Most wine drinkers are familiar with the popular varieties of wine grapes. Some people love Cabernet Sauvignon, but won’t drink Zinfandel. Others dislike Chardonnay but enjoy Sauvignon Blanc. But what happens if a particular wine is a blend of two or more varieties? Should a wine drinker even try a blend of both a beloved and hated variety?
Many people think blends are inferior wines to single varietals. They learn about wine by learning about varietals, not regions. So they ask for Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, etc Yet one of the world’s most famous, and greatest, wines, Bordeaux, is usually a blend. A fine Bordeaux can be of one or more of these grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. And a White Bordeaux can be a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
Why blend? Why not just make a wine of one particular grape? Doesn’t a winemaker know that people may ask for a “Chardonnay”/ They may turn their noses up if a wine merchant offers a great selection that is a blend Chardonnay and another variety. A great Champagne, for instance, can be just Chardonnay, but could also be a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and possibly some other lesser known varieties.
Blending is an art. A winemaker doesn’t simply take some of this, some of that, mix them together, and voila! a delicious wine. What can one variety add to another that makes the sum greater than its parts?
Blending different varieties into a single wine can add complexity, aroma, and texture. It can make a wine feel more robust, appear darker in color or give it greater structure. Even adding just 5% of a different grape can alter a wine significantly. A winemaker will experiment using small samples to get the exact wine he is looking for. Then he will make a larger quantity of wine recreating that same formula. Sometimes a winemaker will even ferment different grapes together in the same tank or barrel.
The resulting wine is, well, that’s up to you to taste it and see if you like it. Many of the world’s greatest red and white wines are made this way.
When I was a child, there was a myriad of things I wanted to be when I grew up. My dreams were to be a chef, a professional soccer player, a singer, or Martha Stewart (yes, you may insert a giggle here). My dad always said that as a child, I had more spitfire than the Energizer bunny. I didn’t just play with the boys, I beat them. I could easily strap on my cleats and get dirty on the field, and then change hats quickly to “set up shop” on our living room floor with my crafts to produce handmade invitations for my birthday parties. When delivering them to my friends, they looked at me cockeyed and laughed, but nevertheless, I was proud. I taught myself to properly cook a filet mignon at age twelve, which was a big feat as my mother’s seared meats were nothing less than perfect. I hosted countless bake sales on the street where I grew up, and soon discovered that these things I loved to do also made people happy.
This childhood obsession with Martha Stewart morphed over the years into a true passion for food, wine and entertaining. But there was more. What if I could combine my passions for food, wine, and making people happy for a GREATER cause? It’s this thought that has guided my unique career path all these years.
I have never been afraid to try something new. After all, my favorite quote is, “The road to success is always under construction” (Lily Tomlin). I pursued everything that I cared about with that bunny’s unrelenting drive. If I fell, I got up. This energy and perseverance made it easy to make friends and find fans. Out of high school I accepted a Division-1 college soccer scholarship, and afterwards played a brief time on the semi-pro circuit. Call me crazy, but I also pursued a country music recording contract after winning a state-wide singing competition, gaining interest from Nashville labels. Eventually I decided to hang up my cleats and pass the mic. In 2004, I moved to the beautiful Napa Valley on a search to pursue my true passions: all things food, wine and philanthropy.
Managing events and wine education at a local winery, I received my first chance to combine my passion for food and wine with a true desire to help individuals when my mentor Britt Van Giesen’s daughter was diagnosed with a rare disease – Rett Syndrome. To support families whose children were suffering with this debilitating illness, we quickly founded the Erika Van Giesen Foundation in 2004. Through our foundation we created an annual fundraiser that kicked off in 2005, “Erika’s Dream.” This premier, high profile food and wine gala brought together all our friends to showcase their brands and culinary delights, as epicurean enthusiasts had the opportunity to enjoy an elite evening offering all that Napa Valley had to offer – it was the perfect combination and clout. Little did I know that at one of our events, five years later I would meet my future business partners – long time, dear friends of my mentor and his wife. After only two galas, the event raised enough money to help establish “Katie’s Clinic” at Children’s Hospital Oakland. This clinic is currently the only Rett-focused clinic on the West Coast dedicated to helping families and their afflicted daughters.
