Collage of images in a film strip

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


Irene Ojdana
May 12, 2019 | Irene Ojdana

Jonathan Club Tasting

Ed and I poured our wines recently at the two locations of the Jonathan Club, a private social club with Santa Monica Beach and Downtown Los Angeles locations.

The downtown location is in a lovely old building, which dates back to 1894. The beach location, less formal,  was added more recently. The club was originally a male-only organization, but voted to add women in 1987 and now has 650 female members.  Prior to admitting women, in a position I held to place graduates of the Job Corps Training Program in jobs, I visited the downtown location for that purpose. Unfortunately, I had to ride up to the club office in the freight elevator because only men could use the regular elevators. This time around, I finally made it to the main elevator!

                                                                    Ed Pouring 2014 Vineyard {511}

                                                                Napa Valley Diamond Mountain District

                                                                            Cabernet Sauvignon

                                                                      Jonathan Club Santa Monica Beach


Time Posted: May 12, 2019 at 10:00 AM Permalink to Jonathan Club Tasting Permalink
Irene Ojdana
May 11, 2019 | Irene Ojdana

Tasting at Charles Krug

Ed and I were able to have a reunion with friends we had met while on safari in East Africa. As I mentioned in my previous blog, "Out of Africa," we were in a group of five people (including ourselves) in Africa, and we were surprised to learn that two of the five--Katherine Gard and Tom Furlong--were from the neighboring Napa Valley town of Yountville.

So the four of us caught up at a wine tasting I arranged for us at the Charles Krug winery with other friends of ours, owners Katie and Peter Mondavi.


                                                          Tom, Elizabeth, Ed, Katie, Irene and Peter

The Mondavis put on a wonderful tasting, tour, and pizza lunch for us at the beautiful Charles Krug, the oldest winery in Napa Valley. The winery dates back to 1882, when Charles Krug opened it for public tastings. There we tasted some wonderful wines that included a 2016 Merlot, 2014 X Clones, 2015 Voltz, and 2015 Cold Springs.

Our tour included one of their huge barrel rooms, where we saw their "Big Red" immense, old oak barrel, which dates back to 1944.


Now that's a barrel!




Time Posted: May 11, 2019 at 5:00 PM Permalink to Tasting at Charles Krug Permalink
Irene Ojdana
May 1, 2019 | Irene Ojdana

Notre Dame University Symposium on National and Global Affairs

Every other year, Ed and I attend a symposium on National and Global Affairs put on by Notre Dame University (of which Ed is an alumnus), in Washington D.C. We look forward to this event because we get to hear from the leaders of our country about the state of the union and the world in such interesting venues. We heard from speakers from both sides of the aisle. In the past, we've heard from Hilary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, Paul Ryan and John McCain.

                                                                                  NOTRE DAME INSIGHT & OUTLOOK

                                                                                 ON NATIONAL AND GLOBAL AFFAIRS


This year, some of the distinguished speakers were Vice President Mike Pence (heard in the Ronald Regan Building and International Trade Center); Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (heard in the Smithsonian National African American Museum of History and Culture); Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-MN (heard in the United States Institute of Peace); Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, IN.; Lindsay Graham, Senator R-SC; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; and United States Attorney General William Barr, (all heard in the Andrew Mellon Auditorium).

                                                                                               NANCY PELOSI



                                                                                             MITCHELL MCCONNELL



                                                                                           PETE BUTTIGIEG (ON RIGHT)


At this writing, and at very contentious political times, Senator Amy Klobuchar and Mayor Pete Buttigieg have both thrown in their hats to run in the Democratic primary for President of the United States. Only time will tell.

While in Washington D.C., Ed and I got in some time for culture at the Hirshhorn Museum, on the National Mall, where we viewed a hilarious sculpture by Jimmie Durham, an American artist from Arkansas, made out of a car and volcanic stone and acrylic paint, dated 2007. Perhaps the sculpture depicted the contentious political times.


However, we even were lucky enough to catch the cherry blossoms!


They always lighten the political mood!










