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Vineyard 511

From Hollywood to Vine with Vineyard {511}

Adventures in Wine, Food, Film and Travel

Irene Ojdana
November 30, 2018 | Irene Ojdana

Napa Valley Film Festival 2018

After our cruise to Spain and our exploration of Marrakech, we raced back home for the 8th Annual Napa Valley Film Festival (NVFF). As founding patrons of the Festival, Ed and I had even participated in its first teaser year (so there were actually nine NVFFs). Its mission is to support the cinematic arts and enrich the community by presenting an annual world-class festival and year-round education and outreach programs. And this year, what a world class jobit did, with more than 100 screenings of new independent films in 5 days!

We saw fabulous films such as The Front Runner, which followed the rise and fall of Senator Gary Hart. Hart was played by Hugh Jackman, who did a great job in portraying Hart's fall from grace from a publicized extra-marital affair. And from it his subsequent loss of the 1988 Democratic nomination for President (for which he was considered the front runner).

Another favorite was funny Green Book, starring Viggo Mortensen, who played a garrulous Italian-American bouncer hired to drive African-American world-class jazz pianist Don Shirley on a concert tour from Manhattan throughout the Deep South. Don Shirley could only stay in hotels listed in a green book that allowed black guests. Mortensen must have gained 30 pounds to portray the over-eating driver stuffing his mouth with large pizza slices while bonding with the more circumspect musician. The screenplay was written by the driver's son, who in a Q&A following the screening of the film, recounted how he remembered every word his garrulous father told him about the trip.

A documentary, Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, looked at what drove the incredible Williams to give voice to the countless characters in his mind. And another documentary, Hesburgh, provided a glimpse at more that 50 years of history through the eyes of the Catholic priest/President of Notre Dame University/Head of the Civil Rights Commission, who defied President Richard Nixon with his stands on civil rights. Ed is a Notre Dame alum and was at the University during Hesburgh's tenure there, so really appreciated the film.

Ed and I enjoy talking with the actors and directors who are either in the films we see at the Festival or who are provided tributes. We chatted with Lawrence Fishburne III ("Fish")


and with Billy Bob Thornton about his guitar playing.



Forgive me for stating the obvious, but you can’t have a festival in Wine Country without copious amounts of wine, and it flowed throughout the NVFF, with 150 participating wineries. Wine was available for purchase at selected screenings, but one of the best opportunities to get a total taste of Napa was to take a wine tasting break at either the Downtown Napa Intermission at the “Down Valley Hub” or the St. Helena Wine Pavilion at the “Upvalley Hub” at Farmstead/ Long Meadow Ranch. And did I mention wine dinners through the Vintner Circle? Members of the Patron Circle were able to enjoy dinners pairing world-class wines with foods prepared by award-winning chefs at 20 wineries throughout the valley. Filmmakers were also at these dinners to share conversation about their films.

Ed and I chatted with Geena Davis about movie distribution at cocktails and while we sat across the table from her at the Movie Mogul dinner at Meadowood. The dinner followed her new documentary, This Changes Everything, about gender inequality in Hollywood, and following a Visionary tribute to her about the issue.


At the dinner, I sat next to Taissa Farmiga (kid sister of Vera). Taissa can currently be seen in The Nun and in What They Had. When I started talking to her, I thought I was sitting next to Vera Farmiga, who looks just like her.


Taissa was part of the Festival's Rising Star Showcase.

Ed sat next to Alice Eve (Star Wars) who, along with Billy Bob Thornton and Laurence Fishburne III, received Celebrity Tributes.


Alice also came to our place the next day for a wine tasting with her boyfriend Ollie and joined our wine club.


Now, we are looking forward to the 2019 Festival!































Time Posted: Nov 30, 2018 at 11:46 AM
Irene Ojdana
October 8, 2018 | Irene Ojdana

Vintage Affaire

For the first time, Ed and I poured our Vineyard {511} Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon at the 36th Annual Vintage Affaire, a fundraiser benefitting Palo Alto's Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The Center's mission is to inspire their success and independence to embrace life to the fullest. This year the event was held at the amazing Fioli Gardens in Woodside, California.


Fioli is a country house set in 16 acres of formal gardens surrounded by a 654 acre estate. It was built in 1917 for William Bowers Bourn 11, owner of California's richest gold mine. Over the years, it has been the residence of other wealthy families, until the Roth family donated it to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

After Ed and I poured our wine,


we joined the other guests and vintners for a delicious dinner and live auction. Fund-A-Need brought in $50,000 for the Technology Department! We scored a 4-course gourmet dinner for 12 in our home prepared by renouned chef, Annie Nunan, formerly chef at Nouveau Trattoria in Palo Alto. Annie has hosted Hillary and Bill Clinton and Amy Tan , among other well-known celebs. Can't wait!

