Salut! / The Vintner Dinners


Feasts for the Senses

Revered chefs and vintners partner with Naples’ most gracious hosts to create unforgettable evenings during NWWF’s vintner dinners—all in support of Collier County’s children.

Puttin’ on the Ritz

Hosts: Cheryl & Larry Andrews
Vintners: Daphne & Bart Araujo of Accendo Cellars in Napa, CA 
Chef: Dustin Valette of Valette in Healdsburg, CA 

When it comes to mastering the art of the blend, Accendo Cellars has found just the right balance. With two generations of winemakers and grapes from family-run vineyards in Napa, Accendo (taken from the Latin verb meaning “to illuminate or inflame”) is Daphne and Bart Araujo’s second wine venture after selling their successful namesake label to the parent company of Château Latour. Now, with the help of daughter, Jaime Araujo Bézian, and son, Greg Araujo, they’re crafting three wines—cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc and the Laurea red wine (a Bordeaux blend)—from vineyards they consider to be Napa Valley’s “grand cru” sites.

For several years, the Araujos have known Dustin Valette, a chef and vintner who hand-harvests Bordeaux varietals from his uncle’s Alexander Valley vineyard. The Araujos admire his commitment and dedication to supporting local producers through his restaurant, which provides a canvas for farmers, winemakers and artisans to showcase their craft. At Valette, which is located in the same area as Valette’s great-grandfather’s former bakeries, the chef plans in microseasons. He starts working with farmers before seeds are planted and tailors his tasting menus to “emphasize the connection we have with the local vineyards and producers that form the core of our agritourism and culinary community.”

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Chasing Your Passion

Hosts: Laura & Jim Dixon with Nena & Bill Beynon at the Dixon’s “Man Cave” 
Vintners: Kary & David Duncan of Silver Oak and Twomey in Napa, CA     
Chef: Dean Fearing of Fearing’s Restaurant in Dallas, TX 

Silver Oak launched in the 1970s, producing 1,000 cases of its first vintage out of a dairy barn-turned-winery. The winery is run by co-founder Ray Twomey Duncan’s two sons, David and Tim, who continue the tradition of focusing only on cabernet sauvignon, aged in American oak. “Cabernet is more versatile than people may think,” says CEO and proprietor David Duncan, noting that it can pair with everything from grilled salmon to sautéed mushrooms. The LEED Platinum-certified wineries in the Napa and Alexander Valleys were built around the grape, expressed in one bottling from each region per year.

Following similar principles in honoring tradition, chef Dean Fearing’s cuisine is rooted in Southern recipes passed down by his grandmothers. After a two-decade-long stint in the kitchen at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, Fearing opened his namesake restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas, in 2007. He also has a line of Texas-inspired soups and sauces. In The Texas Food Bible, Fearing looks to the Lone Star State’s countryside as inspiration for his locally driven cuisine—which will shine in the Dixon’s luxe “man cave,” designed by Naples’ Judith Liegeois. 

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Let the Sunshine In

Hosts: Susan Stielow with Terri Franklin Kuhn and Linda Richards Malone    
Vintner: Dr. Laura Catena of Bodega Catena Zapata in Mendoza, Argentina      
Chef: Jennifer Jasinski of Rioja in Denver, CO 

When Nicolás Catena Zapata decided in the early 1990s to start exporting a high-quality Malbec from Argentina, the 2,000-year-old variety had been forgotten by the world. “And even by its region of origin, France,” Dr. Laura Catena, Nicolás’ daughter and Bodega Catena’s managing director, says. Her father wanted to make Argentine wines that could stand with the best of the world. He started a high-altitude wine revolution, planting vines in the Andes at nearly 5,000 feet in elevation—a feat most believed would be impossible. Today, he’s credited with putting Argentinean wines on the world map. 

The wines—including the namesake Nicolás Catena Zapata Bordeaux blend, served at the dinner—are rich and aromatic, with smooth tannins and a long finish. They pair beautifully with the Mediterranean-influenced cuisine from Jennifer Jasinski of Rioja, one of the James Beard Award-winning chef’s five Denver restaurants. (Her fifth restaurant, a vegetable-forward concept, The Ponti, recently opened at the Denver Art Museum). Seasonal Rocky Mountain ingredients influence her menus, and, like her mentor and culinary role model, Wolfgang Puck, follow the philosophy that “it’s not necessarily what you do, but how you do it.” 

