-kind experiences available for bidding. Energy ran high as guests raised their paddles to further rangeland conservation efforts. Their generosity benefits all of us by ensuring local food to eat, clean air to breathe, and magnificent open spaces to cherish. As this remarkable weekend concluded, guests danced the night away under the stars.
Guests dancing the night away to live music from Buck Ford.
Guests dancing the night away to live music from Buck Ford.
This weekend affair served as the perfect reminder of why the Rangeland Trust does what it does: To serve the land that provides for all of us, honor the legacy of our nation’s ranchers (past, present, and future) who steward our valuable natural resources, and gather with friends and neighbors from different backgrounds to enjoy some of life’s simplest pleasures. Mark your calendars for A Western Affair 2020 on April 18th at Rancho Mission Viejo in Orange County!

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