A Wine Country Gay Affair From the Winter 2011 issue of SONOMA magazine
If gay Sonoma has a familiar face, dare we say an ambassador, it might very well be Gary Saperstein.
With 25 years in food and hospitality, 16 years in Wine Country, his own LGBT tour and event company and proactively gay, Gary has the history to speak with authority about romance among the vines.
It’s been said that Wine Country is for lovers. But most of our mental snapshots star the broad-shouldered boy and his winsome girl. How’s the love factor for gay folks in Wine Country?
Fortunately, we are accepted and welcomed as part of the community. Just this past July Sonoma County was named the “No. 2 gayest area in the United States.” San Francisco led the list with 12.4 same-sex couples per 1,000 households, and Sonoma County was number two with 7.63 gay households per 1,000. That’s a rate 56 percent greater than the national average.
Wow. To what do you attribute the influx?
The romance of Wine Country. You can’t deny the beauty of this place, the surrounding hills, the vineyards, magnificent sunrises and sunsets. And aside from our proximity to San Francisco, the quality of life in Sonoma simply attracts. Gay folks have famously good taste.
What does the gay community hope to find in Sonoma? Other than wine, of course.
To feel welcome and comfortable wherever we choose to go and celebrate our love. We want to be able to walk hand in hand with our loved ones, whether relaxing in one of our amazing wineries or restaurants, or just strolling through our beautiful town square. We just want to belong. It’s that simple.
And that exists, here? The gay community feels welcomed and allowed to just be?
In 2008 two-thirds of Sonoma County voters cast their ballots against Prop 8, coming out in favor of gay marriage. So politically, the community is gay-friendly.
Are there “gay neighborhoods” here? Is the community clustered in a particular district, like the Castro in San Francisco?
Gone are the days when we need to live in a “gay ghetto” (no offense to the Castro). With more equality comes acceptance into diverse communities.
You live here full time, but lots of gay visitors only vacation here. What’s the allure?
For the LGBT community, Wine Country offers it all: delectable cuisine and fantastic wines to go along with amazing natural beauty. Put it all together and Sonoma’s Wine Country becomes a place where we want to spend time with friends and lovers. It truly is the perfect setting for romance, whether it’s a date, a weekend getaway, a commitment ceremony or–dare I say it?–to get married, legally or otherwise.
Gay marriage. There’s a concept that’s put a few knickers in a twist.
It just comes down to love between two people. For the short period of time when gay marriage was legal (thank you Gavin Newsom!) being surrounded by friends and family to witness your commitment was what it truly was all about. Just like straight people. How wonderful to bring people together in our majestic Wine Country to celebrate love, love that truly is no different from any other.
The gay community wields significant economic power. Anything local business should know?
When we feel supported by a local businesses, we want to support those businesses tenfold. We know who they are, and who they are not.
Atwood Ranch in Glen Ellen. Julie Atwood’s 150-acre private estate, surrounded by rolling hills and vineyards, is the perfect setting for a gay wedding. It is an absolutely stunning estate. Not only do Julie and her team create amazing events, but Julie Atwood has been a huge supporter of the LGBT community, donating her ranch for Gay Wine Weekend’s premier party and The Twilight T-Dance, which brought over 350 gay men and women together while raising funds for Face to Face, our Sonoma County Aids Network. That is loyalty that we as a community will not forget.
So how does Gary Saperstein butter his organically grown, sustainably harvested, stone-ground Sonoma wheat bread?
I am Principal/Partner of Out in the Vineyard, the Wine Country’s first LGBT Tour & Event Company, launched in
Are you spoken for?
Nope. Currently single and searching for “the one”!
Describe your utopian Wine Country day.
My (eventual) partner and I would head out in our convertible to go winetasting with the top down on a beautiful, brisk Wine Country day. We’d keep the heater on full blast to stay warm. We’d putter along one-lane roads, stopping at a few wineries for tastings along the way. Then we’d lunch at a quaint local market, picking up sandwiches and some fabulous local wines. Heading home, we would stop at our local market to grab some dinner. We’d light a fire and cook, then settle in for a quiet evening in Wine Country.
From the Winter 2011 issue of SONOMA magazine