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Passion and Purpose

Hosts: Debbi & Bill Cary with Nancy & Joe Masterson
Vintners: Kelley & Jim Bailey of Knights Bridge Winery in Calistoga, CA
Chef de cuisine: Nancy Oakes of Boulevard in San Francisco, CA

Solidly in the ranks among the likes of Alice Waters, who led the slow food movement, and artisan bread champion Nancy Silverton, Nancy Oakes stands apart in the male-dominated restaurant industry as a woman who has changed the face of San Francisco dining—and by extension—the country’s approach to American fine dining. With her restaurants, including the longstanding Boulevard, Oakes helped herald in an era of hyper-local dining with complex technique and gorgeous plating (and restaurant interiors)—all delivered with down-home, approachable flavors and service. For this year’s NWWF, she partners with friends, vintners and part-time Naples residents Kelley and Jim Bailey of Calistoga’s Knights Bridge Winery. 

Founded in 2006, Knights Bridge harvests at high elevations in a remote pocket of Sonoma off scenic Highway 128 and maintains a deep commitment to nature. All four vineyards they draw from—including the revered To Kalon and Dr. Crane Vineyards—are farmed sustainably, resulting in cabernets, sauvignon blancs and chardonnays that exalt their California setting in the underrated, rural Knights Valley—the warmest appellation in Sonoma. 

Oakes says she adores Knights Bridge wines—especially the Fairview Sauvignon Blanc. It only makes sense that the dinner will kick off with the robust white. “And then onto our West Block Chardonnay, which chef always pairs perfectly with lobster or crab,” co-owner Kelley Bailey says. If the weather cooperates, Oakes promises the local delicacy stone crab will be on the menu, too. 

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Harvest for Hope

Host: Ann Bain at the home of Tina & Joe Pregont   
Vintners: Shahpar & Darioush Khaledi of Darioush in Napa, CA   
Chef: Bill Telepan of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, NY

Inspired by his father’s winemaking efforts and the wine culture in Shiraz (in modern-day Iran) and the ancient Persian capital of Persepolis, Iranian-bred Darioush Khaledi started his wine journey as a collector of Old World bottles. A civil engineer by trade, Khaledi shifted gears when he emigrated to the U.S., launching the largest family-owned grocery business in California before he founded Darioush with his wife, Shahpar, in the late 1990s. While others focused on northern Napa, Khaledi looked to the cooler microclimates of southern Napa, particularly Mount Veeder, where he sources the majority of the cabernet sauvignon for the label’s crown jewel: the Darius II.

Similarly, chef Bill Telepan is guided by seasonal ingredients. He’s seen as a pioneer in New York’s greenmarket cooking movement, where chefs focus on the freshest ingredients from local markets. Telepan cut his teeth among the culinary greats in France and New York. He trained at Alain Chapel’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant near Lyon and with Daniel Boulud at Le Cirque and Gilbert Le Coze at Le Bernardin before earning his star at his eponymous Upper West Side spot. He now works with the Institute of Culinary Education and The Metropolitan Museum of Art to encourage sustainably driven farming and food experiences—a mission that ties closely into the dinner’s theme.

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Celebrate the Possibilities

Hosts: Valerie Boyd & Jeff Gargiulo with Kristine & Chris Williams   
Vintners: Valerie Boyd & Jeff Gargiulo of Gargiulo Vineyards in Napa, CA    
Chef: Charlie Palmer of Charlie Palmer Steak in New York, NY

Jeff Gargiulo transferred his savoir-faire in farming to grape-growing 30 years ago when he and his wife, Valerie Boyd, purchased their first vineyard in Oakville, Napa Valley—one of the best places in the world for growing cabernet sauvignon. The family now owns two distinct plots just one mile apart. While the Money Road Ranch vineyard produces wines with dark fruit aromas, the OVX vineyard, on the east side of the Oakville crossroad, has lower yields and the small berries express notes of coffee and cocoa. As the festival’s founding trustees, the Gargiulos have hosted an annual dinner since the first auction in 2001. “We pour our hearts, soul and brainpower into each year’s dinner as if it were the first,” Valerie says. Wines like OXV’s G Major 7 Study Cabernet Sauvignon blend and Money Road Ranch’s Cabernet Sauvignon are paired with courses crafted by the family’s friend, chef Charlie Palmer.