Time Posted: Oct 8, 2018 at 5:00 PM
Irene Ojdana
September 21, 2018 | Irene Ojdana

Calistoga's Sixth Annual Harvest Table

On Sunday evening, Ed and I joined 800 other diners for Calistoga's Sixth Annual Harvest Table. The event, a food and wine extravaganza sponsored by the Calistoga Chamber of Commerce, consisted of a 1000-foot-long table strung down the length of Lincoln Avenue, the main drag of Calistoga. The table was set with linen table cloths and colorful flowers and surrounded by wine pavillions.


The food was furnished by local Calistoga restaurants, such as Lovina, Evangaline, Solbar, Sarafornia, Napa Valley Crust, and Checkers (the restaurant for which we procured tickets). We dined on a tomato and bread salad, lasagna, roast suckling pig and cheese cake with berries. We could actually watch the two pigs roasting just before they appeared on our plates! The wine was provided by local vintners, such as ourselves, and we even purchased our own Vineyard {511} Chardonnay there to be enjoyed for ourselves and to share with tablemates. Everyone loved it.


Sales of the tickets for the event went online in July and sold out in 102 minutes in a selling frenzy. Proceeds from a portion of the sale of the tickets for the food and wine in the amount of $4000 will be donated to the Calistoga Cares Food Pantry. Can't wait for next year's Calistoga Harvest Table!

Time Posted: Sep 21, 2018 at 6:00 PM
Irene Ojdana
September 11, 2018 | Irene Ojdana

Hollywood Bowl

Although we only made four out of five of our concert series, this season at the Hollywood Bowl was fantastic. To kick off the series, the first concert was incredible--a tripple treat of Christopher Cross singing "Sailing" and "Ride Like the Wind,"


Michael McDonald singing "What a Fool Believes," and "On My Own,"


and Kenny Loggins singing "Celebrate Me Home," "Whenever I Call Your Name," and "This Is It," among many of their other hit songs.


For an encore, the three greats got together and belted out "Taking It To the Streets," and brought the house down!

Every year, the Hollywood Bowl presents a Broadway musical scaled down for the Bowl stage. In the past, we've seen "Showboat," and "Hair," among others. This year, the Bowl put on a delightful "Annie."                                                                  



Our third concert was a bit more highbrow--Gustavo Dudamel conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra doing Tchaikovsky's Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and the 1812 Overture. Venezualan Dudamel is the boy wonder of the concert world, who brings not only astonishing talent to his art but also glamour and incredible enthusiasm.


It is a Hollywood Bowl tradition that, when the orchestra plays the "1812 Overture" (usually once a season), it is accompanied by the USC Marching Band (wearing sunglasses to protect themselves)


from the spectacular fireworks.


The talented Harry Connick, Jr., was the star of our last concert at the Bowl for the season, a celebration of 100 years of New Orleans, of which Connick is a native.  He is so versatile. He sings, dances and plays numerous instruments.


Our guests for the evening with whom we shared a delicous dinner in our box was our friend and former neighbor Norm Kiken (Reverie Winery on Diamond Mountain) and his wife Suzie Donahue.


And the evening ended with more fireworks!














Time Posted: Sep 11, 2018 at 5:37 PM
Irene Ojdana
August 1, 2018 | Irene Ojdana

Sun Valley Wine Auction

For the 3rd consecutive year, Ed and I poured our Vineyard {511} Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts Wine Auction. Held in Sun Valley, Idaho, the Auction (in its 37th year) is a celebration of wine in support of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts' year-round art education programs.

The Center provides arts, music and theater education to 4,000 students in Blaine County with the money it raises each year from the Wine Auction, Vintner Dinners, and its Vine & Dine. Its Scholarship Program has awarded more than $850,000 in the past 20 years to Blaine County students and educators for advanced study.

At the Gala, guests generously raised their paddles to bid on auction lots generously donated by avid supporters of the Center's mission. We shared our Vineyard {511}  Cab, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at our table and bid from there.


One live auction package donated by fellow Calistoga vintner Suzanne Phifer Pavitt inluded four nights in Music City Nashville with visits to various museums and musical venues. The trip was so popular that Suzanne donated it 3 more times so that 4 bidders in total won the package reaping a wopping $96,000 for the Center. Another auction package was a trip to New Orleans, that included a private-catered dinner prepared by Emeril Lagasse.

The next day and evening, we poured our wine there.


