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The entrepreneurial spirit is the key ingredient, the snappy spice, in transforming the former Barlow Apple Center into one that is fast becoming a food, wine and art Mecca … and one that may ultimately have a hotel in the mix.

The Sebastopol City Hall recently gave it the nod, as developer Barney Aldridge has been exploring a 50-room hotel with the Palisades Hospitality Group. The company operates hotels throughout California and in several other states.

In the meantime the center is becoming the pulse of Sebastopol. This past weekend it was a hot spot with the grand tasting of the West of the West Festival on Saturday and a gathering Sunday night at ZAZU restaurant to spotlight the restaurant’s grand opening today.

As Duskie Estes, co-owner of ZAZU puts it, “We’re in the neighborhood of the makers. We’re crazy excited about this.”

The tenants hope to make this complex a place where foodies, wine geeks and art buffs can revel not just in the art but in the artists in plain view. The goal seems to be on track with “the makers” on the premises daily, including the Kosta Browne boys in their warehouse winery making prized pinot not far from ZAZU.

Kosta Browne Winery moved into its new digs in December of 2012, the very first winery to sign on, and Dan Kosta said he considers the winery an anchor of sorts.

“Hopefully we helped shape the culture of Barlow with more wineries signing on and hopefully we had an influence on places like ZAZU to sign on,” he said.

Other tenants include Wind Gap Wines, Spirit Works Distillery, and Woodflour Brewing Company. (To peruse the entire list, visit www.thebarlow.net).

The 12-acre landscape has more than a dozen buildings that resemble metal Oakland lofts with high ceilings, some that scale 30 feet, with metal roll up storefronts. But there’s also a splash of Wine Country with a bocce ball court and fire pits. This combination is a smart way to draw in the Millennials, 88 million strong, the largest segment of the population, and one definitely worth courting. Millenials are big on urban chic.

At The West of the West Grand Tasting on Saturday I spotted a couple with their 10-month old daughter Aubrey in a jogging stroller and she was incredibly patient while her parents – Jim Riddle and Keri Mintun – sipped through the boutique bottlings, many of them full-throttle cult wines.

The producers were the crème de la crème of pinot noir and chardonnay producers. I tasted a handful, including Peay Vineyards, Ramey Wine Cellars, Red Car, MacPhail and a striking relatively new player to keep your eye on – Gros Ventre.

Riddle, sipping with the baby jogger in tow, said he’s an attorney in San Francisco and a grower in Occidental so the family splits its time between the city and Wine Country.

Riddle says he enjoys work in the vines as a break from litigation and is happy with the cool forecast so harvest can stretch out a few more weeks, giving the fruit good hang time.

“Knock on wood,” he joked. “We don’t want to jinx anything.”

As for ZAZU’s big gathering, it was in full swing Sunday night with the bar serving up cocktails, including one called Bacon & Eggs, celebrating its passion for all things pig.

The kitchen was busy producing bacon-infused wonders like their maple doughnuts sprinkled with bacon, bacon-wrapped figs, and pulled pork with fries and all the fixins.

The huge metal building, with its 27 foot high ceiling, was crowded with peopled huddled near the kitchen to keep an eye out for the next batch of bacon magic.

Estes said. in-between serving up appetizers,  “It’s all about the neighborhood.”

Yep, and it was was one caloric, wine savvy, action-packed weekend for this hood.

 

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