Feeling ready for something new, I left the wine business in mid-2007 to manage fundraising for the California Big Brothers Big Sisters of the North Bay to curate events, significantly increasing the chapter’s donor base. Soon realizing I was actually missing what I had just left behind, I opted to incorporate the two by starting a small wine label, partnering with a friend’s winery, Juslyn Vineyards, appropriately named “Guidance” to help raise additional funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters. The following year I was approached by Elaine Honig to help with her local fundraiser, “Wine, Women & Shoes,” and expand it into a national fundraising format. I’m proud to say to this day that her company, a unique fashion-driven food and wine event, is now hosted in over 30 states and has raised over $20M dollars for women’s and children’s charities. The stars were aligning, and those coming into my life were teaching me lessons to help me find my true path, my “ROAR”. In 2009, after brainstorming over a glass of wine with girlfriends (isn’t that how most business is done?!) I co-founded a wine company called “Toolbox Wine Co,” whose mission “Serious Wines. Playful Marketing” concept donated a portion of all sales to Habitat for Humanity – “Building” hope and awareness, one bottle at a time – hence the name, Toolbox. It was all starting to come together.
In 2011 I was proud to be named one of San Francisco’s “Magnificent 7” leading entrepreneurs in Bay Area Food and Wine, followed by the honor of being named one of San Francisco’s “40 under 40” by the San Francisco Business Times in 2012. This class included many names that today are considered emerging leaders in business.
Where I was, where I am…and where I am going. All of my experience has led here, to Feast it Forward. In late 2009 while building the Toolbox brand, I decided to take another idea and make it a reality. Throughout my career I’ve been struck by what incredible things can be accomplished when you bring together amazing people over fantastic food and wine. With the acquisition of Toolbox in 2012, I was finally able to dedicate all of my time to Feast it Forward. Now in the midst of our official launch, we are ready to truly go “Beyond the Bottle.”
What is ironic is that my Producer is a brand expert who produced Martha Stewart’s daily show, garnering 10 Emmy nominations and winning 4 Emmy Awards. With my partners and co-founders who I met back in 2010 while planning “Erika’s Dream” (Kevin and Rebecca Gouveia of Veia Productions) Feast it Forward showcases good will and charitable giving through culinary and wine related content and handcrafted products. This web based social networking community will play a key role in growing the lifestyle brand on a national and global level, serving as a backbone in building brand awareness.
To enhance the brand and mission on a global level, next June (2015) we have the unique opportunity to travel to Malawi, Africa with Northern California couple Rob Hampton, DDS and his wife Claudia Sansone to film their ongoing humanitarian efforts in several remote villages. I am honored to call them my friends, and they serve as yet another inspiration. We will be documenting the incredible, historical social shifts that their work has directly facilitated over the last several years. This follows on the coattails of the Dalai Lama presenting Dr. Rob with the “Unsung Hero of Compassion” award for all his philanthropic endeavors. Traveling with Feast it Forward to Malawi is a world class team of doctors, educators, and an agronomist in addition to our renowned film crew, comprised of award winning film makers who have all adopted Feast it Forward’s mission: to encourage people to live a philanthropic lifestyle. Rob and Claudia, while very special in their commitment, are also everyday people who serve as a prime example of how we can live beyond our own backyard and make a real global impact. This year is especially monumental because, along with everything else, there will be groundbreaking on Dothi Village’s first pre-school, paving the way for an early childhood education program. This celebrates more than another classroom; it signals a major social transformation in Malawi. Those of us who came up with our simple company motto, "Inspiring Stories. Philanthropic Living" wanted to be there to film this continuing act of cross-cultural generosity and engagement.
Our plan is that Feast it Forward will be a community where philanthropic lifestyle fans, professionals, tastemakers and brand ambassadors from around the globe will have the opportunity to comment, communicate and network. Webisodes will act as a creative factory for members with inspirational stories, recipes, perfect pairings and philanthropic news on content, profiles and purchasing opportunities. Feast it Forward website soft-launch is live, featuring initial informative and inspiring videos alongside our products and charitable events where you can join the mission and movement.
