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A Taste of Ashland

Naomi Fuerte of Grizzly Peak Winery can notice the warmer days, bud break on the vines and the flock of wine appreciators at her Ashland tasting room. But nothing says the beginning of the wine-tasting season to her more than A Taste of Ashland, a walking tour that highlights the visual and culinary arts as well as artisan wines.

The 24th annual A Taste of Ashland, featuring small bites by 22 restaurants and wine flights by 17 local and regional wineries at 17 galleries, is noon to 4 p.m. today and Sunday, April 27-28.

"People we haven't seen all winter are roaming the streets with smiles on their faces eager to hear what we've been up to and what we have planned for the summer," says Fuerte, who will be pouring a medium-bodied red blend and a crisp white paired with appetizers from Cafe Nomyen at Davis & Cline Gallery.

Fuerte says the event attracts people who might not step into an art gallery.

"Art opens the minds, hearts and taste buds of the artist and the audience," she says. "We gladly welcome any chance we have to promote the arts in our community."

Tickets to the fundraiser for the Ashland Gallery Association cost $45 for today, $35 for Sunday or $55 for both days. They can be purchased between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. today and Sunday at the Ashland Plaza Kiosk. Ticket holders can pick up their commemorative glass, food and beverage guide and tour map at the kiosk at that time.

Galleries are numbered on the map, but tasters are free to begin the tour anywhere along the route.

But, says events coordinator Jeff Jones, keep in mind that No. 17 — Ashland Artworks — will be the only gallery serving dessert — chocolate cupcakes, and marionberry, peach and strawberry-rhubarb pies today, and coconut dream bars, brownies, and chocolate chip, snickerdoodle and oatmeal-raisin cookies on Sunday, all by Four and Twenty Blackbirds Bakery.

"You drink your wine, you eat your food and you walk outside and down the street to the next gallery, where there's more great artwork, food and wine," Jones says. "You can get pretty full with all those bites."

Several new restaurants were added to the 2013 A Taste of Ashland roster, including the forthcoming restaurant Salame, which will be serving Italian tapas at Nimbus; Boulton & Son Butchers with savory palmiers at Ashland Art Center; Milagros Fresh Mexican (Sunday only) with chips and three varieties of salsa at Gathering Glass Studio; Blue Greek on Granite with moussaka, spanakopita and falafels with tahini sauce at Hilltop Gallery; Alchemy with crostinis topped with pork belly rillettes, as well as endives leaves stuffed with roasted beets, Stilton cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds, at Houston's Custom Framing; and Heartsong Pasta Co. (today only) with traditional beef raviolis and goat cheese and sun-dried tomato raviolis at Illahe Studios & Gallery.

New wineries include Simple Machine, 2 Hawk Winery, Belle Fiore Winery and Dana Campbell Vineyards.

"We are teaming up with the Playwright Pub because they offer our viognier year round and this will give us a chance to show them and our friends a new wine," says Paula Campbell Brown of Dana Campbell Vineyards, which has a tasting room in the Ashland hills. "We will be pouring our Vionillo, a blend of red tempranillo and white viognier. Plus we like the local charm of the Playwright."

EdenVale's Enoteca has participated since the wine shop and tasting room opened on the Ashland Plaza four years ago and joined the Ashland Gallery Association.

"We are avid supporters of Ashland's local art industry," says tasting room manager Misty Santos. "It is so much fun to be part of the excitement."

Jones says he's particularly excited for Reuben sandwiches by Brothers' Restaurant paired with Caldera Brewing Co.'s Ashland Amber today at Gathering Glass Studio.

Most galleries are within walking distance from one another; however, after a few bites and glasses of wine, some folks may want to take advantage of All Aboard Trolley's free, fun shuttle service, offered from noon to 4 p.m. to all galleries on the map. A separate shuttle will run from the corner of A and Fourth streets to Hilltop Gallery and back.

"The weather is going to be amazing — 72 degrees and sunny," says Jones.