Collage of images in a film strip

From Hollywood to Vine with Vineyard {511}
Adventures in Wine, Food, Film and Travel


Irene Ojdana
September 18, 2021 | Irene Ojdana

The V Foundation Wine Celebration

The V Foundation Wine Celebration returned to Napa Valley for a four-day, event-filled extravaganza in August 2021 to raise money for cancer research. And raise money it did--$12 million. Because of the pandemic, last year's 2020 event was virtual.

The Foundation was started in 1993 by Jimmy Valvano, the legendary coach of North Carolina State basketball team who, while dying of cancer himself, put out the challenge to never give up and claim a victory over cancer. This year's grant honorees were Rich and Leslie Frank of Frank Family Wines and the Fund-A-Need effort was dedicated to immunotherapy research to help fight cancer. 

Some highlights of the Celebration included a luncheon, at Louis Martini Winery; a dinner with the docs, many of whom were immunotherapists, at Far Niente Winery; a concert by multi-Platinum singer/songwriter Andy Grammer, at Alpha Omega Winery:

and BBQ a wine and BBQ showdown at The Estate in Yountville:

and lots of partying.

The major highlight of all the weekend activities was the Gala dinner, prepared by celebrity chef Michael Mina, and live auction, hosted by Duke University's Mike "Coach K" Krzyzewski, held at Nickle and Nickle Winery, in Oakville: 

Dozens of incredible lots were up for bid. The evening’s top lot thrilled attendees by reaching $1 million for The Legend’s Last Legacy, Duke vs. UNC, featuring a once-in-a-lifetime weekend trip to join Duke’s Coach K for his final home game before retirement. We bid and won attendance at the next Wine Country V Foundation event, this time in our neighboring county of Sonoma, March 31-April 3, 2022. We can hardly wait!


Time Posted: Sep 18, 2021 at 4:00 PM Permalink to The V Foundation Wine Celebration Permalink
Irene Ojdana
August 6, 2021 | Irene Ojdana

Festival Napa Valley Gala

After a year's hiatus, activities are bouncing back in Napa Valley. Over a two-week period in late July 2021, Festival Napa Valley entertained audiences with sold-out concerts in iconic Napa Valley settings, raising money to fund arts education in schools and in the community. To cap the Festival off, Ed and I attended the Arts for All Gala at Nickle and Nickle in Oakville, which raised a whopping $2.8 million with a live auction of fabulous lots, such as a private performance of world-renouned opera star Renee Fleming, a 2022 experience at the Kentucky Derby and an Adriatic cruise. Tennis star John McEnroe made a surprise appearance and raised $10,000 for a match with him and attendance at his own rock concert at the Silverado Country Club.

The highlight of the evening was a concert by Grammy-award winner Jennifer Hudson and her band, who belted out favorites and some new songs.

We are so looking forward to the upcoming release of her new feature film Respect, based on the life of Aretha Franklin.

Time Posted: Aug 6, 2021 at 10:00 AM Permalink to Festival Napa Valley Gala Permalink
Irene Ojdana
February 18, 2020 | Irene Ojdana

Napa Valley Film Festival Fundraiser

Cinema Napa Valley, the non-profit organization, which runs the Napa Valley Film Festival (NVFF), recently held its Second Annual Patron Circle Fundraiser. The fun event was held at the three-Michelin-star The Restaurant, at Napa Valley's Meadowood resort.

After an hour's reception with En Tirage Blanc de Blancs Carneros 2010 sparkling wine paired with inventive nibbles-- oysters "bubbled" in smoked sea water and green almonds treated like olives--guests were seated at tables surrounding an indoor tree in the elegant dining area.

Seated at our table were current NVFF board members Michael Wood, of Baywood Capital and owner of the Mount View Hotel and Spa, in Calistoga, and his wife Stephanie; Bob Bassett, Dean of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film & Media Arts, and his wife Janell. Also seated at our table were Kathy Buck, proprietor of the historic Cameo Cinema in St. Helena (the 107-year-old, fully-digital movie theater, only one of 9 single-screen theaters in the U.S. to offer Dolby Atmos sound); John Brazzale, NVFF Development Consultant; and Ed Ojdana, co-owner of Vineyard {511} and former board member and founding patron (along with myself) of the NVFF. There was so much buzz about film at this table.

