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Vineyard 511

From Hollywood to Vine with Vineyard {511}

Adventures in Wine, Food, Film and Travel

Irene Ojdana
June 20, 2014 | Irene Ojdana

Wine Tasting in Budapest

Ed and I very recently returned from a Danube River cruise, which started out in Budapest. There, we tasted the best wines of our whole trip (which surprisingly included Paris, which we visited after the cruise).

At the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, in Budapest, we had our personal favorite-- a dry white wine called MAD-- made from a grape varietal called furmint.  Furmint is a grape varietal most famously associated with Hungary's famous, sweet Tokaji wines.  The Tokaji region and its wine are held in such esteem in Hungary that the Hungarian national anthem thanks God that Tokaj szőlővesszein nektárt csepegtettél (‘into the vineyards of Tokaj you dripped sweet nectar’).

We also took a wine tasting tour of the Etyek wine region, just outside of Budapest.  We visited three wineries: Hernyak Estate (Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc); Zarandok Pince (Chardonnay, Pinot Gris); and Gyula Oroz (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc); where we also had dinner.  Our favorite from that area was a Pinot Gris called Bernadette, which we tasted in its cave.  That's Bernadette and me in the photo.

After boarding our cruise, we arranged a wine tasting dinner with fellow cruisers/wine lovers, to which we contributed our very own 2010 Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon--everyone's favorite.


Time Posted: Jun 20, 2014 at 11:12 PM
Irene Ojdana
June 11, 2014 | Irene Ojdana

Auction Napa Valley 2014 Sets Records

The 34th annual Auction Napa Valley, which was just held from June 4-7,  broke its record for a second year in a row by raising $18.7 million for Napa Valley community health and children's education nonprofit organizations. The auction, which is put on by the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV), a non-profit trade association, lures wine and food lovers from over the world to beautiful Napa Valley to drink the best wines in the world, eat scrumptious food prepared by world-renouned chefs and bid on the finest of wines and breathtaking experiences, donated by generous NVV members, through both live, barrel, and silent e-auctions.

Vineyard {511} Tasting Table at Auction Napa ValleyOn Thursday, June 5, NVV members opened their homes to attendees with casual dinners all over the valley, such as Alpha Omega's succulent pig roast.

On Friday, June 6, the Barrel Auction and the Marketplace, where Napa vintners, such as Ed and I, poured great wines and Napa restauranteurs provided delicious tastes of their food, were held at the recently-remodled Charles Krug Winery. Ed and I (with help from daughter Kelly and son-in-law Jeff) poured our 2010 Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon for attendees who loved it.

On Saturday, June 7, in advance of the live auction, a lunch was served at Meadowood prepared by Napa Valley rock-star chefs Stephen Barber, Michael Chiarello, Curtis Di Fede, Thomas Keller, Cindy Pawlcyn, Richard Reddington, Brandon Sharp and partners Hiro Sone and Lissa Douman and, once the auction bidding ended, a luscious meal was created by 3-Michelin-starred chef of Meadowood's The Restaurant, Christopher Kostow.

These wineries provided the wines and experiences that received the highest bids:

Barrel Auction: Brand Napa Valley $83,050

Live Auction:    Raymond Vineyards $840,000

E-Auction:       Continuum Estate $21,000

The theme of of this year's auction, was "Sweet Home Napa Valley," and the vintner's association really showcased what a sweet place it is to live and produce great wines in Napa Valley.

View more photos and videos here.

Time Posted: Jun 11, 2014 at 9:15 AM
Irene Ojdana
June 11, 2014 | Irene Ojdana

Wine Spectator's Pre-Auction Party

WIne Spectator Bring Your Own Magnum Party at Tra VigneOn the Wednesday night before Auction Napa Valley officially started, Wine Spectator held its 26th-annual exclusive Bring Your Own Magnum (BYOM) Party, at St. Helena's Tra Vigne restaurant. Delicious food prepared by Tra Vigne's talented chefs, fabulous wines donated by attendees, dancing to great pulsating music and, moreover, incredible people watching were the order of the evening. The over-1000 attendees included California winemakers, vineyard owners, UC Davis wine educators, and generous participants of Auction Napa Valley, such as Margrit Mondavi, Peter Mondavi and Mike Grgich. Ed and I were delighted to meet Wine Spectator owner Maurice Shanken, who was holding court there.

Time Posted: Jun 11, 2014 at 9:05 AM
Irene Ojdana
April 7, 2014 | Irene Ojdana

Orange County Wine Extraordinaire

Pouring Vineyard 511 at OCWS Wine ExtraordinaireOn Sunday afternoon, March 30, Ed and I drove down to the Anaheim Hilton, where the Orange County Wine Society sponsored The Wine Extraordinaire--a unique opportunity for participants to taste wines from small production wineries from every California region, along with culinary samplings from many Southern California local restaurants. Over 85 wineries, including Vineyard {511}, participated by pouring their wines to help raise money to fund winemaking, viticulture and culinary scholarships at 7 California higher education institutions. Ahnfeldt Wines and Hartwell Estate Vineyards, also from Napa Valley, were also in attendance. And, as we experienced at CabFest Napa Valley and at Harvard Healthy Kitchens, where we poured our Vineyard {511} Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, everyone said our wine was the best in the show.

