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Organizers cancel 2015 Grape Escape citing ABC concerns

Dave Dart distributes samples of his D’Art wine during the Raley’s Grape Escape at Cesar Chavez Plaza in 2012.
Dave Dart distributes samples of his D’Art wine during the Raley’s Grape Escape at Cesar Chavez Plaza in 2012.

One of Sacramento’s most popular food-and-wine events has been canceled, due in part to issues concerning the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

The 15th annual Grape Escape, organized by the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau, was set to take place June 6 at Cesar Chavez Plaza in downtown Sacramento.

Last year, the showcase of local food and drink drew 4,400 attendees and 47 alcohol vendors. But with three weeks to go, only four alcohol companies had signed up for the 2015 version.

In 2014, eight alcohol companies were investigated by the ABC following the event, which was sponsored by Save Mart. The problems arose from event-related social media activity that violated ABC’s “tied-house” laws. Though exceptions exist, alcohol producers (such as wineries and breweries) aren’t allowed to promote retailers (such as sponsor Save Mart), as spelled out in provisions of the California Business and Professions Code related to the alcohol industry.

“The cancellation of the event is based on participant and sponsor challenges regarding the requirements of the California State Alcohol Beverage Control,” SCVB officials said in a statement.

“The SCVB believes that the current challenges could impact our sponsors, participating vendors and, ultimately, the event’s attendance,” the statement said. “After considerable deliberation we could not comfortably move forward with the event in a manner that was both without risk and still attractive to our winery and brewery partners.”

A spokesman for ABC did not respond to a phone call requesting comment.

Ticket holders will receive an email that issues a full refund, the SCVB said. A June 5 winemaker dinner and June 7 brunch related to Grape Escape will still be held.

“We gave this a lot of thought, but we can’t produce an event halfway,” said Mike Testa, spokesperson for the SCVB. “We’ve been doing this for 14 years and given a permit by ABC every year. If we were doing it wrong, we wouldn’t be doing it.”

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