But there was more Auction activities. We rode a gondala and then a chair lift to appreciate the beauty of Sun Valley from above.


And we hiked Sun Valley


to appreciate it up close.



Can't wait for the Sun Valley Wine Auction 2019!







Time Posted: Aug 1, 2018 at 4:00 PM
Irene Ojdana
July 17, 2018 | Irene Ojdana

Wine Tasting at Continuum Estate

Ed and I took his brother, sister-in-law, two nephews and their spouses (with 10-month old Georgie in tow), our daugher Kelly and husband Jeff and their son Ian (our grandson) for a tour, tasting and scrumptious lunch at Tim Mondavi's Continuum Estate. The contemporary-looking winery, on Atlas peak, is amazing, not surprisingly as it was designed by renouned architect Howard Backen.

After the tour, we were served roasted summer vegetables with balsamic vinagrette and burrata, fregola tabbouleh, pan-seared chicken breasts with romesco sauce, and plum-frangipane tart with soft whipped cream, all prepared by talented chef Sarah Scott. The meal was paired with 2009 and 2014 Continuum--a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot. What made the meal really special was that Tim and his daughter Carissa joined us for lunch, and we really enjoyed getting to know them.


The afternoon was dedicated to honor The Queen of the Valley Hospital, as Tim generously donated the luncheon, which Ed and I bid on and won at the hospital's foundation dinner.

As we were leaving, Tim presented Ed, me and daughter Kelly with a magnum of 2013 Continuum.

                                            continuum mGNUM

That magnum was enjoyed by the whole family that night with dinner--we didn't waste any time with that!


Time Posted: Jul 17, 2018 at 6:08 PM
Irene Ojdana
June 12, 2018 | Irene Ojdana

Manhattan Wine Auction

On June 9, for the third year in a row, Ed and I poured our wine--this year our 2014 Vineyard {511} Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon, our 2016 Carneros Napa Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at the 24th Annual Manhattan Beach Wine Auction, held at the beautiful Manhattan Beach Country Club. Prior to the dinner and live auction (held on center court),


the tennis courts were re-invented into wine and food tasting pavillions, separated by silent auction stations.





All proceeds from the Manhattan Wine Auction provide critical funding to the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation (MBEF) and the MBEF Endowment. Setting a new record, the sold out crowd of 2000 raised $1.3 million for local schools. MBEF is a community-driven fundraising organization, which supplements state funding for programs that inspire learning, enrich teaching, and promote innovation and academic excellence in the Manhattan Beach public schools.


Time Posted: Jun 12, 2018 at 1:40 PM
Irene Ojdana
June 6, 2018 | Irene Ojdana

Napa Valley Wine Auction 2018

I am so proud to be a  member of the Napa Vintners Association (NVV). It knocked it out of the park again this year by raising an incredible $13.6 million for Napa Valley charities at its 38th annual Auction Napa Valley, which took place May 31-June 2, 2018. Through the Auction, NVV supports community health and educational organizations critical to helping families and children in need, especially as it had done following the wine country wildfires.

Since the Auction's inception, NVV has been able to donate an amazing $180 million to local charitable causes-- and now it's $193.6 million! More than 100,000 clients of local nonprofits are touched by Auction proceeds annually. Every child in Napa County has access to health insurance, thanks to the Community Health Initiative. (NVV is the largest private funder of this program in Napa County.) What's raised here, stays here.

As it has been since the Auction's inception, Meadowood Napa Valley was the venue for Saturday's Live Auction Celebration, considered the highlight of the three days of activities. The event's biggest wine lot was donated by Opus One, which included its wine dating back to 1979 and a trip to France for a masquerade ball at the Palace of Versailles. The lot was doubled for a second winner, so the total brought in for that lot was a whopping $1.4 million.

The day before, Charles Krug winery was the site for Friday's Napa Valley Barrel Auction and wine and food tasting event. It was the best Barrel Auction I'd attended, well organized in a lovely venue. The highest lot for the barrel auction was a red blend of 2016 VGS Chateau Potelle, which went for $114,300. In the online auction (to which we donated wine and a vineyard lunch experience), the highest lot of a salmanazar of Shafer Vineyards 1995 Hillside Select went for $20,200.

                              Ed With Katey and Peter Mondavi, Jr., of Charles Krug Winery, at the Barrel Auction


                                         Irene With Michelle Baggett of Alpha Omega at the Barrel Auction


Some other fun events we attended were a "tent raising" at Meadowood--a party for Meadowood members to make up for the loss of the use of Meadowood facilities during Auction events--and a kickoff bottle party at Charter Oak restaurant for NVV members. There we were introduced to the honorary chairs for this year's Auction, fourth-generation Mondavi sisters of the Peter Mondavi Sr. family--who kicked off the festivities.                   

