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


Irene Ojdana
June 13, 2016 | Irene Ojdana

Auction Napa Valley 2016

Auction Napa Valley 2016

Ed and I spent much of last week partying at the Napa Valley Vintners Auction Napa Valley to help raise $14.3 million for Napa charities, so there's no guilt attached for having such a good time.

Starting Wednesday, we attended the Auction Kick-off Party at Gott's Roadside for "burgers, bottles and beneficiaries," with fellow vintners, a much more casual event than those we've attended in the past; last year's luncheon at Meadowood was a little more formal (although terrific, nonetheless). This year, the burgers, sweet-potato fries, tacos and shakes (mine chocolate) were finger-licking good. And did I say wine? There, we had the opportunity to meet the leaders of the local non-profit youth and health organizations benefiting from the Auction. We sat with the CEO of the Big Brothers and Sisters Organization and learned how boys and girls were paired with their big brothers and big sisters according to their experiences and about the success stories that followed from these relationships--how many of these troubled boys and girls were now attending college. This dialog made it very clear that all the partying was really for a much-needed cause.

And--after a much-needed nap--that evening Ed and I headed off to the tent-raising party that Meadowood puts on annually for its members to compensate them for the golf and tennis facilities that are closed during Auction. We participated in a lovely outdoor reception and enjoyed schmoozing with fellow members. We got a sneak peak at the tents that were already set up for Saturday's Auction. And did I say wine?

Thursday, while others were enjoying dinners at vintners' homes and wineries, Ed and I again rested up for Friday's and Saturday's festivities. Friday, we, along with 2000 other guests, attended the Napa Vintners Barrel Auction, at the Robert Mondavi Winery. Outside, where it was a pretty toasty 105 degrees F, we munched on delicious tidbits, such as smoked salmon on creme fraiche and pork sliders from Napa chefs paired with wine from Napa wineries. Then we ducked into the barrel room to cool off, where Napa vintners provided not-yet-released barrel samples from their 2013, 2014, and 2015 vintages, upon which guests could bid for future cases. My favorite was Paul Hobbs Winery 2014 Nathan Coombs Estate 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, from Coombsville, an up-and-coming AVA. Paul's barrel lot scored a whopping $36,700. (The very top barrel lot was for Melka Wines at $62,100.) And then there were also yummy chocolates to pair with all those red wine barrel samples.

Saturday, the day of the big Auction on Meadowood's fairway, Ed and I did some more schmoozing and chatted up David Duncan, President of Silver Oak Winery, who introduced us to the talented actress Courtney Cox and her cute boyfriend. David and his wife Kary donated an auction item featuring a trip to their winery for dinner with Courtney and her "Friends."

After the reception featuring Hog Island oyster stations, we headed into the big tent, where 900 people bid on fabulous trips, wines and other experiences for fabulous price tags. It was amazing to watch the bids rise into the stratosphere. The top auction item was "Into Africa, Incomparably," donated by Staglin Family, which went for $170,000, and then doubled to extend to another couple. The Fund-A-Need bought in $2.1 million alone from 100 paddles.

Auction Napa Valley 2016 - Francis Mallmann Dinner

We served our 2012 Vineyard {511} Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon at our table during the auction, as well as at the table for the dinner under the stars which followed. The dinner was prepared by Argentina's celebrity chef Francis Mallmann. We had eaten dinner at Mallmann's restaurant both times we were in Mendoza, so were really looking forward to this dinner and weren't disappointed. It was truly amazing to see the beef we would eat hanging over live fires as it cooked. And it was so delicious. A Texan in the beef business at our table instructed me to choose the cap of the ribeye and, wow, was it delicious! Dinner was "capped" off by dancing to a lively 30-piece Cuban band.

For the E-Auction, Ed and I donated a double vertical of our 2010, 2011 and 2012 (both 750's and magnums) Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon and a lunch for two couples overlooking our vineyard. The lucky bidder was a gentleman from Bakersfield, and we hope to meet him soon when he claims his prize.