The chef, television personality, cookbook author and vintner (he produces pinot noir in Healdsburg, CA) was one of the early supporters of farm-over-factory food, a philosophy influenced by childhood days working in his family’s vegetable garden. Blending classic French techniques with regional ingredients and unexpected flavors, he’s known for his progressive American cooking and expanded his steakhouse and award-winning culinary concepts to more than 16 locales.

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Beyond the Clouds

Hosts: Libby & Rick Germain with Kathy & Dan Mezzalingua 
Vintners: Amanda Harlan of Harlan Estate in Oakville, CA, and Olivier Krug of Krug Champagne in Reims, France     
Chef: Cassidee Dabney of The Barn at Blackberry Farm in Walland, TN

Visits to Burgundy’s grand cru vineyards and Bordeaux’s first-growth châteaux in 1980 inspired H. William ‘Bill’ Harlan Sr. to plant his own “first-growth” vineyard in California. He did so on the slopes of Oakville’s western hills in a vineyard that his daughter, Amanda, says “looks like a place beyond the clouds” when the fog rolls in. Vintages since the first one in 1990 garnered acclaim from critics, like Robert Parker, who says the wines “possess all the elements of greatness.” 

Amanda joins sixth-generation descendant Olivier Krug, the director of the namesake Champagne house. Krug’s a stalwart keeper of the family’s legacy and exacting standards (grapes are sourced from subtly different, premiere tiny plots; and some blends, like the Grande Cuvée, take as many as 1,000 tastings to perfect). He serves on the tasting committee, upholding the founding principles detailed by his great-great-great grandfather in a leather-bound book from the 1800s.

Joining the duo in the kitchen is Cassidee Dabney, executive chef of The Barn at Blackberry Farm, a James Beard Award-winning restaurant that champions the philosophy of refined “Foothills Cuisine.” Along with a team of artisan chefs, bakers, foragers and preservationists, she crafts an haute spin on ingredients and cuisine from the surrounding Smoky Mountains—a perfect pairing for the storied wine houses at this dinner.

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Riding High

Hosts: Julie & Rob Heidt, Jr. with Barbie & Paul Hills    
Vintner: Piero Antinori of Marchesi Antinori in Tuscany, Italy      
Chef: Joe Flamm of Rose Mary in Chicago, IL 

Run by the 26th generation, the Antinori family’s history of winemaking spans more than six centuries. Marchese Piero Antinori, the company’s honorary president, passed the torch to his three daughters, who helm the estates sprinkled throughout Tuscany and neighboring Umbria. The heart of the Antinori legacy still lies in Chianti Classico, where a modern, Renaissance-inspired palace serves as the flagship winery. Marchesi Antinori wines are meant for food, so they complement dishes without dominating them. “Like Renaissance architecture and the music of Mozart, they’re simple but great—and able to get right to your heart,” Piero says. 

Top Chef winner Joe Flamm’s cuisine is also heavily influenced by Italian flavors and traditions. He’s worked in renowned restaurants in Rome and Lombardy, Italy, as well as in Tony Mantuano’s Michelin-starred spots in Chicago. (Mantuano, himself is the chef at The Bewitching Hour dinner.) At Rose Mary, in Chicago’s Fulton Market District, the restaurant is an extension of Flamm personally and as a chef, and reflects what’s growing in season. He draws inspiration from his Italian heritage—his grandmother, Mary, taught him how to make handmade pasta and pizza—and from Italy’s Adriatic coast. Appropriately, he dubs the cuisine “Adriatic drinking food,” with dishes “you’d want to nibble on and pair beautifully with wine.”