Time Posted: May 1, 2019 at 5:07 PM Permalink to Notre Dame University Symposium on National and Global Affairs Permalink
Irene Ojdana
May 1, 2019 | Irene Ojdana

Out of Africa

Although our February trip to East Africa had nothing to do with wine, we experienced the most magnificant animals, up close and personal. We took a zillion photos while in Kenya and Tanzania, but just want to share a few that recall some of the wonderful encounters and spectacular sights we experienced.

                                                                       WELCOME TO KENYA


On our first game drive out we came upon this amazing creature just sittin' in a tree!


                                                                                              LEOPARD IN CENTRAL MERU



     Later that night we came upon two lions.

                                                                                      LIONS SPOONING IN THE MOONLIGHT


The next day, we spotted several baby lions curled up in a tree. Who knew that lions climbed up into trees? I didn't.




We visited a Maasai village in the Serengeti National Park.  Originating from Kenya, the Maasai are among the more well-known African tribes, like the Zulu and the Bantu, due to their more distinguishing customs and homes near popular game reserves in East Africa. A Maasai warrior invited us into his mud hut, called a boma, to meet his wife and child.


                                                                                                     MAASAI WARRIOR



                                                                                           MAASAI MOTHER AND CHILD



One of the places in which we stayed was Richard Branson's beautiful tented camp in Narok in the Rift Valley.


                                                                                     RICHARD BRANSON'S TENTED CAMP



Did you know that giraffes are the tallest land animals in the world? And so graceful! Unfortunately, they are beginning to become scarce and may soon be designated an endangered species.


                                                                                                 GIRAFFES IN NAROK



                                                                               HIPPOS IN THE SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK



Oh boy, did this surprise us!


                                                                                        CHEETAH ON SAFARI VEHICLE




Instead of zip lining, we swayed over nine suspension bridges in the Nanyara National Park.




                                                                                THE RIM OF THE NGORONGORO CRATER



                                                                 MAASAI VILLAGE IN THE NGORONGORO CONSERVATION AREA






                                                            FAREWELL LUNCH IN THE BUSH PRESENTED BY THE FOUR SEASONS HOTEL

                                                                                 NGORONGORO CONSERVATION AREA


The other couple in our small group of 5 we discovered was from another Napa Valley town-- Yountville-- of all places. Now we can easily continue the friendships we formed in Africa.











Time Posted: May 1, 2019 at 3:30 PM Permalink to Out of Africa Permalink
Irene Ojdana
December 9, 2018 | Irene Ojdana

Napa Valley Vintners 2018 Vintage Celebration

Earlier this week, Ed and I attended a Napa Valley Vintners Association Celebration of the 2018 Vintage. Held at the To Kalon Cellar at Robert Mondavi Winery, the event was held in lieu of a holiday party to celebrate Napa Valley's excellence in winemaking. When we arrived, we saw a large sign over a long table that said Juice Bar, which we thought was highly unusual for a Winemakers Tasting. However, what we found there were sample wines from 2018 straight from the barrel.


When we wandered beyond the Juice Bar, we found a winetasting of the vintners' most inspiring vintages.


Following the winetasting, we broke bread at a delicious family style lunch, where we shared harvest stories and raised glasses (more winetasting!) to celebrate the 2018 wines now in the cellar. And what a terrific and plentiful vintage it was.


We'll all be taking a short and well-earned breather, enjoying the holidays, before getting ready for 2019. Happy holidays!




Time Posted: Dec 9, 2018 at 4:15 PM Permalink to Napa Valley Vintners 2018 Vintage Celebration Permalink
Irene Ojdana
December 5, 2018 | Irene Ojdana

Wine Cruising

At the end of October, Ed and I took the first of three wine cruises we have planned. The first  was on the Sea Dream Yacht Club in Spain, and the next two will be in Portugal, in April, and Bordeaux, in August, about which I promise to blog.

We picked up the first in wonderful Barcelona, where we got to check out the famous and fanciful Gaudi Cathedral--Sagrada Familia--to see its progress in completion. It's still under construction after 137 years-only 70% finished.