Time Posted: Jun 13, 2016 at 10:13 PM Permalink to Auction Napa Valley 2016 Permalink
Irene Ojdana
May 24, 2016 | Irene Ojdana

UC Davis Winkler Dinner

Ed and I attended the 16th annual Winkler Dinner last Saturday, at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Food and Wine, at UC Davis. It was put on by DEVO, the student-run organization of the UC Davis Viticulture and Enology Department, as a fundraiser to award scholarships for international internships and to sponsor group exursions to study wine regions throughout the world. Last year's recipients went to New Zealand and South Africa, and this year's chose to go to Alscase and France.

The delicious dinner, held in a lovely olive grove, was prepared by individual chefs paired with wines donated by alumni of the UC Davis Viticulture and Enology Program. It was inspirational to see the graduates of the program talk about how it led to their current success as winemakers.The dinner was preceded by a silent auction, mostly of donated wines, and followed by a live auction of exciting trips. Through the silent auction, Ed and I scored a magnum of Williams Selyem 2014 Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley and a tour and tasting for four at the WS estate, with immediate membership on the WS list with an allocation for the next release. Will put that bottle down and then look forward to having a dinner party to break open that good bottle.

Time Posted: May 24, 2016 at 5:21 PM Permalink to UC Davis Winkler Dinner Permalink
Irene Ojdana
May 11, 2016 | Irene Ojdana

Kitchens in the Vineyards

On Saturday afternoon, April 30, my good friend Rita Burris and I toured 5 homes, which were part of Kitchens in the Vineyards, a benefit to support the 22nd annual Music in the Vineyards, a chamber music festival in Napa Valley. For 4 weeks from July 29-August 21, 17 concerts will be held at various picturesque wineries throughout the Valley, such as Domaine Carneros and Beringer Vineyards. And through Kitchens in the Vineyards, Rita and I got to tour picturesque homes in Napa, Yountville and St. Helena. Spotlighted were the kitchens and gardens; however, we were able to tour the rest of these homes, which were cleverly and uniquely designed.

Kitchens in the Vineyards - Ackerman Heritage House

Probably the most unique home was the Ackerman Heritage House, an 1888 Queen Anne Victorian in downtown Napa, which was authentically restored to reflect its past grandeur. From its 14 original stained glass windows, elaborate woodwork and antique lighting and furniture throughout, every inch of the home amazed the visitor for its attention to detail and authenticity. Inside, there was also a library and outside an English garden replete with a 19th Century fountain and urns. 

Restorations are very complicated, but adding to the efforts to restore the structure to its original opulent state, was the 2014 earthquake in  South Napa, which caused considerable damage to the structure. However, Lauren Ackerman, the current homeowner, was not to be stopped in her mission to bring this home back to its original perfection.

Renouned Napa Valley chefs provided small bites at each home. Among my favorites were the cucumber gazpacho, courtesy of Rogello Garcia of Angele, Napa; the cheese puffs, courtesy of Ken Frank, La Toque, Napa; and strawberry shortcake, courtesy of Bob Hurley, Hurley's, Yountville. Yummy.

Time Posted: May 11, 2016 at 9:41 PM Permalink to Kitchens in the Vineyards Permalink
Irene Ojdana
May 9, 2016 | Irene Ojdana

Dinner at Vineyard 29

On April 29, Ed and I participated in a colossal dinner party at Vineyard 29, located at 2929 Highway 29. Boy, that's a lot of 29's, for an event that was a super 100. Ann and Chuck McMinn, proprietors of Vineyard 29, generously hosted the party for guests who previously made donations to attend this Vineyard 29 dinner at a St. Helena Hospital Foundation gala. (That gala raised a wopping $2 million for St. Helena Hospital's Napa Valley Breast Health Center.) Chuck is also the Director Emeritus of the Foundation. The McMinn's are intrumental in fundraising for other Napa Valley causes, such as the Napa Valley Vine Trail, a 47-mile walking and biking trail, that will eventually extend from Vallejo to Calistoga.

