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Vineyard 511

From Hollywood to Vine with Vineyard {511}

Adventures in Wine, Food, Film and Travel

Irene Ojdana
October 7, 2017 | Irene Ojdana

Vineyard {511} 2017 Harvest

When asked what the most memorable day of the year is, most people will say Christmas or New Year's or Thanksgiving. However, for folks in wine-growing regions of the world, harvest is right up there, if not the most memorable. It's the time when nature and wine-making skills--yield and quality--converge to honor what growers have been working towards all year long--bringing the fruit to the crushpad.

With temperatures soaring over 100 degrees for weeks in August and September, we harvested our Cabernet Sauvignon on Diamond Mountain earlier in the season than expected--on September 28. Under night lights, our vineyards were aflurry with activity from 4am to 10 am. (The prime time to begin harvest is 4 am, when berry temperature has cooled down to around 65 degrees.)

Harvest Pickers

We were a little disappointed that our yield was smaller than it was in 2016 because of the heat spikes during the summer; nevertheless, the quality of the fruit was great--as usual.





Time Posted: Oct 7, 2017 at 11:00 AM
Irene Ojdana
September 12, 2017 | Irene Ojdana

Tony Bennett and Diana Krall at the Hollywood Bowl

This year, Ed and I have been to the Hollywood Bowl three times. The favorites so far have been the wonderful Tony Bennett and Diana Krall playing many songs from the All American Songbook. 

The first half of each concert was performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by now-world-renouned Venezualan Gustavo Dudamel, and by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Wilkins. A highlight of these parts was Dudamel conducting Moon River.

The first time we saw Bennett was at least twelve years ago at the Bowl, and he is still such a terrific performer, now at age ninety. The audience wouldn't let him off the stage until he sang--of course-- "I left my heart in San Francisco." He had a wonderful way to show his appreciation of the audience's appreciation of him, by giving it a hug by hugging himself.                                                                                  

I think Ed and I have seen Diana Krall perform around five times, most of which have been at the Bowl, and she's never be better. As a jazz performer and having started her career at at the piano and not as a singer, she had her back up band perform as much as she did. She treats her voice as another instrument. And--of course--she performed Cry Me a River, which always wows me.


Time Posted: Sep 12, 2017 at 4:30 PM
Irene Ojdana
August 4, 2017 | Irene Ojdana

Sun Valley Center for the Arts Wine Auction

For the second year in a row, Ed and I participated in the Sun Valley Wine Auction in Idaho. The three-day long program is an annual fundraising event for the Sun Valley Center for the Arts; proceeds from the Wine Auction make up 50% of the Center's budget and directly support programs in art education.

We were hardly off our flight into Sun Valley, when we attended a delicious pig roast at Trail Creek Lodge. The roast is informally called the magnum party, as we all contributed great magnums to go along with the roast pig.

We also poured wine for the trade and Auction attendees.

                                             Pouring Sun Valley

However, the main event was the Auction itself, first with a reception on the grounds of the Dollar Mountain Lodge, where we chatted with Marquis Piero Antinori, the honorary president of Antinori Wines (whose amazing winery we visited in Tuscany).

Antinori Sun Valley

Next, the reception was followed by a delicious dinner inside an elegant tent while the Auction ensued. We were lucky enough to secure the winning bid for a wine-themed cruise beginning in October 2018, on the Sea Dream Yacht Club, starting out in Barcelona, and going on to the islands of Mallorca, Ibiza, Cartagena and Puerto Banus, and finishing in Gibralter and the port of Malaga, all along the way exploring the areas' vineyards and historic landmarks.  We'll become experts on Spanish wine (and some culture too).

We also secured a winning bid for a 3-liter bottle of 2014 Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon and a tour and tasting of its winery here in Napa Valley. Can't wait for both experiences.

This year, we brought along our family to Sun Valley-- kids Kelly and Jeff and their 4-year old son Ian. We took a wonderful gondola and ski lift up Mount Baldy, where we hiked around and had lunch.

                     Gondola Sun Valley                          



We also got to see grandson Ian ice skate for the first time at the Sun Valley Lodge's ice rink, home of the Olympic trials.

                    Sun Valley Ian Skating

Looking forward to The Sun Valley Wine Auction 2018!

Time Posted: Aug 4, 2017 at 3:30 PM
Irene Ojdana
July 10, 2017 | Irene Ojdana

Movie Night at Chappellet

Ed and I attended a movie night for the screening of Walk the Line, the 2005 Johnny Cash biopic, which won an Academy Award for Best Actress, Reese Witherspoon, and a Golden Globe for Best Actor, Joaquin Phoenix. The outdoor evening on the beautiful Chappellet grounds on Pritchard Hill was donated by Michelle and Robin Baggett; Blakesley and Cyril Chappellet; and Elaine and Rick Jones. To attend the event, all guests had made a generous donation at last year's St. Helena Hospital Foundation Gala at Silver Oak Cellars to raise money to help bring continued innovation to health care in the Napa Valley.