We were served a delicious appetizer of kohlrabi caviar paired with Champagne Paul Launois, Monochrome, Le Mesnil Sur Oger, NV. Notice the lovely pottery serving dishes.

Another yummy item on the menu was black cod steamed in mustard greens with cultured butter,

paired with Russian River Valley 2017 Kanzler Pinot Noir.

There were also silent and live auctions, where trips to Bali and Malibu were offered. Ed and I won a 3-day day package, that included 2 tickets to the V Foundation for Cancer Research Wine Celebration Weekend in August 2020, including winery lunches, dinners, panels and gala. It was donated by the V Foundation, begun by Jimmy Valvano, North Carolina State basketball coach who, when dying of cancer, challenged his fans to find a cure for cancer. Such a worth cause.

The evening served as a wonderful taste of what's to come for Cinema Napa Valley's Patron Circle and the NVFF's 10th anniversary!

Time Posted: Feb 18, 2020 at 12:10 PM Permalink to Napa Valley Film Festival Fundraiser Permalink
Irene Ojdana
February 16, 2020 | Irene Ojdana

San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Public Tasting

On Saturday, February 15, the San Francisco Chronicle held its 20th annual wine competition public tasting at Fort Mason. The facility is located in the Marina area of the City with a beautiful view of the SF Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.


Hundreds of people participated in the event to taste the wines of the winners of the competition.


Many stopped by our booth to congratulate us and to taste our soon-to-be-released Vineyard {511} 2016 Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon and our 2018 Napa/Carneros Vineyard {511} Chardonnay.


Everyone looked like they were having fun.




Time Posted: Feb 16, 2020 at 2:25 PM Permalink to San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Public Tasting Permalink
Irene Ojdana
December 10, 2019 | Irene Ojdana

Napa Valley Vintners 2019 Vintage Celebration

The Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) celebrated the 2019 Napa Valley vintage, by throwing a tasting and luncheon in the To Kalon Cellar, at the Robert Mondavi Winery, on December 3. (In its 75th year, the NVV is an organization with the mission to promote and protect Napa Valley and with the goal to position and champion Napa Valley as the world's premier wine region. Vineyard {511} is a member of the 500- plus- member organization.)

We gathered with fellow vintners and winemakers to get a first taste of the 2019 vintage and to see what older vintages the 2019 reminded us of.


All 500 members of us also shared the wines of winemakers who inspired us. Hands down, our own winemaker Rob Lloyd inspired us the most. (For all the activities 1000 of members' wines were shared!)


We all sat down at a 400-foot family table,


where we made new friends and enjoyed a scrumptious lunch. The first course was a salad of autumn and winter leaves with creamy skyhill goat cheese vinaigrette, puffed wild rice with compressed pears and apples. The main course was medallions of beef with wild mushroom-port sauce and natural pork tenderloin skewers, with Spanish flavors, pomegranate gastrique and carrot top salsa verde, plus great veggies--and shared each others' wines (again).


And did I mention dessert? There was pumpkin cheesecake, orange-pistachio-white chocolate financier and salted caramel chocolate cremeaux tartlette. Yummmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Our 2019 has only recently begun aging in 100% French oak and will be for 30 months total, with another 18 months in the bottle before being released in 2023. Cheers to that!





Time Posted: Dec 10, 2019 at 10:30 AM Permalink to Napa Valley Vintners 2019 Vintage Celebration Permalink
Irene Ojdana
December 4, 2019 | Irene Ojdana

Ninth Annual Napa Valley Film Festival

The Ninth Annual Napa Valley Film Festival (NVFF), which ran November 13-17, 2019, was a terrific success. The festival, which celebrates the art of independent filmmaking, is the only film festival completely immersed in the art of film, food and wine.