There’s something to be said for doing what you love and you won’t work a day in your life. I am honored to join the team at The Wine Network, as we share our passions in and outside of the bottle. Believe in yourself and pursue your dreams. If you fall, get up. Beyond passion, generosity is infectious. So ask yourself, how do YOU Feast it Forward? We’d love to hear from you. Learn more at www.feastitforward.com
The Amber Snider Trio playing BottleRock Napa Valley in the VIP Lounge 6/1/14
In addition to being mad about wine and helping Winetasting.com (since 2011) get the word out about the great wines they sell, I really, really love music. In my other life, I have written over 200 songs, performed around 1,000+ shows and have released several CDs. For more info visit: www.ambersnider.com
Growing up in Napa allowed me to watch an evolution take place in Napa Valley Music Scene. There had always been small bars & restaurants in the Valley with the occasional mini- music scene that would come and go, though nothing worthy of the hordes of eager tourists, most of whom always seemed a bit lost and disappointed after the wine tasting for the day was done. Of course there were private winery partes but not everyone received an invite.
The Deadlies playing BottleRock Napa Valley on the City winery Stage 5/31/1
For decades, the staple Napa restaurant & bar, Downtown Joe’s was the most happening place in the Valley, with music happening almost daily for years (my band played there every week for two years, I have been playing there since 2001), another local hangout was Bilco’s Billiards which did start having musicians play, but soon new “music venues” like Silo’s Music Club surfaced bringing with it outstanding performers (I was one of the first performers to play there), I watched in awe as the recently renovated Uptown Theatre transformed from the old dilapidated sticky floor, springs sticking out of seats cinema we use to watch movies in to a state-of-the-art upscale music venue. It attracts regional & national acts (I have lent my talent as support for Gretchen Wilson, Cat Power & Clint Black there). And even more of a recent transformation that took place was the historic Napa Valley Opera House morphing into City Winery where both talented musicians and winemakers showcase their finely tuned crafts, respectively. With a lot of lhard work from some friends of mine, an annual music festival popped up in the summer called “Napa City Nights” attracting hundreds of loyal people and a few sponsors including the City of Napa (my band has played several years and even released a live CD). Now that’s what I’m talking about.
Me with KVYN DJ / City Winery Marketing Goddess, Mindi Levine.
But last year, something really incredible happened. A ginormous, week-long music festival slipped into town bringing with it, giant touring mega-acts and a frenzy that had and still has Napa & the rest of the world buzzing… essentially putting Napa on the Mapa, again; but this time as a music town. And this year I actually got to be a part of it! After a rough first year, BottleRock Napa Valley regrouped under new management, Latitude38 and an incredibly dedicated team of locals that ame together to create an extremely, super-successful music festival!
My band played in the VIP lounge (we were also selected to perform in a few promotional events leading up to the festival: a BottleRock Promo Video/Photo Shoot, Guitar Center and Pre-Bottle Rock Breakfast shows). All of us local musicians and music enthusiasts helped with promoting BottleRock Napa Valley 2014 handing out &putting up flyers, posting online, etc.
People came from all over the world to see bands like The Cure, Matisyahu, LL Cool J (I watched him from the VIP Stage Seating. Soooo Awesome! - see pics/video below), Delta Rae (they were amazing!! They did a Fleetwood mac song and for a moment I thought F-Mac was there.), Eric Church (lots of cowboys & girls), jam-band Tea Leaf Green, De La Soul & so many more top players and popular artists beloved by a multitude of generations. On the local Stage (sponsored by City Winery) and VIP Lounge were local musicians: Amber Snider Trio, Grass Child, The Deadlies, The Sorry Lot, Graveyard Boots, Kristen Van Dyke and many, many more! Much love was given to us locals!
BTW, I'm a big LL Cool J fan from way back. This picture (left) from when I was 14 years old shows a lifesized poster of him on my door, complete with glitter heart & fantasies stickers :) Pic below was from BottleRock Napa Valley - June 1, 2014.