After a nice reception on the terrace, we passed a stunning Chihuly glass sculpture illuminated by candles on our way to the cave wine library for dinner. Among the interesting guests at our table was Jim Parent, the outgoing President and CEO of the St. Helena Hospital Foundation, as well as Kathleen Patterson, President of Central Valley Builders Supply, who is also on the Board of the St. Helena Hospital Foundation. The dinner, presented by Executive Chef Ken Frank, of La Toque in Napa, was exquisite and healthy--even the decadent dessert of Gateau Concorde au Cholat; you know chocolate is healthy :-) The courses were paired with wonderful Vineyard 29 wines as well as Dalla Valle Maya and Araujo Estate.

It's gratifying to know we are able to have a wonderful experience and support a good cause at the same time. We were so sure of this that we came out for the Volley in the Valley Tennis tournament on the very next Sunday and Monday--again to support the St. Helena Hospital Foundation.

Time Posted: May 9, 2016 at 9:43 AM Permalink to Dinner at Vineyard 29 Permalink
Irene Ojdana
March 18, 2016 | Irene Ojdana

The Girl and the Goat Restaurant

While in Chicago recently, Ed and I ate a scrumptious dinner at the highly-acclaimed Girl and the Goat restaurant. Our good friend Patrick Davila, Director of Operations at Meadowood Napa Valley and fellow Napa Valley Film Festival Board Member, scored us a reservation at its kitchen table, where we were up front and personal with the chefs. It was so interesting to watch the chefs put together the delicious pig face dish, which rightfully receives rave rewiews. And we loved the goat empanadas too. Although it was snowing in Chicago, I'd come back to this restaurant in a heartbeat, even in freezing weather!

Time Posted: Mar 18, 2016 at 5:01 PM Permalink to The Girl and the Goat Restaurant Permalink
Irene Ojdana
March 12, 2016 | Irene Ojdana

CabFest 2016

Ed and I poured our just-released 2012 Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon at the second annual CabFest Napa Valley, held at the Lincoln Theater, in Yountville. The event that is dedicated to Cabernet Sauvignon was held over the weekend of March 4, starting with a concert by singer-songwriter Mat Kearney on Friday night followed by two days of cab tasting. The wine was paired with tasty nibbles catered by Feast in Santa Rosa. Over 1000 people attended giving them the opportunity to taste the wine Napa Valley is most known for--from over 100 wineries--and get to hear the stories behind the great wine from the vintners. All the while Karen MacNeil, well-known wine writer, held fun and interesting seminars, where she interviewed cabernet sauvignon vintners and winemakers and like "He said, she said," a game that pitted men against women about their cabernet knowledge, in the theater's auditorium.

CabFest also gave vintners such as Ed and me the opportunity to catch up with fellow vintners, such as Ed Wallis, of Wallis Family Estate-- also on Diamond Mountain--and to schmooze with John Dunbar, Mayor of Yountville and Chairman of the Board of the Lincoln Theater, and his wife Robin (picture).

All proceeds from CabFest go to arts and education programs at the Lincoln Theater.

Time Posted: Mar 12, 2016 at 11:58 PM Permalink to CabFest 2016 Permalink
Irene Ojdana
March 12, 2016 | Irene Ojdana

Screening of "1916 The Irish Rebellion"

As a resuLiam Neesonlt of the long-standing close relationship of the University of Notre Dame and of Ireland, Notre Dame developed a documentary, narrated by Liam Neeson, about the 1916 Irish Rebellion. Although the rebellion by a small group of Irish men and women against the British empire was unsuccessful, it eventually led to the successful Irish Revolution of a few years later and inspired revolutions against the British Empire throughout the world. The documentary creator and writer was Briona Nic Dhiarmada, the Thomas J. and Kathleen M. O'Donnell Professor of Irish Studies and Concurrent Professor of Film, Television, and Theater at the University.