Films were screened up and down Napa Valley: in the City of Napa at the Uptown Theater, the Archer Hotel, and CIA at Copia; in the City of Yountville, at the Lincoln Theater; and in the City of St. Helena, at the Cameo Theater, the Native Sons Hall, and the Charles Krug Winery. My favorite films were "Ford v Ferrari", directed by James Mangold, with Matt Damon and Christian Bale, which opened shortly afterward nationwide (grossing the most of any film that weekend), and "Standing Up Falling Down," directed by Matt Ratner, with Billy Crystal, Ben Schwartz, and Grace Gummer, (which opens early next year.)

Our favorite screening venue was the Cameo Theater, the oldest, continuously running single-screen movie theater in the US. We love the Dolby sound system and love the two-person love seats!


By the way, that's a Rolls Royce we're standing in front of. Rolls is a major sponsor of the Festival, and we got chauffeured around in one, one of the great perks of being in the patron level "movie mogul." As founding patrons of the Festival, we've seen it grow and enhance Napa Valley. Cinema Napa Valley is a 501c3 non-profit that not only celebrates the cinematic arts, but also enriches the community with year-round educaton and outreach programs. One of the programs -- Inspire--is a multi-school field trip for 1200 Napa and Solano County middle and high school students during the festival to watch documentary films and engage in conversation with filmmakers.

As patrons of NVFF, we also get to meet with filmmakers and movie stars. At the lovely movie mogul dinner at the Napa Valley Reserve, a private wine club founded by William Harlan, owner of Harlan Estate Winery. The dinner was catered by Meadowood (another major sponsor of the Festival), where we had dinner with actor and musician Kevin Bacon and his wife, actress, producer and director Kyra Sedgwick.


 Bacon was the recipient of the Charles Krug Legendary Actor Award at the Festival. He is probably best known for his work in the film "Footloose," among countless other films.  Sedgwick is well-known for her work as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson on the TV show "The Closer."

Also receiving awards was actress Jillian Bell, known for her work on "22 Jump Street" and in "Brittany Runs a Marathon."


Wine was seen everywhere because, in case you didn't know, Napa Valley is a wine mecca. An important part of the Festival is the Vintner Circle, a group of Napa Valley wineries, that pairs directly with the Festival's Patron Circle. In addition to pouring their best varietals at VIP events, each winery hosts an intricate dinner for Patron Circle members, celebrities and filmmakers. (Ours was the one at the Reserve.)

After the awards program at the Lincoln Theater, we had dinner at another Vintner Circle winery, Clif Lede Vineyards, in Yountville. There,  we shared a table with actor William Fichtner, known for his roles as Sheriff Tom Underlay on "Invasion" and as Alexander Mahone on "Prison Break."


The third major focus of the Festival is the food of Napa Valley. Our favorite "foodie" activity was Variety's Film to Table, held at Charles Krug Winery. There talented chefs showcased their interpretations of dishes inspired by iconic food scenes. We especially liked Raymond Vineyard Chef Rafael Molina's braised crocodile with apple spuma, inspired by the film "Peter Pan" and Louis Martini Chef Jeffrey Russell's Fried Green Tomatoes (BLT), ispired by the film of the same name.


The chefs were so proud of their creations!

Looking forward to next year's Tenth Annual NVFF--a big deal!














Time Posted: Dec 4, 2019 at 2:15 PM Permalink to Ninth Annual Napa Valley Film Festival Permalink
Irene Ojdana
November 14, 2019 | Irene Ojdana

Wine Dinner at Primo Italia

Primo Italia Restaurant in Torrance, CA, was the site of Vineyard {511}'s recent wine dinner. Primo is a classy Italian restaurant in the South Bay of Los Angeles and where we served our 2018 Napa/Carneros Chardonnay, our 2017 Napa/Carneros Pinot Noir and our 2009, 2012, and 2014 Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon, all paired with a delicious five-course Italian meal, created by Chef Santi.

Owner Lou Giovannatti introduced Ed and me announcing that Vineyard {511} was the the first California winery to be included in the series of wine dinners they've held over the years. Their wine dinners have previously featured only Italian wines.


We showed a short video, which told the story of Vineyard {511}, after which Ed and I introduced the wines that would be paired before and with each course.


