Where can you find some of California’s biggest movers and shakers and a world-class selection of magnums all under the same roof? For one star-studded evening on June 3 they were both at Wine Spectator’s Bring Your Own Magnum party. The annual event, held in Napa, provides a food-and wine-fueled kickoff for Auction Napa Valley and its weekend of festivities.
This year, vintners from across California gathered to celebrate in the heart of wine country. It was an opportunity for Sonoma producers to mingle with their counterparts from Napa, and for Mendocino growers to rub shoulders with winemakers from the Sierra Foothills and parts beyond. And they all came prepared with their favorite magnums of wine to share.
Nearly 800 vintners took over Tra Vigne restaurant in Napa’s St. Helena. The mood was jubilant as guests started queuing early, eager to get the party started. “We absolutely cherish being at this event,” said race-car driver and vintner Scott Pruett. “Within the wine industry the party is the who’s who.”
Despite overcast skies it was a perfect evening for stargazing, with the best views on the red carpet. A parade of local winemakers and luminaries came out to celebrate including John Shafer and his son Doug Shafer, Margrit Mondavi, Peter Mondavi of Charles Krug, Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, Bill Harlan of Harlan Estate and Zinfandel guru Larry Turley. Sonoma vintners included Adam and Dianna Lee of Siduri, Gina Gallo, Jean-Charles Boisset and Sojourn founders Craig Haserot and Randy Bennett. Steve Felten of Klinker Brick from Lodi and Pisoni winemaker Jeff Pisoni of the Santa Lucia Highlands also joined the fun.
But people-watching was just part of the fun. The wines were as big as the personalities, with an array of magnums that would make any wine lover do a double take. This being Napa, the Cabernet Sauvignon was flowing, but it shared the stage with everything from Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs to Chardonnay. The pop of corks was a constant refrain at the sparkling wine booth.
Guests glided between multiple tasting stations organized alphabetically by name so everyone could find their favorites. Gems ranged from Peter Michael Les Pavots 2009 to Corra Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 to Bond St. Eden 2005 to Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Volcanic Hill 2001. Other choice bottlings included the Pisoni Pinot Noir 2010, several vintages of Kosta Browne, including a double magnum of the 2011 Gap’s Crown Vineyard, and Pruett Syrah Championship Cuvée 2012.
“There are so many great wines,” said William Hill winemaker Mark Williams as he inspected the selections in the main dining room. “It’s the best part of the event.”
For many the party was a chance to swap stories, catch up with old friends and make new ones. Between tasting wines, Napa vintner Jay Buoncristiani used the time to talk shop with fellow winemaker Jeff Cohn of Jeff Cohn Cellars. “It’s a pretty special time for us as winemakers and vintners,” explained Mark Carter of Carter Cellars. He said it was one of the few places he could see and meet everybody. “It’s the only place you get to do this.”
Tra Vigne’s team was on hand to keep everyone well-fed and energized. Guests noshed on a variety of treats such as whole roasted snapper, brick-cooked quail, a selection of pastas and melt-in-your-mouth, still-warm mozzarella balls. An assortment of wood-fired pizzas disappeared as soon as they came out of the oven.
As the light faded, the party kicked into high gear with the dance floor a popular destination. Other partygoers took their leisure smoking cigars on the patio or headed to the housemade gelato bar for a sweet end to their night. “There is a lot of optimism in the industry right now,” observed St. Francis president and CEO Christopher Silva. “Tonight is a reflection of that.”