                                                                                              On our one evening in Barcelona before picking up the cruise the next day, we got to drink some lovely Priorat wine from a mountainous area southwest of Barcelona, which Ed and I had previously visited. Since our last visit, the wines of Priorat have become more well-known and more expensive. Priorat is a Catalan wine-producing region, that was totally abandoned until the early 1900's. It has gone through a renaissance, producing wines with a nose of red and black plum, black cherry and cassis, and with accents of bold fruit flavors.





The next day, from the port in Barcelona, we boarded the Sea Dream Yacht Club--a small ship of under 100 guests.


There were only 81 guests for this sailing--an intimate setting--where we all could get to know one another.  In fact, can you believe we discovered there were two other Napa Valley vintner couples on the ship from Calistoga: Saddleback's winemaker Nils Venge, there on his honeymoon, and Seth Gersch and Alisa Gean, MD., proprietors of Hindsight Vineyards! We got to know them all and shared a fun wine dinner, where we all contributed our wines.


On the ship we experienced tastings of Torello Cava. Torellos have an impressive history dating back to the 1300's and, today, they are famous for producing some of the best Spanish "champagnes." We also had a tasting on board of Bodegas Rey Fernando De Castiilla sherry. The varietal is often misunderstood, something that is thought of as sweet and only drunk by old ladies. In the tasting we learned how sherry can be paired with most food.

The winery we most enjoyed on land was in Ronda--Descalzos Viejos (the aged barefoot monks),--which was founded in 2000 and specially restored for winemaking. It is situated in the chapel of a sixteenth-century monestary.



Perched on the higher slopes of the Tajo of Ronda gorge, they make wine from about 2.5 acres of vineyards on the property. Its wines were very enjoyable, and we brought some back to Diamond Mountain to enjoy again.

At the end of the cruise, which disembarked in Malaga on the Costa del Sol, Spain's west coast, Ed and I decided to extend our stay and fly on to Marrakech, Morocco, which is considered to be a happening place. It is in the spotlight now, thanks to the new Musee Yves Saint Laurent and Marjorelle Garden, owned by Saint Laurent's estate. Purchased from the painter Jacques Marjorelle, the garden is adorned with Majorelle blue, the color named for him.


Marrakech is an exotic place to explore, especially its medina and souks, a labyrinth of markets with an incredible profusion of local crafts, foods, spices, and snake charmers. I didn't get too close to the snakes, but enjoyed watching craftsmen creating their wares and men selling delicious dried fruits.                                                                                        



We also discovered some of the best wines of Morroco during a wine tasting at our hotel La Mamounia. (Who knew that Morocco even made wine?) The tasting took place in an exotic, animal-skinned-decorated bar called Churchill's, which hasn't been changed or renovated since Churchill drank there in the mid-20th Century. The wines were displayed on an old maroon-colored piano.


Some of the wines we enjoyed were the grand cru Les Coteaux de L'Atlas; d'Argan from Perle Grise de Mogador, from Domaine du Val d'Argan; and the 2016 Icone from Cuvee la Mamounia (our hotel's own). 

We ended our trip to Morocco with a stay at Kasbah Tamadot, Richard Branson's retreat in the High Atlas Mountains. Kasbah Tamadot employs local Berber staff from the surrounding villages, giving guests a sense of staying in a Moroccan home rather than a hotel. We had a terrific hike through Berber villages with a Berber guide, where we stopped for mint tea, not wine.


However, we will be reporting back to you about our next two wine cruises in Portugal's Douro Valley and France's Bordeaux region. Until then...........












Time Posted: Dec 5, 2018 at 2:00 PM Permalink to Wine Cruising Permalink
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 Permalink to Napa Valley Film Festival 2018 Permalink
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 Permalink to Vintage Affaire Permalink
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 Permalink to Calistoga's Sixth Annual Harvest Table Permalink
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 Permalink to Hollywood Bowl Permalink