                  Ed and Irene at Meadowood Tent Raising Party with Greg Tucker of Notre Dame Wine Program

                                                  tent raising                                                                                                  

I am looking forward to next year's Auction, which will be celebrating the NVV's 75th anniversary with the best wines in the world!


Time Posted: Jun 6, 2018 at 6:10 PM
Irene Ojdana
May 28, 2018 | Irene Ojdana

Women for WineSense Wine Tasting

Ed and I were recently in Orlando, Florida, to pour our wine at a wine dinner and at a wine tasting for members of Women for WineSense (WWS), Orlando Chapter. WWS is a nationwide education, mentoring and networking organization for wine aficionados and industry professionals, both women and men. There is a Napa/Sonoma branch, the founding chapter, actually founded 27 years ago by a woman with whom I play tennis at Meadowood, Michaela Rodeno.

The dinner was held at a steakhouse, Christner's (formerly Del Frisco), where WWS members and other guests, sampled our wine. The juicy steak was a great accompanyment to our 2012 and 2013 Cab. The next night, our wine tasting was held at our distributor's warehouse, where our Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, in addition to our Cab, paired wonderfully with the cheese and charcuterie provided by WWS.                                                                                   





We tried to go to Epcot Center on our last day in Orlando, but we got rained out. We'll try again next time in Orlando.

And now that I know about WWS and am very impressed with the organization, I will definitely check out the Napa/Sonoma chapter.

Time Posted: May 28, 2018 at 4:50 PM
Irene Ojdana
March 10, 2018 | Irene Ojdana

Two Trips to the Jungle

Ed and I took time off from gazing at grape vines to gazing at the thick swinging vines in the foliage of tropical rain forests. Over the New Year's holidays and then again in February, we found ourselves in Central America among howler monkeys and crocodiles.


Belize crocodile

The first of the two trips was to Costa Rica with our kids Kelly and Jeff and their son--our 5-year-old grandson Ian. We stayed at a jungle resort called Tortuga Lodge and Gardens, set on a private rain forest reserve bordering Tortuguero National Park on the north Caribbean coast. We flew in from Liberia on a light charter flight and landed on a very short local airstrip. Whew! We then crossed the Tortuguero River by boat to get to the lodge located on the river; the only way to get there is by boat as there are no cars on the island, only flat-bottomed boats.

From there, we did some great kayaking and floats along the river with naturalist guides. We saw iguanas, monkeys, three-toed sloths, river otters, crocodiles, toucans, parrots and other neotropical species.


After four nights of somewhat roughing it there (and very early-morning wake-up calls by howler monkeys), we flew and then drove to the luxurious Four Seasons Resort, located on the northern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica on the Papagayo Peninsula in Guanacaste. Someone's got to do it! The resort is built between two golden sand beaches for great swimming there or in its four swimming pools.

The highlight there for all of us was an hour and a half exursion to the Rincon Volcano in the Rincon de la Vieja National Park. We were actually on the bottom of the volcano--trips to the top are unlawful and dangerous--and got to hike along side bubbling volcanic activity and lush waterfalls.


Not too long after Ed and I were back in the U.S., we made our way to Belize. Back in 2017, at a Calistoga and St. Helena Boys Club fundraising gala, we bid on and "won" a stay at two hotels in Belize. Both are owned and were donated to the Boys and Girls Club by film director and fellow vintner Francis Ford Coppola. Although the first we hotel we stayed in --The Turtle Inn-- wasn't in the jungle but in a thatched cottage at a white sand Carribean beach and was where we kicked back

Ed by pool

drinking my new favorite rum drink called a caipirinha,

Caiparina recipe

the second-- Blacaneaux Lodge--was located under a jungle canopy along a rushing river.


The highlight of our trip to Blacaneaux was an exursion to the Mayan ruins at Caracol. Situated high on the Vaca Plateau deep in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve, Caracol is the most extensive Mayan site in Belize, discovered in 1936. At the heart of the site lies the massive pyramid of Caana (Sky Palace), which is now almost fully restored and reaches a height of over 135 feet.

Belize Caracola

Another highlight of this exursion was actually getting there and back as the road leading into and out of Caracol was flooded.

Flooded Road

But we forged ahead without seat belts and with windows lowered in case we had to swim out of the car. A scary but exhilarating experience.

We loved our trip to Costa Rica with our family and to Belize just with the two of us. We love the friendly people there and the opportunity to immerse ourselves in nature. We'll be back soon.


Time Posted: Mar 10, 2018 at 2:23 PM