Chappellet Movie Nice - Walk the Line

As we settled in on blankets and lawn chairs, we were being well fed with BBQ by grill chefs Robin Baggett and Cyril Chappellet. We all celebrated our inner cowboy while toasting to summer and the first new moon after the Solistice. The great wines were donated by Alpha Omega and Chappellet. Our favorite was a Chappellet Chardonnay.

Chappellet Movie Night

Time Posted: Jul 10, 2017 at 10:06 PM
Irene Ojdana
May 25, 2017 | Irene Ojdana

Wine Tasting in Mendocino

Last weekend, Ed and I took off for Mendocino, just a two-and-a-half-hour drive northwest of Calistoga. The drive there was beautiful, through the redwoods of Alexander Valley. The next day we returned to Alexander Valley for a day-long wine tasting exursion. Our driver took us to wineries of whose wines we'd heard, but never tasted. The first winery on our journey was Husch, which was also the most scenic.

Husch Winery in Mendocino

Then we stopped at Navarro and Roderer Estate (known for its sparkling wines, although we ended up buying its Chardonnay). Our favorite winery was Toulouse (yes, as in Lautrec). We really liked its Pinot Noirs and its shopping opportunities: I bought a sweatshirt hoodie with the cute Toulouse duck logo on it, and Ed bought some great silver wine pourers in the shape of different animals.

MacCallum House Inn in Mendocino

We returned to our hotel, the historic MacCallum House Inn (est. 1882), for a rest before heading to Little River for a terrific dinner at Wildfish. To burn off the great food and wine, the next day we took a marvelous hike through the redwoods along an estuary.

Hiking in Mendocino

Later, we checked out the town of Mendocino. One of the interesting features there was the water towers next to mostly every home, erected because the town never had a central water supply, only water wells. The water would be stored up in the top of the towers to create water pressure. There weren't many homes in Mendocino either, as the homes were all built out of wood; many of the original homes burned as there wasn't much water to put out the fires, and then (as now) only with a volunteer fire department. Another interesting feature was that, apart from the historic homes dating back to the late 1800s, the people there were a throwback to the 1960s. I expected to see Joan Baez and Bob Dylan strumming their songs there.

Time Posted: May 25, 2017 at 12:48 PM
Irene Ojdana
May 1, 2017 | Irene Ojdana

San Francisco Food and Wine Society Luncheon

Ed and I recently spent a lovely Sunday afternoon on the Great Lawn in front of the historic carriage house of the Charles Krug winery. We were attending a luncheon hosted by the San Francisco Food and Wine Society, of which Ed is a member. Most of its events are only available to its male members, but I attended this one and others to which female guests are invited.

The Charles Krug Winery is the oldest winery in Napa Valley and was established in 1861 by Charles Krug. Its current owners and managers are Marc and Peter Mondavi, Jr., third generation, with five fourth generation children also involved in the business. Marc's daughter Alycia sat at our table, along with John Kehriotis, co-owner of the Sacramento Kings, and his family. Surprisingly, John knows our good friend Chris Kelly, also a co-owner of the Kings. Six degrees of separation!

During the reception, while sipping Krug Chardonnay and chatting with Katie Mondavi (Peter's wife), we witnessed a train (Napa Valley Wine Train) coming to a stop not very far from where we were standing, letting out folks heading to the Krug tasting room. And I thought only a river runs through it!

The delicious meal was paired with Krug wines. My favorite pairings were the steak main course with Charles Krug 1974 Cabernet Sauvignon. (See the photo of Ed and me holding the 3 liter bottle, signed by Peter, Sr., that we happily emptied out.)  My second favorite pairing was the rich chocolate dessert paired with Lot XX Zinfandel Port. We just had to bring two bottles of that home with us.

San Francisco Food and Wine Society Luncheon at Charles Krug Winery - 2017

Time Posted: May 1, 2017 at 4:43 PM
Irene Ojdana
April 24, 2017 | Irene Ojdana

Notre Dame Washington D.C. Symposium on National and Global Affairs

Every other year, Ed and I fly to Washington D.C. to attend Notre Dame University's symposium on government affairs. (Ed is an alum.) This year, less than 100 days into President Trump's inauguration, we attended briefings by politicians and officials on both sides of the aisle about what was going on in Washington: Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY and Senate Minority Leader); Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Marco Rubio (R-FL); Joe Donnelly (D-IN); and David Perdue (R-GA).  Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI.) was interviewed by Bob Costa, National Political Reporter, The Washington Post. We also heard from General H.R. McMaster, National Security Advisor; Gary Cohn, Chairman of the National Economic Council; and Donald F. McGahn II, White House Counsel.

We heard views from the press in a panel discussion moderated by Mark Shields (PBS News Hour), which included Gerald Seib, Executive Washington Editor, The Wall Street Journal; Alexis Simendinger, White House Correspondent, Realclearpolitics; and Karen Tumulty, The Washington Post.

