With Ken Martin

To contraphrase the author Gertrude Stein’s famous comment about Oakland that, “There is no there, there”, I have to say about Castro Valley that, “There is plenty of here, here”. Among the many interesting “heres” here are the summer concerts at Westover Winery, deep in Palomares Canyon.

Patty and I recently attended a kind of “preview” concert and barbecue here a couple of weeks ago. Except for the fact that it rained most of the time, which created many logistical problems for Bill (Westover) Smyth and the winery staff, it was a very nice day.

It was intended for all the major activities to be outdoors, but the rain dictated that they be moved into a more sheltered environment. To this end, many wine aging barrels were removed from one of the aging rooms so that wine tasting could be done inside.

The band, “Monsters of Rock”, originally scheduled to play by the large deck behind the tasting room, which was also to be the eating area, was sequestered under a sheltered colonnade next to a Spanish-style patio (complete with a fountain) that became the eating area. As good fortune would have it, the rain minimized so no one got too wet while they were partaking of the barbecue and listening to the music.

The barbecued ribs and chicken were done up in one of the biggest barbecuers I’ve ever seen. This thing was about 12 feet long, about 6 feet high and maybe 5 feet wide. It looked big enough to barbecue the entire Harris Ranch. The barbecued fare was good but somewhat undercooked. Maybe big is not necessarily better.

I was, at first, reluctant to attend an event that featured a band named “Monsters of Rock”. I wasn’t sure that my old, tired ear bones would be up to it. Bill Smyth assured that it wouldn’t be that bad or that loud and he was right. This group of six local (Castro Valley, San Leandro, and an immigrant from Cloverdale) business men cum musicians played primarily 1960’s stuff and even adjusted their volume to compensate for the echoes in the mostly enclosed patio. Listening was enjoyable, made even more so by the fact that the players themselves were obviously having a good time entertaining the folks.

Two dogs and a six-toed cat live here, or maybe I should say, own this place. At least, they think they do. At one point, the dogs parked themselves in the middle of the driveway. When a car came, they were not about to move. They finally had to be shooed out of the way by one of the staff so the car could pass.

About 15 “new release” wines were put out for tasting, using oak barrels for tables. Patty and I started at one end and stopped at the other, making sure that we didn’t miss anything along the way.

Wine tasting, to me, is very subjective. It really doesn’t make any difference to me how many medals have been won (and Westover Wines have won their fair share). If I personally like the taste, then it is a good wine. In general, I liked pretty much all of what I tasted and purchased several bottles before we left.

Bill took a few minutes from a busy day to give us a short tour of the facilities. Behind the living quarters (which are attached to the winery) and the tasting room is another large patio where concerts are normally held when the weather is dry. This area featured a large lawn, a dance floor, tables and chairs, and niches up on the side of the hill, all places to listen to and enjoy the concerts and barbecue.

In addition to the winery, there is a spa upstairs above the normal tasting room where the ladies can go to be pampered. This is a natural because Bill’s wife, Jill, operates “N-V-Us Looks” beauty salon on San Miguel Avenue.

Many events take place here each year such as corporate gatherings, parties, and weddings. To make weddings more convenient, Bill is an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church and can do the ceremonies right on the spot.

Four concerts will be held here during the months of June through September. The price is reasonable, the barbecue is extra, and the venue is unique and relaxing. I recommend it.

The Westover family has ties to many other locally historical families including the McConaghys (San Lorenzo mansion) and the Athertons (of the peninsula city). Bill is always happy to show pictures and tell of his family history.

For more information, visit the winery or www.westoverwinery.com or call (510) 537-3932.

“Side Trips” is always on the lookout for interesting or unusual items in the CV area. Contact me at (510) 727-9296 or martinken@juno.com.