Because Ed and I contributed to the financing of the film, we were invited to the screening at the University of Notre Dame, in South Bend, Indiana, on March 3. There we were lucky to have a few minutes to chat with the immensely talented Irish actor and Academy Award-nominee Liam Neeson. Through his and the University's commitment to the film project, the very interesting documentary 1916 The Irish Rebellion will shortly be screened in cities around the U.S., Ireland and Argentina, and on television stations thoughout the U.S.

Time Posted: Mar 12, 2016 at 9:41 PM Permalink to Screening of Permalink
Irene Ojdana
March 12, 2016 | Irene Ojdana

Premiere Napa Valley Barrel Auction

On February 20, Ed and I poured the best of our barrels of our 2013 Vineyard {511} Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvigon, at the 20th annual Premiere Napa Valley Barrel Auction and Tasting, held at the Culinary Institute of America, in St. Helena. It was our first participation in this exciting event, where 1000 licensed members of the trade gathered to procure wine futures on behalf of their customers through both live and silent E-auctions. Members of the media were also in attendance. In addition to the wine tasting, there was a tasting of delicious artisanal cheese, and a buffet lunch prepared by the Culinary Institute.

Vineyard {511} also participated in Premiere's first online auction with 5 cases of the same 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, which will be bottled in mid-March after having been aged for 30 months in 100% French oak barrels. After another year of aging in the bottle, they will be released in March 2017. Each bottle will be hand-labeled, individually numbered and signed by the winemaker (Rob Lloyd).

The event is an opportunity for Napa Valley vintners to showcase their very special wines, while attendees spend one-on-one time with Napa Valley's noted winemakers and producers. We even had a star sighting of former pro-basketball player Yao Ming, whose winery was represented at the tasting. I couldn't miss him as he towered above absolutely everyone else there!

The 226 lots sold that day raised 5 million dollars for the Napa Valley Vintners Association to support its year-round programs, which benefit Napa Vintners.

We were happy to give up our virgin status after our first participation in this event and look forward to the next one in February 2017!


Time Posted: Mar 12, 2016 at 11:00 AM Permalink to Premiere Napa Valley Barrel Auction Permalink
Irene Ojdana
December 13, 2015 | Irene Ojdana

Napa Valley Film Festival 2015- A Celebration of Film, Wine and Food

On November 11, Ed and I began a week-long participation in the 5th anniversary of the Napa Valley Film Festival. The night before, as members of the Patron Circle of the Festival, we were invited to a special sneak preview at St. Helena's Cameo Theater of The 33, the real-life story based  33 miners that survived 69 days when a gold and silver mine collaped in Chile. Antonio Banderas was fabulous in the role of the miner who assumed the leadership role to keep everyone going. All 33 survived! The following night--the opening night--we saw the super-interesting documentary Somm: Into the Bottle, directed by Jason Wise. Wise also directed the documentary Somm, about what several people had to go through to pass the sommeliers' entrance exam and which was shown by the Festival two years ago. While Somm is a character-driven film, Somm: Into the Bottle looks at the world of wine through the eyes of the best somms, and all that it takes to both get a bottle of wine on a wine list and all the processes it takes that go into making that glass of wine you have swirling in your hand. The screening of this film at the start of the Festival was so appropriate as Napa Valley is one of the premier wine regions in the world.

Irene and John Travolta at the NapaValley Film FestivalWine experiences in each of four Festival Villages provided an opportunity to taste a variety and quality of wines that is unmatched by any festival, wine or otherwise. Wonderful wines were also poured at Festival screenings, parties, gala and film industry mixers. At Meadowood Napa Valley, a major sponsor of the Festival for the fifth year in a row, hosting the festival's competition filmmakers and Artists-in-Residence Program, Ed and I attended a dinner party, where fabulous Peter Michael wines were poured (other than our own Vineyard {511}, our favorite wine). Ed and I were lucky enough to sit with John Travolta, his beautiful wife Kelly Preston and 15-year-old daughter, who was, unfortunately, too young to drink the great wine. I told her to come back to the Valley when she was old enough to have some of our Vineyard {511}.