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Dream a Little Dream

Hosts: Shirlene Elkins with Susie McCurry at the home of Yassi & Eric Papenfuss           
Vintner: Raphaël Reybier of Cos d’Estournel in Saint-Estèphe, France        
Chef: Rogan Lechthaler of The Downtown Grocery in Ludlow, VT    

Cos d’Estournel is an estate built on taking risks. Founder Louis Gaspard d’Estournel saw the rolling contours and “hill of pebbles” (called cos in the Gascon dialect) in the Médoc region as an ideal place to innovate. He experimented with glass stoppers and new grape varieties and worked outside Bordeaux’s traditional négociant system, acting as an emissary to dispatch wines to far-flung locales like India. He was “wholly devoted to his estate and fought ceaselessly to improve it, building new facilities and constantly revisiting its vineyard,” says current owner, Michel Reybier, whose son, Raphaël, manages the grand cru classé estate. 

 

Joining Reybier is chef Rogan Lechthaler, who owns The Downtown Grocery in Ludlow, VT, with his wife, Abby. Having cooked his way from his native Vermont to Boston to Mississippi, where his wife is from, and now back home to the Green Mountain State, Lechthaler defines his style as a “collection of all the things I’ve learned in places I’ve cooked, made with a lot of seasonal, Vermont ingredients.” For the Dream a Little Dream menu, he plans to showcase a sampler of New England cuisine and dishes he cooks at home with his family while incorporating Floridian flavors.

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The Bewitching Hour

Hosts: Jerri & David Hoffmann with Shirley & Peter Welsh aboard the Naples Princess and at Hamilton Harbor Yacht Club   
Vintners: Emily and Paul Michael of Peter Michael Winery in Calistoga, CA      
Chef: Tony Mantuano of Yolan in Nashville, TN   

In 1982, when Sir Peter and Lady Michael purchased 630 acres of volcanic ridges along the western face of Mount Saint Helena, in Knights Valley, for a vineyard and family retreat, they envisioned 100% family ownership for at least a century. Forty years later, their son, Paul, and his wife, Emily, have joined the Peter Michael Winery, which now includes three vineyard estates (Knights Valley, Oakville and Seaview) that produce white and red Bordeaux-inspired blends, chardonnay and pinot noir. “While we are proud of all three estates, Knights Valley is particularly special,” Paul says. “The ranch is where it all started and the vineyards, climbing the slopes of Mount Saint Helena, remain spectacular, creating truly distinct wines.”

The chef is Michelin-starred Tony Mantuano, half of the husband-wife duo behind the fine-dining Italian restaurant Yolan at The Joseph, a Luxury Collection Hotel in downtown Nashville. The Midwest-born chef—known as the Godfather of Italian fine-dining in America—trained in Italy in the 1980s and returns most years to learn from family-run trattorie and Michelin-starred restaurants. Quality, Italian-sourced products are at the core of Yolan’s kitchen, so expect to find these star ingredients—like Italian caviar and fresh pasta—on The Bewitching Hour menu.

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One Enchanted Evening

Hosts: Jacki & Max Guinn with Karen & Dale Medford     
Vintner: Shannon Staglin of Staglin Family Vineyard in Rutherford, CA     
Chef: Anne Kearney of Oak & Ola in Tampa, FL    

Located at the base of the western slopes of Mount St. John, in California’s Mayacamas, Staglin Family Vineyard began more than 150 years ago, when Napa Valley’s early settlers began planting vines. The property once belonged to a family with ties to the de Latours, who owned Beaulieu Vineyard, before the Staglins acquired the estate in the 1980s. The family produces site-driven cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, sangiovese and a Bordeaux-style blend that “showcases grace, elegance and finesse and honors the uniqueness of our historic Rutherford Bench estate,” Shannon Staglin, the winery’s president, says.

Oak & Ola’s Anne Kearney, known for American-influenced Provençal bistro fare, plans to showcase the European-centric cuisine of her Tampa restaurant, which incorporates Southwest Florida ingredients. While her cooking focuses on reinventing classics, she’s careful to point out that she’s not big on fusion food. Instead, she blends elements of American cuisine (gleaned from mentors like New Orleans chef John Neal) with European ingredients that have a rich history (like balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy). “I like to keep things authentic and stay true to classic flavors,” Kearney says.