Time Posted: Apr 7, 2014 at 6:38 PM
Irene Ojdana
April 7, 2014 | Irene Ojdana

Wine Tasting at Spring Mountain Winery

Ed and I and our good friends Charles and Kalani Engles were given a very special tour of Spring Mountain Vineyards, in St. Helena, by its general manager (our tennis buddy) George Peterson. We were amazed at the immense and beautiful grounds, underground caves dug over 100 years ago (by Chinese immigrants), and gorgeous Victorian mansion restored by owner Swiss investor Eli Safra. Before Safra bought Spring Mountain Vineyards, the mansion was used as the home in the TV series Falcon Crest. The vineyards are surrounded by olive trees and bluebird houses to keep the birds from eating the grapes.

We had a lovely winetasting overlooking the vineyards and particularly liked the 2005 and 2009 Elivette wine (named after the owner Eli and his wife Evette. We couldn't help but bring some of the Elivette home with us.

Time Posted: Apr 7, 2014 at 6:16 PM
Irene Ojdana
March 12, 2014 | Irene Ojdana

CabFest Napa Valley

The first annual CabFest Napa Valley was held February 28- March 2, at the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center, at Lincoln Theater, in Yountville, and was a great success. Two thousand people attended. To start it off with a bang was actor, singer, songwriter Jeff Bridges and his band, the Abiders. He performed a blend of country, rock and blues and songs from the film "Crazy Heart,"  as well as from his albums, shaped in partnership with his producer and friend T Bone Burnett. Opening the show for her father was the very talented  singer/songwriter Jessie Bridges. They both sang together at the fun after-party, Cigars and Guitars, hosted by "Cigar Aficionado Magazine," Gibson Guitars and Napa Valley Museum.

The next two days featured Grand Tastings of Cabernet Sauvigon poured by a terrific group of Napa Valley wineries--50 each day--such as Cakebread Cellars, Cade, Silverado Vineyards, Trefethen, Hess Collection, Reynolds Family, Eagle Eye, Pride, Caymus Vineyards, and Vineyard 511. Everyone came by to tell us that our Vineyard 511 2009 was the best there! We agree!

Local restauranteur Cindy Pawlcyn provided delicious cheese, nuts, olive tapenade and fruit to pair perfectly with all the delicious Cab. Additionally, there were interesting seminars on the main stage, such as the keynote presentation by Karen MacNeil, "What Makes Great Cabernet Sauvignon Great," and musical pairings presented by the Orchestra Institute Napa Valley, since both wine and music have a mysterious quality that does not lend itself to easy description in words.

Saturday night The Silverado Pickups, a rock band comprised of some of Napa Valley's most respected vintners and wine professionals provided a rockin' concert. Members of the band include David Duncan of Silver Oak and Twomey Cellars, Jeff Gargiulo of Gargiulo Vineyards, Shane Soldinger with Crocker & Starr, professional percussionist Joe Shotwell, Dan Zepponi of Valley of the Moon, winemaker Tres Goettings of Robert Biale Vineyards, and wine-country "C.P.A.. to the stars," Paul Hoffman.

We are really looking forward to next year's event!  In the meantime, enjoy our 2014 Napa Valley CabFest Photo Album.





Time Posted: Mar 12, 2014 at 6:57 PM
Irene Ojdana
February 22, 2014 | Irene Ojdana

Unusual Calistoga Wineries

Recently, the Napa Valley Vintners' Association provided its member wineries the opportunity of visiting four Calistoga Wineries: Phifer Pavitt/Date Night; La Sirena & Jericho Canyon Vineyard; and Storybook Mountain Winery, to network with and learn from each other. Not only did Ed and I have terrific networking opportunities, but what we found were four wineries that were absolutely unique: Phifer Pavitt/Date Night in a barn that appeared to be suspended in the air; La Sirena and Jericho Canyon Vineyard in a property previously lived on by Robert Redford; and Storybook Mountain Winery in three tunnels dug over 100 years ago.

Phifer-Pavitt Tasting RoomAt our first stop, we met Georgia-born Suzanne Phifer Pavitt, who with her husband Shane Pavitt, created a tasting room out of a repurposed 19th century barn, which seemed to be hanging in the air. Suzanne poured great Date Night Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc at an unusual tasting bar made from a fallen slab of black walnut wood, suspended so that it moved back and forth and made us feel as if we had a bit too much to drink. The huge lighting fixtures were also sensational, made out of historic barbed wire. 