Shameless Hair Plug (LOL): Of course, I had to get my pre-BottleRock hair cut & color by Mega Hair Stylist Lindsey McCabe at Bloom in Napa! Yeah baby! (See image right) She transformed my hair from Raggity Ann to Festival Fashionista. Oh and BTW I haven't had bangs since I was a kid. Thanks girl!
Back to the festival... The incredible musical lineup brought a diverse and eclectic group of people together from all over the planet and so did the dozens of high-end food and wine options available.
You could get almost anything you were in the mood for and though it was pricey (4 beers = $48 ), it was mostly amazing; it is after all, the Napa Valley. Food and wine is a given, but music? Now that’s a whole new beast and I am glad to see it finally happening.
Here’s a list of the festival foodie/wine offerings (BTW some wineries had shaded lounge areas with views of the stages and the wines were delicious!):
Wine (links to ones we sell):
It is both a surreal and gratifying experience for me to observe the blossoming of former sleepy little Napa town into the entertainment hot-spot it is today. I’d like to think after years of playing shows entertaining the masses here, I had some small part in that. And now, today, with its wide assortment of top-notch music & comedy, there is finally an Entertainment Industry that is finally “pairing” well with the wine industry that has famously attracted tourists for over thirty years. I can’t wait to see what BottleRock Napa Valley 2015 will be like and/or what’s next in store for my hometown.
My husband, guitarist and long-time Napa resident or “Napkin” as some call it, Aaron Snider, remembers vividly being a bored teen and saying to a friend “wouldn’t it be really cool if there was a big music festival in Napa with all of our favorite musicians? And wouldn’t it be super cool if we played it too.” Yes, yes it was.
- Amber Snider
Singer/Songwriter/Graphic Artist/Web Designer/Blogger/Marketing Consultant
For more info, videos, music go to: www.ambersnider.com - Join my mailing list for FREE Downloads!
(Picture Above) My band: Aaron Snider, David Youdell & Me, Amber Snider
I miss the metallic-popcorn pop of flashbulbs. The silent strobe of modern photographic lightning without that muffled report of miniature thunder is unnatural, as is the fake shutter ‘click’ of most modern cameras and iphones. So this Sunday, the only real ‘pops’ greeting the glitterati at the Annual Oscar festivities will come, of course, from bottles and bumpers and cases and carloads of Champagne. We haven’t invented a silent, digital Champagne bottle. Yet.
Why celebrate with Champagne? Now, that is like asking “Why is the Oscar gold, man?” Since humans discovered them, both have been treasured as luxury items, sought after, collected, and employed as the simple, elegant implements of achievement and success in this life. “Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams” is the battle cry of the Rich and Famous. No matter if it is acidic, lean, yeasty, bitter, and the fizz gets up your nose. Caviar is fish eggs, so there you go…
In 2006, the European Union reclaimed several wine names from general use, and took steps to reconnect them to places of origin within the EU: these include Burgundy, Claret, Chablis, Champagne, Chianti, Malaga, Marsala, Madeira, Moselle, Port, Retsina, Rhine Wine, Hock, Sauterne, Haut Sauterne, Sherry, and Tokay. Why? These names carry inherent value, and bear histories that can be expressed in a very specific monetary value. The French have been making laws regarding wine quality and purity for centuries, and this has led to increased prices for wines coming from recognized regions in France. Nowhere is this more obvious as in the case (pardon the pun) of Champagne.
As is true of other luxury items, the perceived monetary value of Champagne precedes the individual product. The inherent value, from strict production methods and quality control, is compounded by the intrinsic value of the terroir itself: unique amoung the AOCs of France, the appellation “Champagne” covers all the wines made there, and so every single prized bottle promotes the entire region, along with the producer, vintage, style, etc. – increasing Champagne’s value with every sale.
Still, half the sparkling wines produced in the US will have the word Champagne hiding somewhere on the label. Some have special permission from the French, as is the case with Korbel, who received this honor in the late 1800s; others will claim that the term is “semi-generic”, while using it to inflate their prices.