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New Moon Rising

Hosts: Anne Welsh McNulty with Beth & Jeff Wessel              
Vintner: Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini of Borgo Scopeto e Caparzo SRL in Tuscany, Italy      
Chef: Angelo Auriana of BRERA Ristorante in Los Angeles, CA    

They say the name Caparzo is  derived from a Latin phrase that means a “place touched by the sun.” For film producer-turned-vintner Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini, the countryside estate is where she always dreamed of living. At age 40, she invested in sangiovese vineyards and four wineries later, Angelini, who has been called the Queen of Brunello, crafts wines that are some of the most well-known in the region, “characterized by elegance, structure, approachability, character and consistency.” 

At this dinner, she likes “to imagine that our wines will be like stars next to the moon. Each wine with its own particular light to help guide us out of the darkness from the virus.” Paired alongside a selection of Toscana, Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti Classico Riserva wines is fare from Bergamo-born chef Angelo Auriana. At his Los Angeles restaurant BRERA Ristorante, he heralds a philosophy of cooking Italian peasant heritage cuisine, or cucina povera, traditionally found in the Italian countryside. Auriana preserves and promotes authentic dishes while infusing a local touch through seasonal California produce. His cooking will “enhance the profiles of our wines,” Angelini says. 

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Love Will Keep Us Together

Hosts: Stephanie & Fred Pezeshkan with Adria & Jerry Starkey        
Vintners: Ariel & Christopher Jackson of Lokoya Estate in Oakville, CA       
Chef: Michael Mina of MICHAEL MINA in Las Vegas, NV    

At Napa Valley’s Lokoya Estate, cabernet sauvignon is harvested from high-elevation, volcanic-soil vineyards in four of the area’s top mountain appellations: Mount Veeder, Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain and Diamond Mountain. The estate has changed hands—and names—a few times since it was founded in 1970. When the Jacksons took over in 2013, they worked with renowned architect Howard Backen, who largely influenced the look of Napa wineries. In the cellar, winemaker Chris Carpenter, who has spent more than two decades working at some of the region’s most acclaimed wineries, is known for taming Napa’s mountain tannins and creating wines that allow the character of each vineyard to shine.

Teaming up with the Jacksons for the evening is chef Michael Mina, whose former namesake San Francisco fine-dining flagship earned a Michelin star for its Middle Eastern menu—a nod to the Cairo-born chef’s roots. In the two decades since launching Mina Group, his empire has expanded across the U.S. and to Dubai with more than 45 restaurants, including popular concepts like Bourbon Steak and the new, Greek-inspired Estiatorio Ornos—housed in the same San Francisco locale where he launched his career.

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Creating a Limitless Future

Hosts: Judith Liegeois with Donna Solimene at the home of Alysa & Jonathan Rotella        
Vintner: Cliff Lede of Lede Family Wines in Yountville, CA      
Chef: John Tesar of Knife & Spoon in Orlando, FL

“With this year being a milestone anniversary [for Lede Family Wines], we’ve been thinking a lot about the future and our role, not only as winemakers but as stewards of the land and active members of the community,” says founder Cliff Lede, who purchased the Stags Leap District estate 20 years ago. The winery’s cross-section of terroir ranges from steep, gravelly hillsides to the valley floor, giving the winemaking team a diverse expression to work with. “I’m really proud of what they have accomplished over the last few years,” Lede says. “With recent vintages, we are seeing wines that are engaging from the first sip, yet will also age well for years to come.”

In preparation for the dinner, four-time James Beard-nominated chef John Tesar recently visited the winery and shared his cooking and pairing philosophy, which Lede praises for its “creativity and unconventional pairings as we seek to think outside the box.” The European-trained chef, who is the force behind Dallas-based steakhouse Knife, has garnered a reputation for reinventing the steakhouse dining experience. While developing the concept for Knife—which now also has an offshoot location in Orlando, called Knife & Spoon—he crisscrossed the country visiting steakhouses to see how he could steer away from the characteristically stuffy atmosphere and offer what many critics have dubbed the steakhouse of the future.

