More lavender pleasures; plus, auctions, lectures, demos, and benefits

Becker Lavenderfest

It's amazing how a vacation experience can change the course of history. One of the best stories about the origins of the Central Texas wine industry has to do with a cattle-buying trip Texas ranchers Ed and Susan Auler took to the South of France in 1973. While there, they couldn't help but notice the geographic similarities between that wine country and their ranch acreage in Burnet County near Tow on the banks of Lake Buchanan. They returned home and after two years of extensive research, began planting grapes in 1975 at what would become the award-winning Fall Creek Vineyards ( Thirty years later, thanks in large part to the Aulers' example and their unflagging promotion, the Texas Hill Country has its own viticultural appellation and a well-respected wine industry. Based on that story, it seems only fitting that another Texas couple would be responsible for successfully importing a second agricultural product from the same area of France to the Hill Country. After vacationing in Provence where lavender was in full bloom under the blazing sun, Becker Vineyards ( owners Dr. Richard and Bunny Becker invited a French lavender expert to Texas and began experimenting with planting it in 1998. While it took two or three years for a solid crop to flourish, 2005 marks the seventh year that the Beckers have welcomed guests to celebrate Lavenderfest at their beautiful vineyard near Stonewall in Gillespie County. From 10am to 6pm on Saturday, May 21, and noon to 6pm on Sunday, May 22, the grounds at Becker will be filled with craft and food vendors, there will be speeches and cooking demonstrations, the gift shop will be packed with a signature line of lavender products, and area caterers will present luncheons in the new Lavender Haus Reception Hall. The event is free to the public, but the luncheons are $50, and reservations are necessary. For more information about the festival and directions to the vineyard, check out the winery's Web site. Take the whole weekend and visit Becker one day and the Blanco event the other. That way, 25 years from now, you can say you witnessed the Central Texas lavender business in its infancy and had a great time!

Event Menu: May 12-18

• How would you like to have lunch at Matt's Famous El Rancho with legendary UT coach Darrell Royal, invite nine friends to share a five-course tasting menu prepared by Zoot chef Stewart Scruggs, or enjoy dinner and drinks with gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman, all for a good cause? These and 27 other unique events featuring Texas celebrities are available for purchase at the second annual Celebrity Auction to benefit the Children's Advocacy Centers of Texas. During the 10-day bidding period, just go online at and choose the celebrity donation that suits your fancy. For more information, contact Carol Green at 258-9920. Bidding is open through May 20.

Michael Parker invites you to meet the new girl in South Austin at the grand opening of Opal Divine's Penn Field (3601 S. Congress Ste. K100, 707-0237) from 6-11pm on Thursday, May 12. Musical entertainment will be provided by Toni Price, Patricia Vonne, and Penny Jo Pullus. Shows are free but the party will benefit the local Pet Food Bank, so take along some dog food, grocery gift cards, or cash donations.

• Raw foods expert and author David Wolfe will give a lecture on the health and beauty benefits of pure cacao, plus the history and pharmacology of chocolate followed by a chocolate demonstration at Whole Foods Market (525 N. Lamar, 476-1206). He will also sign copies of his new book, Naked Chocolate. Lecture, noon-1:30pm; demo, 3-6pm, Sunday, May 15.

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Becker Lavenderfest, Ed Auler, Susan Auler, Celebrity Auction, David Wolfe, Opal Divine's Penn Field

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