RIVERBANK -- People came to savor wine and cheese Saturday, but it wasn't exactly an escape from the everyday world.
Visitors to the Riverbank Cheese & Wine Exposition said the event was a way to support local businesses and causes during tough economic times.
The 33rd annual festival, continuing today, is sponsored by the Riverbank Rotary Club and benefits several other organizations. It also is a chance for wine and cheese producers to show off their wares and maybe hook more customers.
"We love to support the local wineries, and that's what's important in our community," said Julie Rainwater of Turlock while sipping cabernet sauvignon from the new Most Wanted Wine Co. of Oakdale.
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Most of the tens of thousands of visitors just enjoy the free street fair. It features music, arts and crafts booths, the Lego Experience tour.
For $35, patrons can get inside the wine-tasting area and try samples under more than 20 labels, many of them produced in or near Stanislaus County.
Wine taster Michele Parker said the crowd has seemed smaller in the past two or three years because of the economy. The festival is a chance for people to learn about wine while socializing, she said.
As for the Most Wanted cabernet in her glass? "Excellent, wonderful, fabulous."
Modesto-area resident Regina Singh, also tasting the cab, said she looks for bargains when shopping for wine these days.
"We just want to support local wineries," she said, "and hopefully they will support us with prices we can afford."
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2385.