We were then on to Jericho Canyon Vineyard, which hosted visiting vintners along with Heidi Barrett's winery La Sirena, whose La Sirena 2004 syrah tasted yummy. Heidi produces La Sirena from the cellar of Jericho Canyon. Not only was Jericho Canyon's sleek, redwood tasting room on a property formerly lived on by Robert Redford, but the colorful and interesting art (mostly of abstact wine bottles) of Sibylle Szaggars, Redford's wife, was hanging on the walls. Thanks to proprietors Marla and Dale Bleecher, we tasted their delicious Jericho Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon made in the Bordeaux style in their 6000 square foot cave.

Caves at Storybook Mountain wineryOur last stop was Storybook Mountain Winery, which ages its wines in century-old caves dug by Adam Grimm, who came from a German wine-producing family in the wine business since 1540 and which continues to this day. In 1889, Grimm dug 3 large tunnels 100 feet into the volcanic rock and established the Grimm Vineyards and wine vaults. The property was bought by Jerry Seps in 1976, who has been producing world-class zinfandel there ever since. President Obama became the third president to serve it in the White House.

Peeling Back Over 100 Years of MossWe watched Jerry's son-in-law peel back the thick black 100-year-old moss in the cave to reveal the stone beneath (see photos), and enjoyed the tour of this Calistoga property on the top of Napa Valley on an eastern slope of the Mayacamas Range, on ridges that separate Napa from Sonoma.  Jerry treated us to his 2010 Estate Reserve Zinfandel, which received a 97- point rating from Wine & Spirits Magazine -- the highest Zinfandel rating ever.

As we returned to our own Vineyard {511}, we were high on the beautiful views and the beautiful day we spent in Calistoga.





Time Posted: Feb 22, 2014 at 5:59 PM
Irene Ojdana
June 6, 2013 | Irene Ojdana

Meadowood Tent Raising

Meadowood Napa Valley, the premiere hotel and country club, hosted its members at its annual tent raising party in honor of Auction Napa Valley. Because Meadowood closes access to its golf course and tennis courts and restaurants during Auction Napa Valley, which officially starts the next day, Meadowood provides a lovely evening of live music and hors d'oeuvres and wine on its expansive lawn.

Time Posted: Jun 6, 2013 at 5:32 PM
Irene Ojdana
June 6, 2013 | Irene Ojdana

Dinner at Viader

At another event associated with Auction Napa Valley, Ed and I watched the sun set over Napa Valley's Diamond Mountain with incredible views from Viader's tasting room patio 1300 feet on the eastern slopes of Howell Mountain. Soon afterward, we were treated to an elegant and entertaining dinner event of great wines from proprietor Delia Viader's cellar (Viader is recognized around the world for consistently producing high quality, very limited production red wines and red Bordeaux-style blends) and delicious Argentine-sttyle food prepared by her daughter-in-law Mariela Viader. My favorite wine was 1997 Cabernet Franc and favorite dish the mouth-watering Argentian style beef.

Delia Viader was born in Argentina, and the theme of the evening was the intimate setting of a nightclub, such as one found in the Boca neighborhood of Buenos Aires, where we were entranced by live sultry tango dance performances. Ole! 


Time Posted: Jun 6, 2013 at 1:36 PM
Irene Ojdana
June 6, 2013 | Irene Ojdana

Napa Vintner's 33rd Annual Auction Napa Valley

This past week, the Napa Valley Vintners' Association Auction Napa Valley raised a record $16.9 million for health care and youth education in Napa Valley. It broke its previous record of $10.5 million in 2005. In its 33rd year, the Auction provides for direct medical, dental and education services, lending support to families at risk, reaching the most vulnerable and extending a safety net to those in poverty.

Irene and Margarit MondaviThe top live auction lot netted $3.7 million for Fund-a-need; the top barrel lot, each of which is 10 cases of wine, was Shafer Vineyards at $78,000; the top e-auction lot was for Sherwin Family Vineyards at $15,200.

The barrel auction was held in the afternoon at the lovely Raymond Vineyards, where an overwhelming number of local chefs and vintners provided yummy food and white, rose and sparkling wine outside in 5 large tents; while inside the cave, vintners poured their barrel samples. After schmoozing with Magrit Mondavi and owner Jean-claude Boisset, we ended up bidding on a case of Jean-Claude's 2010 Raymond cabernet--and won it!!!

Outside we ogled a 2006 Astin Martin convertible and chatted with Launny Steffens, proprietor of Vineyard 7 & 8, who was donating the (James Bond '007) thunderbolt on wheels to be auctioned off. How could he give it up??? Although Ed has the '06 sedan, I would have liked this one for myself. Oh well..............




Time Posted: Jun 6, 2013 at 11:30 AM