Travolta told me he thought the Napa Valley Film Festival was the classiest film festival he had ever attended, including Cannes and the rest! We also learned all about the planes Travolta has flown; in fact, he flew his family to the Festival and left that evening (using another pilot) to fly them to Hawaii. He received a celebrity tribute, at the Celebrity Tribute program hosted by Billy Bush the night before.  Travolta's film Life on the Line, about linemens' experiences on electrical poles, had its world premier screening earlier that night.

Irene and Bobby Flay at the Napa Valley Film FestivalNot to be outdone by all the opportunites to experience fine wines, Variety magazine presented a forum for food and wine experts to share their creativity, mouthwatering insights, and samples for members of the Patron Circle, where local chefs created unique dishes paired with iconic mobies. Chef Bobby Flay and food critic Lee Schrager were among the celebrated panelists who evaluated and discussed the dishes, as well as movies about food. Bobby Flay said that our Jiro Dreams of Sushi was the only movie he watched twice, exactly in a row.

Some of my favorite films were Spotlight about the Boston Globe's investigation into the cover up by the Boston Archdiocese of sex abuse by priests, Tumbledown, starring the amazing Rebecca Hall, and Carol about the relationship of the characters played by Cate Blanchette and Rooney Mara.

Needless to say, the fifth anniversary of the Napa Valley Film Festival was the best they've had yet!


Time Posted: Dec 13, 2015 at 10:42 PM Permalink to Napa Valley Film Festival 2015- A Celebration of Film, Wine and Food Permalink
Irene Ojdana
November 10, 2015 | Irene Ojdana

Wine Tasting in Chianti

Farm House in San MartinoEd and I recently spent a week in a guesthouse in the Chianti region of Tuscany. We were finally able to take advantage of the guesthouse for which we bid and won at a V Foundation silent auction. The week at the guesthouse was donated by cancer researcher Dr.Olja Finn (at the University of Pittsburgh) and her husband Professor Emeritus Dr. Seth Finn at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh. They restored the all-stone guesthouse, originally a farmhouse attached to a (deconsecrated) Catholic church with a bell tower. Such a charming home away from home!

We spent the week cooking pasta with Seth in his kitchen or ours (unfortunately Olja was back in Pittsburgh), eating at some great restaurants like Antinori-owned Osteria del Passignano and Ristoro del Lamole, reached from a very winding road with a great view of Chianti.

Of course we visited wineries to experience Chianti Classico wines, like Ca di Pesa, near our guesthouse in San Martino and owned by Jonathan Auerbach, Chief Strategy Officer at Pay Pal in NYC. Our favorite winery experience, however, was at the amazing new Antinori in Bargino, which has English-language tours and a restaurant. Upon arrival, we walked up a dramatic winding staircase to see the very contemporary buildings and vineyards. Little did we know that both the vineyards and buildings were situated over the winery, which is built into the mountain 16 floors below. The cellar structure was conceived to allow the grapes to move with the flow of gravity from the top floor down to the fermentation tanks, eliminating the need for mechanical pumping (protecting the grapes) and the need for refridgeration, as the grapes and wine are cooled naturally by the soil surrounding the cave. The beautiful winery was designed by Archea Assocati Studio, enginering by Hydea, and took seven years.

Marquesa Franchesca Antinori and IreneWe began our tour with a film about the Antinori family and winery. Marquese Piero Antinori, the current proprietor of the winery, can trace his family history back six centuries to 1385, when his ancestor Giavanni di Piero Antinori enrolled in the Wine Guild of Florence.  (We actually met Piero at a Napa Vintners Association Auction, when we sat at the same table with him.) This time, we were lucky to have his wife, Marquesa Franchesca Antinori sit with us at the film and then accompany us on our tour of the winery.

We tasted some delicious Villa Antinori Chianti Classico, Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva and Vinsanto del Chianti Classico, and learned as we did at other wineries in Chianti that the Sangiovese grapes are rarely blended with other varietals in order to capture the uniqueness and freshness of the region.


Time Posted: Nov 10, 2015 at 2:33 PM Permalink to Wine Tasting in Chianti Permalink