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House of the Rising Sun

Hosts: Marilyn Scripps with Linda & Tom Koehn
Vintner: Véronique Drouhin-Boss of Maison Joseph Drouhin in Beaune, France    
Chef: Carrie Nahabedian of Brindille in Chicago, IL 

Part of the fourth-generation owners at the helm of family-run Maison Joseph Drouhin, which comprises wineries in France and Oregon, Véronique Drouhin-Boss is considered the guardian of the Drouhin palate, ensuring each wine is consistent in style. In France, the winery—where cellars have spread from those once belonging to the dukes of Burgundy and kings of France in Beaune to an 18th-century watermill in Chablis—encompasses 90 different appellations. Two-thirds of the vineyards are classified as premier and grand cru. With more than 30 vintages under her belt, Drouhin-Boss has become a leading figure in the wine world, and in 2019, earned France’s highest distinction, the Légion d’Honneur.

Chicago-native Carrie Nahabedian teams up with the vintner for an evening that event planner Margaret Short describes as having “midcentury tiki vibes.” The theme extends to the music, starting with Polynesian entertainment before transitioning to a local band, New Kids on the Yacht. On the culinary side, Nahabedian and her cousin, restaurateur Michael Nahabedian, earned a Michelin star seven years in a row for their eatery NAHA. While the acclaimed restaurant has since closed, the duo also partnered on Brindille in Chicago to pay homage to their shared love of Parisian culture and cuisine.

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Lighting the Way

Hosts: Kathleen & Francis Rooney    
Vintners: The Kathleen and Francis Rooney Family of Bodega 202 in Rioja, Spain      
Chef: Carlos Gaytán of Tzuco in Chicago, IL

NCEF trustees Kathleen and Francis Rooney fell in love with Rioja, Spain, while walking the 500-mile Camino de Santiago. The wine region (referred to as the Bordeaux of Spain) became a favorite destination for the family, and soon their visits turned into vineyard-scouting expeditions. They settled on plots in Alavesa, and in 2014, launched Bodega 202, named after the Washington, D.C. area code where the couple met. Joined by their son, Michael, they created a winery that critic Tim Atkin called “one of the most conspicuous Rioja success stories of the last decade.” They maintain a philosophy of “old vines and altitude,” with some of the oldest vineyards—at 70-plus years—expressed in one of its signature wines: ANSA.

Chef Carlos Gaytán, who combines his Mexican heritage (he grew up cooking alongside his mother in Guerrero) with the French techniques he acquired at Chicago’s now-shuttered Bistrot Margot, handles the cuisine. The fusion of flavors earned Gaytán a Michelin star for his former restaurant, Mexique—making him the first Mexican-born chef to gain the coveted accolade. Now, with two restaurants in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, Gaytán continues building on his cuisine through his 12-seat chef tasting experience, Tales of Carlos Gaytán.

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Uncork the Magic

Hosts: Carol & Harry Rose with Joy & Chuck Waterman          
Vintner: Grace Evenstad of Domaine Serene in Dundee Hills, OR, and Château de la Crée in Burgundy, France       
Chef: Mark Kiffin of The Compound Restaurant in Santa Fe, NM    

Grace Evenstad and her late husband, Ken, were always fans of Burgundy wines and dreamed of growing and bottling their own pinot noir. They saw the potential for producing French-style pinots in Oregon and invested in a 42-acre hilltop estate in Dundee Hills. Named after their daughter, Domaine Serene now produces wines from six vineyard estates dedicated to pinot noir and chardonnay. For 21 years, Evenstad has split her time equally between Naples and Oregon. And, in 2015, she added one more locale to the list: Burgundy. The couple purchased the 15th-century Château de la Crée in the Côte d’Or and extended their vision to the region that sparked their winemaking dream. 

At this dinner, wines from both regions are complemented by dishes from Santa Fe-based chef Mark Kiffin, owner of farm-to-table The Compound Restaurant. The seasonally driven restaurant revolves around the chef’s signature Contemporary American menu, which melds New World and Mediterranean influences with local and regional ingredients. Kiffin also supports the community by donating to charities throughout Santa Fe and giving local restaurants a voice at the annual Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta—a giving spirit he brings to this dinner for NCEF.    

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