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Vineyard 511

From Hollywood to Vine with Vineyard {511}

Adventures in Wine, Food, Film and Travel

Ed Ojdana
June 27, 2016 | Ed Ojdana

Notre Dame Family Wine Academy

On May 19, my daughter Kelly Ojdana, our new VP of Marketing, and I, both Notre Dame University alumni, attended the launch of the Notre Dame Family Wine Academy in Napa, at the Westin Hotel. We poured our Vineyard {511} 2012 Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon at the tasting reception preceding dinner. The wines across the board were fantastic and showed a wide range of varietals and regions, but also showed the quality and pride that Notre Dame alumni put into their businesses and products. Paul Hobbs Winery, Trinitas and Brutocao also poured their wines. A delicious dinner was prepared by celebrity Chef Ken Frank, of La Toque in Napa. The Manila mango and lobster salad was delicious.

For me, one of the highlights of the event was meeting Brian Kelly, Head Coach of the Notre Dame football team, who spoke at the event. He talked about developing football players, not just as athletes, but as people--the essence of a good education.


Ed Ojdana
March 16, 2013 | Ed Ojdana

Death of a Napa Valley Icon

I just heard the sad news that Jimmy Barrett passed away on Thursday, March 14, at the age of 86.  Jimmy is an icon in Napa Valley and best known for producing the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that shocked the wine world in 1976, particularly the French, when it won a blind tasting in Paris beating out a lineup of French wines.   Now known as the “Judgment of Paris,” this competition helped to put Napa Valley on the map.  It was also the basis for the movie Bottle Shock, starring Chris Pine, Bill Pullman and Alan Rickman.  Two of the producers of Bottle Shock, Marc and Brenda Lhormer, are the founders of the Napa Valley Film Festival.

I did not know Jimmy very well and first met him playing in the men’s Saturday morning tennis matches at Meadowood Resort.  Although in his 80’s and not very agile, the result of several knee operations, if the ball landed anywhere near him, he would return it.  Like his underhand serve, his returns had a lot of spin on them.  It took me quite a while to adjust to his returns – more than once I could only laugh as the ball curved away from my racket and I was left swinging at air.

Photo: SCOTT MANCHESTER/Press Democrat

A few years back, Irene and I sat with Jimmy and his wife, Judy, at the wedding reception of our friend, neighbor, and Reverie Winery owner Norm Kiken and wife Suzie Donahue.  I remembered one scene in Bottle Shock where Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) and his son, Bo Barrett (Chris Pine), don boxing gloves to settle their father and son differences.  Naturally, I had to ask Jimmy if he still boxed.  To my disappointment, he said he had never boxed in his life.  Unlike movies based on true stories, where fictious events are added to enhance the entertainment value, Jimmy was the real thing in life.


Ed Ojdana
March 13, 2013 | Ed Ojdana

Tony Hseih and the Downtown Project

I was fortune to be invited to the Montgomery Technology Conference held at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, CA, on March 6 and 7.  This is the 10th year of the conference, and I’ve attended most of them.  The keynote speaker on March 6 was Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, the online shoe and clothing company, which was acquired by Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion.  Tony is also the author of Delivering Happiness – A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose, which debuted #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List in June 2010 and stayed on the list for 27 weeks.  I knew of Tony but had never heard him speak.  He’s an evangelist for corporate culture.  As Tony puts it “…if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff like delivering great customer service or building a long-term enduring brand will just happen naturally on its own.”

I was expecting to hear a lot about how corporate culture shaped Zappos.  And while I heard some of it, he was really there to talk about the Downtown Project.  He’s taken what he has learned about company culture and is applying it to revitalizing the Fremont East area of Las Vegas.  The goal is to restore this overlooked local community north of the strip through investments in startups ($50 million), real estate ($200 million), small business ($50 million), and education, arts and culture ($50 million). A large portion of this investment has been personally funded by Tony. This is no ordinary redevelopment project but a carefully thought out project designed to transform the area into the most community-focused large city in the world.  I was fascinated as he talked about “serendipitous collisions” – the interactions between people that drive learning and innovation.  Sounds like pie-in-the sky, but Tony related how these collisions are facilitated at Zappos and at the Downtown Project including the metrics to measure how many collisions they are facilitating.  Go to for more information and a great slide presentation on the project.  I’m looking forward to reading his book as well.