No matter. This Sunday, flutes and coupes will overrun with Champagne, all over Los Angeles. I am reminded of the words attributed to Bonaparte: I drink champagne when I win, to celebrate . . . and I drink champagne when I lose, to console myself. Champagne is perfect for the Oscars, then: in a room where few winners will be rubbing shoulders with an increasing number of “losers” as the night progresses, it can simultaneously celebrate and console table by table. “Champagne for real pain” as we say sometimes in the Valley.
Although if anyone has the gall to think themselves a loser while sitting in that room, well then, …he is one. Bring him a vodka-Redbull.
An Ancient Greek lyrical form, 20- to 30-lines with three to five syllables per line, often in homage to Dionysus.
Cold Dungeness crab
Warm butter with But-
And for gravitas
Beyond gravy with
Roast Turkey, prefer
An aged Cabernet.
Pour “Beau-Nouveau”! It
Cherry, carbonic soft
Flavors; while deeper
Bacon lardons with
Sprouts or sausage in
Your stuffing? Syrah
Isn’t too racy…
And if you grilled your
Bird “en barbecue”,
May we suggest a
Desserts! Bread Pudding?
Serve a Moscato
Dolce, Sauternes, or
Late Harvest SB;
Or Colhieta (rare
vintage Tawny) with
Pecan Pie is best.
And Last: Coffee with
“Schlagobers”. Now sigh,
Collapse to the floor,
And moan. And digest.
Anacreon, (born Asia Minor, 6th Century BCE) was inspired by a variety of cultural and …supernatural undertones, often paying homage to Dionysus, the Greek God of Wine. His poems revolved around themes of love, infatuation, revelry, festivals, and observations of everyday life “…it’s fun to compose because its subject matter tends to combine everyday observations with supernatural themes and/or celebrations”. Poetry through the Ages, Robert Yehling.
Napa Valley wineries built between the years 1860 and 1900 are also known as “Ghost Wineries” and sure, some have even been rumored to be haunted. Prohibition and phyloxerra (a detrimental vineyard pest) forced hundreds of old wineries out of business and only a few survived that time period. Many of these old abandoned wineries morphed into restaurants, retail shops and residences, while the lucky winery survivors arose like the Phoenix from the ashes. Sure, the facilities have been restored and the equipment has been upgraded but what remains at the core of these 100 year old gems are historical reminders of a different time. Stories of hardship, passion, perseverance and yes, maybe even a few ghosts.
Here are three "Ghost Wineries" that still produce amazing wine today:
Founded by Alfred Tubbs in 1888 The early founding of Chateau Montelena and few other surviving wineries is important to the American wine industry. And yet this early status as a Napa Valley and California wine industry founder is not what makes Chateau Montelena both legendary and important. Alongside their longevity is a history of wines of truly historic character and outstanding quality.
SHOP ALL WINES >>>
Chateau Montelena 2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Intense deep crimson color with a powerful nose. Classic structure of fine-grained tannins and firm acidity persist through to the clean, crisp, spicy finish.
"A great wine in the making, the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate (just under 10,000 cases produced) possesses a fragrant bouquet of sweet black currants, crushed rocks, earth and background oak. - 94+ Points, Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
$122.99 bottle | BUY NOW >>
For anyone who has ever ventured into a winery’s caves, it’s usually something of a disappointing affair. They are, after all, just caves; holes dug into the side of a mountain where barrels are stored in cool temperatures and high humidity. But then…there are CAVES.
Imagine a winery cave system that is 18 stories high, consisting of four vertical levels with one level a full five stories high. That’s not a winery cave. That’s a monument to engineering. SHOP ALL WINES >>
Palmaz 2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon$99.99 bottle | Only 22 left! BUY NOW >>
"This old ghost winery, which has been resurrected, has produced their best wine to date. Dark ruby/purple, with a nose of graphite, black currants, violets, and some chocolate, the medium to full-bodied texture of the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon builds incrementally. The fruit is pure, rich, and concentrated, the finish long and authoritative. The wine, which is very approachable now, should drink well for at least 10-15+ years." (Dec. 2010) - 90 Points, Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
Napa Valley Wineries built between the years 1860 and 1900 are also known as “Ghost Wineries” and sure, some have even been rumored to be haunted.