We were so happy that Vineyard {511} Southern California wine club members Kevin Covert and his wife Stephaniie


and Bob Bernstein and his wife Carol


were able to join us. A great night was had by all.









Time Posted: Nov 14, 2019 at 11:00 AM Permalink to Wine Dinner at Primo Italia Permalink
Irene Ojdana
October 16, 2019 | Irene Ojdana

Harvest Party 2019

Harvest 2019 was one to celebrate. Although we wouldn't bring in our grapes for another 2 weeks, harvest was happening throughout Napa Valley, and everyone was thankful for a wonderful year.

Vineyard {511} held its private harvest party for its wine club on September 28, blessed by great weather and great friends. Our vineyard peacock Cabernet was at our front gate welcoming everyone in.



Our winemaker Rob Lloyd was on hand to tell everyone about our latest release--2015 Vineyard {511} Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon. Everyone got along famously and made new friends, while enjoying some wonderful food catered by Oak Avenue Catering in St. Helena.                                    


                                                    We also got the opportunity to re-connect with our friends Tom and Cathy Tardio.


Tom, the new CEO of the Napa Valley Film Festival, of which Ed and I are founding patrons, spoke to our guests about the exciting Festival activities to look forward to this November. Kevin Covert and his wife Stephanie came up from Manhattan Beach, CA (close to where we live in Southern California). The couple that attended from the furthest distance were Ruth and John Eliason from Minnesota, who we met in Belize.                                            

We ended the afternoon by announcing the raffle winner of a magnum of our latest release--our 2015 Cab; the lucky winner was Tim Leahy, who we met on a Bordeaux river cruise in August. Our wine club members come from far and wide, but we love having them nearby.













Time Posted: Oct 16, 2019 at 3:01 PM Permalink to Harvest Party 2019 Permalink
Irene Ojdana
October 16, 2019 | Irene Ojdana

Vineyard {511} 2019 Harvest

The 2019 harvest of our Diamond Mountain District Cabernet grapes began at sunrise on October 9. We awoke that morning to see a beehive of activity in our 511 vineyard.


Although we didn't have electrical power inside our house because of a shutdown by Pacific Gas and Electric, the workers outside were a powerhouse of energy, first carefully picking the grapes by hand


and then carrying them away


to be uploaded onto a truck.


From there, the grapes were driven to Napa, where our winemaker Rob Lloyd works his magic on them. We'll have to be patient to get to drink the final product in 2023.




Time Posted: Oct 16, 2019 at 1:41 PM Permalink to Vineyard {511} 2019 Harvest Permalink
Irene Ojdana
September 22, 2019 | Irene Ojdana

In Memory of Boots Brounstein

Boots Brounstein passed away on July 31, 2019, at the age of 92. In the San Francisco Chronical, wine-writer Esther Mobley wrote, "With her husband Al, Brounstein co-founded Diamond Creek Vineyards, which became a pioneer in establishing Napa Valley's hillsides as prime territory for Cabernet Sauvignon. Arguably, the Brounsteins contributed more than any other vintners of their era to the idea of single-vineyard, terrior-driven wines."

But to me, Boots was more than a vintner, she was a wonderful friend. I met her at a holiday party on Diamond Mountain, and we shared casual dinners together after that. Boots was such a generous person, inviting my family to the picnics she held around the lake at Diamond Creek. She was a special person who had the ability to make me, as well as everyone else who had contact with her, feel special too.

On September 17, I attended a memorial service for her at The Culinary Institute of America at Copia, in the City of Napa. She filled up a large auditoriam with many friends and family, who wanted to remember and pay tribute to her. The most moving speakers were her six grandchildren, who all spoke about the unconditional love and guidance and support Boots gave them and about how they will miss her. There wasn't a dry eye among us.

Afterward, Phil and Chuck Ross, Boots' sons, and her daughter-in-law Susan, made a toast, L'Chaim, to life, in her honor, as we all raised a glass of 2016 Diamond Creek Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.



Here is a beautiful photo of Boots as it appears on the booklet given to us at the service.


I'll miss her.


Time Posted: Sep 22, 2019 at 4:00 PM Permalink to In Memory of Boots Brounstein Permalink