FALLBROOK – On Saturday, Aug. 26, D’Vine Path hosted the fifth annual Grape Stomp Soiree and welcomed more than 250 visitors to their event in hopes of raising money for the program and its students.
The vocational program is based on a teaching farm and vineyard through agriculture tourism and provides neurodivergent students with the opportunity to learn about viticulture, agriculture, farm-to-table culinary skills, marketing and more.
Complete with restaurant and winery tastings, live auctions, student presentations and grape stomping contests, the Soiree allowed attendees to learn all about D’Vine Path, the programs, their goals and the students they cater to.
The restaurants that served were: Firehouse Que and Brew, Village Roots and Harvest Bakers Cottage. The wineries and breweries that served or donated included Bonsall Fine Wine & Spirits, Adobe Hill Winery, Fallbrook Winery, Myrtle Creek Winery, Casa Tiene Vista, Oak Mountain Winery, and more.
Students presented on a variety of subjects relating to the program and entertained the audience with a few live performances, including a surprise flash mob. Guests also had the opportunity to tour the facility and purchase a variety of merchandise and hand-painted artwork.
The grape-stomping event was a highlight of the night, allowing more than 30 guests to participate in an old-fashioned method of crushing wine grapes. Participants removed their shoes before jumping into a bucket of grapes and stomping as much as possible within 45 seconds to produce as much juice as possible. Paired with upbeat music and viticulture facts being shared, the grape stomp was a memorable way to begin the night.
D’Vine Path students were integral to the Soiree. All students participated from serving guests to live presentations to performances and cleanup, they were eager to help put together an entertaining and informative night.
During the event, D’Vine Path Executive Director Lenila Lingad Batali expressed her gratitude for the new property and the abundance of opportunities the new location has brought to the students.
“This teaching farm and vineyard program has been incredibly successful in helping our students grow in all areas of their lives. They are learning in a natural setting using their five senses,” Batali said. “Studies have proven that these senses are pivotal to learning complex tasks, building skills, problem solving, and social and language development. We witness this growth in our students every day.”
One unique feature of this Soiree was the personal testimonial portion of the night, where two speakers volunteered to share how D’Vine Path has changed their lives. Viticulture student Collin Rotzinger shared his experience at D’Vine Path and the growth he has seen in himself since joining two years ago. During his testimony, Rotzinger expressed his gratitude for D’Vine Path and all the opportunities the program has presented him.
The second testimonial was from a parent, Cathy Harris, mother of D’Vine Path Culinary Journey student Nekoda Harris.
In her testimony, she described the behaviors her son showcased before joining the program, calling them “A-motivational behaviors.”
“Over 10 years’ time in the Midwest, Nekoda was in five different support programs, including group homes. Not one of them helped him find his way to using his strengths,” Harris said. “In recent years, without support or direction, he became a person who played games all night and slept all day.”
Harris then described her journey to finding D’Vine Path after moving to Fallbrook and emotionally shared the way D’Vine Path has helped her son.
“It’s not what they do here, it’s who they are. My son is getting real support to live his own chosen life,” Harris said. “He is motivated to be here, even to the point of volunteering on days he’s not in the program. I am grateful and I have hope again.”
The testimonies left the crowd and many staff members in tears, with many attendees feeling the same kind of hope as a result of the hard work being done at D’Vine Path by students and staff.
Another unique feature of this Soiree was the wine pull, where guests had the opportunity to buy surprise bottles of wine. All of the profits from the wine pull will be going directly to nonprofits in Hawaii in support of Lahaina fire victims.
"Our students live for these events! It gives them a chance to show to the community all that they've learned. They have so much pride in their accomplishments in both knowledge and being able to present in front of hundreds of people,” Batali said.
For more information about D’Vine Path, visit https://www.dvinepath.org/.
Submitted by D’Vine Path.