The old ghost winery that Komes bought and named after his wife, Flora, was built by a local stonemason named Cadioli and was the home to Brockhoff Winery before the turn of the 20th century. But, between the outbreak of Phylloxera in the late 19th century and the onset of Prohibition in 1919, the stone buildings were left abandoned. However, a soon-to-be Napa Valley icon saw their potential. The winery is open to visitors only by appointment. It’s most certainly worth the effort to call Flora Springs, make the trek down Zinfandel Lane and experience the historic buildings first hand. In addition to a tour of the former ghost and a walk into Flora Springs’ hillside caves, visitors to the winery will have the chance to taste a selection of Cabernets that are made from a small selection of the finest grapes culled from the winery’s nearly 500 acres of vineyards. It’s a true Napa Valley experience. SHOP ALL WINES >>
Flora Springs 2005 Holy Smoke Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Exhibits spice, berries and licorice aromas and flavors. Rich texture, a complex mid-palate and an amazingly long finish.
"The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Holy Smoke Vineyard exhibits a dense ruby/purple color and notes of charcoal, black currant, sweet cherry, earth, and underbrush. A deep, full-bodied wine that is more supple and forward than its two predecessors, but beautiful, it should be drunk over the next 12-15 years." (Dec. 2007) - 90 Points, Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
$89.99 bottle | Only 12 left! BUY NOW >>
If you love seafood, check out these great seafood enhancing wines to pair with your favorite dishes! Plus, because of our close relationship with Stock Yards® -- The World's Finest Steaks, Chops & Seafood, you can purchase all these items right here! We've made it even easier for you to enjoy wine with your favorite meals. Satisfaction is 100% guaranteed. (These items will ship separately -- all seafood ships 2 day air).
The 2009 Jayson Chardonnay is pale yellow-green in color. Composed of both Napa Valley and Sonoma Coast fruit, it reveals kiwi, melon, tangelo and lemon-lime curd with an underlying flintiness and minerality.
Two or Four 8-9 ounce servings. Remarkable tender, snow white lobster tails from "Down Under" have an exquisitely mild taste with rich flavor.
$62.95 - $109.95
Six 10 ounce servings. The rich, delicate flavor of Atlantic Salmon makes it a favorite seafood choice. Every step is taken to ensure exceptional quality.
Our staff thinks this Sauvignon Blanc is the cats meow. Full of fresh tropical flavors and a finish that goes on and on, this wine packs a lot of punch for it's little price!
Ultimate Crab Cakes
Swanson Merlot Burgers
(Recipe by Chris Phelps, Swanson Vineyards Winemaker)
There is a word, Carneros and it means “The Ram” in Spanish. The name “Carneros,” or “Los Carneros,” is derived from the days when our region was home to sheepherders, dairy farms, fruit orchards and hayfields.+
Climate: Cool, with prevailing marine winds from the San Pablo Bay and through the Petaluma Gap to the west. High temperatures during summer rarely exceed 80°F (27°C) with less diurnal range variation.
Elevation: 15 to 400 ft. (4.6 to124 m)
Rainfall: Lowest in Napa Valley: 18 to 24 inches (7.2 to 9.6cm) annually.
Soils: Clay dominated, very shallow in general, with more loam and hillside alluvials in the northern section. Yields typically are restrained by the hard claypan subsoil, which prevents deep-rooting.++
+"Welcome - Carneros." Carneros Wine Alliance. Carneros Wine Alliance. Web. 21 Feb. 2012.
++"Science of Napa Valley." Napa Valley Appellations and Wine Grape Growing Regions. Napa Valley Vintners. Web. 21 Feb. 2012.
Auction Napa Valley
This very well could have been the story about how I met Tango, the six-year-old male Cheetah who is a minor celebrity, having appeared in several commercials (which gives him more acting cred than most of the human actors that I know), and then watched baby jaguars drink from baby bottles.
But it’s not.
It might have been the story of partying with the young female staff from Clos du Val, who were wearing Victoria’s Secret angel wings at the time, after touching the America’s Cup (yes, that America’s Cup).
