California’s wine stars were out in force in Napa Valley last night as some of the most influential and prominent gathered for Wine Spectator's Bring Your Own Magnum Party. One of the hottest wine-country parties of the year, the annual fête offers vintners a chance to relax before Auction Napa Valley and its weekend of events.
There was even more reason to celebrate this year, as Northern California emerges from the devastating wildfires that affected parts of Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties last fall. Local communities are still rebuilding. The fires also brought vintners closer together. “The sense of community has gotten stronger,” said Steve Distler, a partner at Jack Winery and co-founder of Arnyca.
Members of the wine industry had another reason to be optimistic: The previous evening marked the opening of the Wine Spectator Learning Center, the new home of the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University, which will help educate future generations of wine professionals.
The mood was jubilant as nearly 600 guests gathered in the pavilion adjacent to Bottega restaurant in Yountville, many with magnums of their finest wines in tow. Always a popular event, vintners began lining up early, eager to get the party started. “It’s something we look forward to every year,” said Michele Truchard of John Anthony Vineyards and JaM Cellars.
The outside pavilion offered plenty of space to mingle as guests nibbled on passed hors d’oeuvres and reveled in the spring weather. The crowd was packed with Napa vintners, including Bill Phelps and his son Will of Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Steve Lagier and Carole Meredith of Lagier-Meredith, John and Doug Shafer of Shafer Vineyards, Aaron Pott of Pott winery, Joe Wagner of Copper Cane Wines and Provisions and grapegrower Andy Beckstoffer.
Sonoma was well-represented, with many vintners traveling over the mountains to rub shoulders with their peers, including Jesse Katz of Aperture and Devil Proof, Bob Cabral of Three Sticks, Jeff Gaffner of Saxon Brown and Adam and Dianna Lee of Siduri. They were joined by race-car driver and vintner Scott Pruett of Pruett Vineyard in the Sierra Foothills.
With so many vintners in attendance, the party was chockablock with rare and intriguing wines. Being Napa, the Cabernet Sauvignon was flowing freely, including Bond St. Eden 2012, Shafer Hillside Select 2007 and Silver Oak 2002. Other gems included Kosta Browne Pinot Noir 4-Barrel 2014, Carlisle Zinfandel Carlisle Vineyard 2015 and non-California offerings such as Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 707 2004.
For Craig Haserot of Sojourn in Sonoma, the highlight of the party was looking down the long lineup of wines and choosing a bottle he had never had the opportunity to try before. “There are so many options and so many things to try,” he said.
Wines of this caliber called for equally satisfying food, and Bottega's team didn’t disappoint. Multiple food stations served dishes inspired by chef Michael Chiarello’s favorite Italian destinations. Venice-themed offerings included a raw seafood bar with fresh-shucked oysters and clams on ice, while the Campania station had a mobile pizza oven. Crowd favorites included the handmade tagliatelle with a hearty Bolognese of pork and veal, and cubes of “forever roasted” fennel pork shoulder at the Tuscany station.
For many vintners the party was an opportunity to share stories and catch up with colleagues. But it was also a chance to toast new friendships. “It’s exciting to be here and be part of the industry and community,” said Gaylon Lawrence Jr., who recently became a vintner when he purchased Napa’s iconic Heitz Cellars in April.
The party really kicked into high gear as the stars came out and the live band began to play. Many vintners gravitated to the dance floor to kick up their heels; others relaxed outside with cigars or coconut and lime gelato served in frozen orange peels. “What’s not to like?” asked Roger Nabedian, senior vice president and general manager of Gallo’s Premium Wine Division. “Good wine, nice food, great people.”
—With reporting by Aaron Romano.