We were treated to a presentation from highly articulate and entertaining former Ambassador from Mexico Arturo Sarukhan. Of course, someone asked him about the wall.

Chuck Schumer and Paul Ryan were both speakers at this symposium two years ago and proved even more interesting this year. On a personal note, Schumer related how he grew up not too far from where I did in Brooklyn and managed to get himself out of going to a very good college--Brooklyn College--my alma mater, by snagging a basketball scholarship at Harvard. If I were only taller :-)

Notre Dame Symposium - Chuck Schumer and Paul Ryan - 2017

Briefings were held in wonderful Washington D.C. historic buildings: the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, The Library of Congress, and the Decatur House--all beautifully preserved.

Notre Dame Symposium - Museum of Natural History and Library of Congress - 2017

While we were there, Ed and I also visited the new and fascinating African American Museum. We learned how slavery was established in Africa, as well as how every U.S. state at the time (not only those in the South) was dependent on slavery to support its economy :-(  We also visited the Newseum, a museum dedicated to journalism, and saw the special exhibit about how music, particularly rock 'n roll in the '60s, influenced journalism which, in turn, influenced politics.

All in all, we wish we didn't have to wait two more years to attend such a varied and interesting program and place. Who knows what Washington will be like then?

Time Posted: Apr 24, 2017 at 10:21 PM
Irene Ojdana
March 9, 2017 | Irene Ojdana

Premiere Napa Valley

Late in February, Ed and I poured our 2014 Vineyard {511} Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon barrel samples at the 21st Annual Premiere Napa Valley barrel tasting and futures auction at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena. This was our second year at this event, which raises funds to support the vintners and charities in Napa Valley. Hosted by the Napa Valley Vintners, a non-profit organization, this year it raised $4.2 million. Bidding is open to wine-trade professionals (retailers, restauranteurs, and wholesalers), and their attendance is a wonderful way for the more than 200 vintners who participated to enhance their relationship with them. The lots were mostly 2015 cabernet sauvignon. The live auction is characterized by very lively bidding of very lively amounts. An example is the highest amount which went for $200,000 for 5 cases of 2014 Scarecrow Cabernet Sauvignon--or $3,333 per bottle! That's what I call bidding!

Twenty per cent of the lots were sold in an online auction, which raised almost $500,000 of the day's total sales. There was a greater emphasis this year on this part of the auction to enable trade bidders anywhere in the world to participate.This is where Ed and I donated our 5 cases, which were successfully bid on by John York, owner of the San Francisco '49ers. John sampled our wine while bonding with Ed as two alums from Notre Dame University. We welcome our newest friend and fan of Vineyard {511}!

Premiere Napa Valley 2017

Time Posted: Mar 9, 2017 at 10:17 AM
Irene Ojdana
February 17, 2017 | Irene Ojdana

Cabernet for Connoisseurs

On Saturday, February 12, Ed and I attended the 22nd Annual Cabernet Tasting, Dinner and Auction, at the St. Regis Hotel, to benefit the Family House in San Francisco. The Family House is a non-profit organization, founded in 1981, to provide much needed, free temporary housing for the families of seriously ill kids receiving treatment for cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, at the University of California Benioff Children's Center. The low-income families must live at least 50 miles away and, because of this benefit, are able to provide physical comfort and emotional support for their children during a critical time of their young lives. The Family House serves over 3000 families a year.

Family House

At this "Cabernet for Connoisseurs" event, we poured our 2012 Vineyard {511} Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon along with 58 other vintners, who also poured their Cabernet. Over 350 guests attended the event which included, along with the wine tasting, a delicious steak dinner and silent and live auctions to raise much needed funds for the ill children.

Family House - Cabernet for Connoisseurs 2017

Time Posted: Feb 17, 2017 at 4:45 PM
Irene Ojdana
February 1, 2017 | Irene Ojdana

Cruising the South Pacific Islands

Ed and I welcomed in 2017 aboard the Paul Gauguin cruise ship in the Society Islands in the South Pacific. We joined Jeff and Darice O'Neill of Ram's Gate Winery, who hosted a group of 21, which included their friends and family--all wine lovers. They generously provided their delicious wines for all of our receptions and dinners, plus a Ram's Gate Wine Seminar and Tasting for guests of the whole ship. We also shared some of our Vineyard {511} 2012 Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon at one of the dinners. Everyone loved it!

During the cruise we visited the islands of Huahine, Taha'a, Bora Bora, Moorea and Tahiti. We toured the islands to learn about the culture of the islanders, had beach barbeques on private motus (small islands), snorkled to see lemon sharks and manterays, and had sunset cruises on a catamaran.

It was great to escape the (much needed) rain in California. 

Tahiti 2017

Time Posted: Feb 1, 2017 at 5:40 PM