But it’s not.
It’s not even the story of how I tasted (more like guzzled, in some cases) coveted California reds like Screaming Eagle, Spottswoode, Scarecrow and Palmaz, all within less than twenty-four hours. Or how I attended an impromptu performance by wunderkind violinist Charles Yang. Or how the 2012 incarnation of Auction Napa Valley, held at the luxurious Meadowood Resort off the Silverado Trail in St. Helena, raised over $8 million for health, hospice and housing charities by gathering celebrities, wine personalities, and (very) wealthy and (very) generous folks to bid on a lot of wine coupled with experiences such as dinner with Superbowl legend Joe Montana, a 12-day African safari (that’s where Tango came in – and he even has his own Chappellet wine to go with it), VIP access to the 2012 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show (hence the angle wing attire), and a private concert from Grammy-award-collectors Lady Antebellum.
No, this is actually the story of how I almost got bulldozed over by Emeril Lagasse. Yeah, that Emeril Lagasse, the one they call “Chef” without using the rest of his name because he’s that bad-ass. And his New Orleans style brass band – they almost bulldozed me, too.
It’s not as if my stint at Auction Napa Valley 2012, where all of the above took place – on the same day, I should add, and not while I was dreaming after overdoing it on spicy Thai food the night before – needed to be any more surreal than it already was before I got in Emeril’s way. It was just the tale-to-tell-the-grandkids icing on the bizarro-world cake at that point.
It happened like this: I was sitting with the aforementioned Clos du Val angels at the back of the luxury tent that housed table after table of winemakers, media, celebrities and auction bidders on the Meadowood lawn, and the Auction was a bit more than halfway through the lots. I then got a text message from a friend who was sitting at another table, just right of the stage and practically on the stage itself, inviting me to check out the view over at his table. Why not, right? Good opportunity to take pictures, and since every table had a different vintner with their killer Napa wines being poured, I figured what the hell - let’s mix it up.
That’s when I got in Emeril’s way. I grabbed a seat at my buddy’s table, with my back to the audience, and figured I’d be under the radar since most everyone’s attention was focused squarely on the bidding happening on the stage to my left.
I hadn’t counted on Chef, though.
Chef came charging into the tent several minutes later, to much fanfare and applause and with a band and two police escorts in tow, fresh from having cooked dinner (with help from the Meadowood staff) for the few hundred Auction-goers. Instead of looping around to the far lefthand side of the stage where the steps were, Emeril went for the most direct path to the stage, because that’s how Emeril rolls. A direct path that lead straight to my seat; the one with about six inches of clearance between its legs and the edge of the stage.
Chef is not a tall man but he is anything but a frail man. He certainly weighs more than I do, which you should treat is an educated assessment since I had to use all of my strength to level the chair steady when Emeril grabbed it (along with my arm, which was draped over the chair’s back) and hauled himself onto the stage, to much fanfare and applause. At that point, I wasn’t thinking about the surrealism so much as focusing on the fact that, if I failed to steady the chair I was likely going to fall flat on top of Chef, and be tazed (or shot) by his police escort and (maybe worse) never be invited back to the madness of Auction Napa Valley ever again.
Once Emeril passed by, all of what seemed like the 700 members of his Big Easy style brass troupe used the same stage entrance pathway, made slightly more accessible by the jamming of my body between the table and my chair, which probably gave them a much roomier seven inches of clearance versus the more claustrophobic six inches we were working with there for Chef’s entrance. At that point, I wasn’t thinking about the surrealism so much as focusing on being able to breathe enough not to pass out, and trying to avoid getting clobbered in the head by trombone, bass drum, or tuba (or having any of them lay a Voodoo curse on me for all eternity).
I’m happy to report that all ended well, Emeril and crew made it safely on stage, I suffered only minor bruises to my pride, and Chef went on to literally auction off the shirt off his back.
That’s my story, people. Cheetah, jaguars, angels, trophies, private Classical concerts, Big Easy bands, a whole hell of a lot of great wine… and Chef; all in the same day, all in the same place, all while lucidly awake, and only at Auction Napa Valley.