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31 Years of Champagne Concerts at Thornton Winery

31 years ago, Thornton Winery launched what was then called the Champagne Jazz concert series. A few years back, the series was renamed Champagne Concerts, a nod to some of the notable non jazz artists who have graced Thornton’s stage, such as Melissa Etheridge, Chris Isaak and America.

I sat down with General Manager Tonya Wake recently and she told me about this year’s concert series, kicking off July 20 with The Brian McKnight 4 making their Thornton Winery debut. Chris Botti, Brain Culbertson, Keiko Matsui and Sax to the Max and Euge Groove will all be returning this summer. Dave Koz and Summer Horns will make a two-night appearance.

“It’s going to be a fun year, a very solid year”, Tonya told me. “Well be spicing things up a bit” with better music and more personable service. “Next year should be even better!” Gradual changes continue following the total renovation of Café Champagne two years ago. New lights and a lot of outside improvements are planned. They have planted several flowers.

David Vergari continues making award –winning wines and now has a new assistant winemaker, Tom Stolzer with an extensive resumé and years of experience working alongside Jon McPherson and Javier Flores. He has also been honing the winery’s exceptional sparkling wines. Thornton is open late for wine tasting until 7pm Sunday through Thursday and until 9 Fridays and Saturdays in Café Champagne.

Executive Chef Ceasar Solarzano oversees the kitchen and has begun offering cooking classes. The first one sold out in four hours. He’ll offer a barbecue cooking class in June and later a class on stews and soups, appetizers, and Thanksgiving leftovers. There will be a spooky desserts class for Halloween and cooking tamales in December.

For the full concert series schedule, visit

PHOTO: L to R – John Thornton, Tonya Wake, Steve Thornton