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Wine Women Join Forces for Charity

A tasting at Atlantic City's Borgata raises more than $100,000

Jennifer Fiedler
Posted: November 29, 2006

Just before the doors opened at the second annual Women in Wine charity auction, Dr. Su Hua Newton of Newton Vineyards caught up with fellow vintners Gina Gallo and Patricia Kluge. "We were just laughing and sharing," Newton recounted, noting that as a woman in the wine industry, "that's the most important thing--the ability to share."

On Nov. 11, 23 top women winemakers, vintners and importers convened at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City to present their wines at a walk-around tasting that attracted more than 900 people. The event, which was sponsored by Wine Spectator, also included a live auction and an Iron Chef cook-off pitting Bobby Flay against Masaharu Morimoto. In all, Women in Wine raised $101,500 for the women's charities Living Beyond Breast Cancer and Atlantic County Women's Center.

For Rhonda Carano, proprietor of Sonoma's Ferrari-Carano and a breast-cancer survivor, a personal connection to the event's charities spurred her participation. Susie Selby, who donates frequently to women's charities, reveled in what she called the "camaraderie that exists among women winemakers" as she poured her Selby Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2005. Gay Callan, of Chatom Vineyards in California's Sierra Foothills, agreed. "Looking around the room tonight, there is a real sense of empowerment," she said.

In attendance were Bobby Flay, Lorraine Bracco, Wolfgang Puck, Peggy Fleming and Michael Mina.

Olympic gold-medalist Peggy Fleming and actress Lorraine Bracco added star power to the evening. Attendees clamored for autographs along with a taste of their latest vintages from Fleming-Jenkins in Sonoma and Bracco Wines from Italy. Impressive selections from Napa, Chile and Burgundy kept glasses full throughout the night.

Top chefs from the newly expanded Borgata roster, including Michael Mina and Wolfgang Puck, were on hand to serve their specialties at stations around the room. Mina highlighted SeaBlue's seafood-centric menu with a taste of butter-poached lobster. Puck cooked up a wild-mushroom gnocchi dish to represent his American Grille.

The live-auction lots ranged from a tour and tasting at Opus One to tickets to an upcoming Rolling Stones concert in Atlantic City. The top lot of the night, an expedition to wineries in Argentina and Chile during harvest time, sold for $12,000. In all, the live auction raised $56,000.

A culinary showdown between Iron Chefs Masaharu Morimoto and Bobby Flay capped off the evening. Two audience members bid a total of $7,000 for the opportunity to assist onstage as sous-chefs; a third garnered a seat on the judge's panel for $2,200. With Dungeness crab as the secret ingredient, a fierce competition of peeling, dicing and sautéing led to a happy stalemate as the judges awarded each chef a perfect 10.

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