Salut! / The Dinners

Naples’ most over-the-top dining event happens on February 3

Peek behind-the-scenes of this year's NWWF Vintner Dinners, where Michelin-starred chefs and revered vintners come together to create fantastical evenings.

BY January 19, 2023
(Courtesy Image)

Chasing Rainbows

Hosts: Debbi & Bill Cary with Nancy & Joe Masterson

Honored Vintner: Philippe Sereys de Rothschild of Château Mouton Rothschild, Bordeaux, France

Chef: Nancy Oakes of Boulevard, San Francisco, CA

The Naples Winter Wine Festival’s honored vintner pairs with a legendary California chef for the Carys’ and Mastersons’ dinner. The Carys are longtime friends and supporters of Nancy Oakes, who has been attending NWWF since 2004 and cooking for the couple’s Vintner Dinners for the past five years. Through her San Francisco restaurant Boulevard, the James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef helped usher in a hyper-local era in American dining, focusing on quality ingredients from local vendors. Her Chasing Rainbows menu emphasizes the ethos: “There will be caviar and truffles, bicoastal crab risotto, duck agnolotti and more truffles. Tender veal cheek and tiny morel mushrooms, dry-aged beef with double dutch potatoes,” Oakes says. 

Her selections complement Château Mouton Rothschild’s Bordeaux vintages. Honored vintner Philippe Sereys de Rothschild has helmed his family’s winery for nearly a decade. The First Growth estate delivers the world’s most iconic Bordeaux wines—bold and elegant, with cabernet sauvignon grapes playing a starring role. To celebrate Oakes’ artful presentations, the hosts plan elegantly minimalist decor and entertainment to allow the food and wine to shine.


Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Hosts: Jerri & David Hoffmann with Shirley & Peter Welsh at The Old Collier Golf Club 

Vintners: Hi Sang Lee and Jae Chun of Dana Estates, St. Helena, CA 

Chef de Cuisine: John Tesar of Knife & Spoon, Orlando, FL 

The history goes deep into the rich gravel and loam soil of Helms Vineyard, one of four organic plots at Dana Estates,  on the doorstep of Napa Valley’s Mayacamas Mountains. German viticulturist H.W. Helms began farming here in 1883—a tradition stewarded by Hi Sang Lee since founding Dana Estates in 2005. The award-winning producer is known for its structured cabs, dazzling sauvignon blanc and experimental Bordeaux-style blends designed to age.

The name—Sanskrit for “spirit of generosity”—reflects the style of their Somewhere Over the Rainbow dinner partner, John Tesar, who promises caviar, iced shellfish and dry-aged beef befitting his modern steakhouses in Dallas and Orlando. “The menu will be high-end and very calculated to highlight Dana Estates’ wines,” says the Michelin star-holder and Top Chef alumnus. For Tesar, who’s returning to the Naples Winter Wine Festival for the sixth time, luxurious food does not necessarily mean complicated food: “I believe in keeping it simple. Once you get past the fourth ingredient [on a plate], I wanna know why; it better be something really special.”


On Top of the World

Hosts: Jamie & John Brown with Julia Van Domelen at the home of Susan & Jim Pinkin

Vintners: Shari & Garen Staglin of Staglin Family Vineyard, Rutherford, CA 

Chef: Paul Bartolotta of The Bartolotta Restaurants, Milwaukee, WI

The Staglin Family Vineyard has been part of the Naples Winter Wine Festival since the beginning, which makes sense, considering its motto: “Great wine for great causes.” The Staglins have raised $1 billion for philanthropic efforts since purchasing their vineyard in 1985 (their lauded Music Festival for Brain Health is in its 29th year). The 61-acre lot is one of the oldest in Napa Valley, initially planted in 1864, and produces cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, sangiovese and a Bordeaux-style blend. They plan on serving a variety of their wines during the three-course, Italian-inspired dinner by Paul Bartolotta. 

Bartolotta started his restaurant group nearly 30 years ago with his brother, Joe. The two grew up in an Italian household in Wisconsin. “We learned the importance of food and a meal with family around a table,” Paul says. “We opened Ristorante Bartolotta dal 1993 (their first restaurant) as an homage to that ‘Bartolotta table’ concept.” Since then, they’ve created 16 other restaurants nationwide, leading to two James Beard Foundation Awards for Paul.


Ebony & Ivory

Hosts: Katrina & Rick Kash with Carol & John Walter at the home of Mimi & Doug Traina 

Vintner: Tim Irwin of Penfolds, Adelaide, Australia

Chef: Cassidee Dabney of The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN

Penfolds is one of Australia’s oldest wineries. Back in 1844, Dr. Christopher Penfold and his wife, Mary, planted vines from France. Their Magill Estate still produces legendary shiraz, but their wines now come from vineyards across South Australia, and the winery is best known for blending grapes others don’t think to combine. Last year, Penfolds made waves with its release of a California Collection, which blends Australian shiraz and California cabernet sauvignon. Their 1950s Penfolds Grange vintages are highly coveted among collectors, too (a rare set recently went for $400,000). The Kashs and Walters are delighted to host the winery, which returns to NWWF for the first time in 19 years.

A winery with such deep roots needs an equally legendary chef. Enter Cassidee Dabney, chef of The Barn at Blackberry Farm, a no-introduction-needed bulwark of modern cuisine. Through the farm’s trademarked Foothills Cuisine—discerning meals sourced from the Relais & Châteaux resort’s property in Tennesse’s Appalachian Mountains—Dabney incorporates produce from the onsite gardens, cheeses from their cheesemonger and fish from their rivers. The winery and restaurant’s penchants for honoring the land will make an impression at the Ebony & Ivory dinner.

Elevated food presentation
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With A Little Help From My Friends

Host: Donna Solimene at the home of Cece and James Koons 

Vintner: Grace Evenstad of Château de la Crèe, Burgundy, France and Domaine Serene, Dayton, OR

Chef: Beau MacMillan of CALA Scottsdale, AZ

With A Little Help From My Friends is an apt title for a dinner hosted by the gregarious, big-hearted Donna Solimene and featuring grand dame vintner and NCEF lifetime trustee Grace Evenstad. She and her late husband, Ken, founded Domaine Serene winery in 1989 in the Dundee Hills of Oregon. Wine Spectator has repeatedly ranked their pinot noirs and chardonnays among the best in the biz. In 2015, the Evenstads purchased Château de la Crée, a Burgundy estate founded in the 15th century. “We use the traditions of France and the innovation of America to craft the best wine,” Evenstad, a part-time Naples resident, says. At the dinner, they serve Château de la Crée wines next to bottles from Domaine Serene so diners can compare and contrast.

As the centerpiece of the dinner, Chef Beau MacMillan promises Terra Heritage Tajima Wagyu, raised in the heart of Arizona. MacMillan is well-known in Arizona and currently serves as the culinary advisor for Mediterranean restaurant CALA and Sanctuary Camelback Mountain resort. But perhaps he’s best recognized for his numerous television appearances, including once beating Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America and serving as co-host for Food Network’s Worst Cooks in America.


Imagine … All the People

Hosts: Sharon & Chuck Hallberg at the home of Ashley & Adam Gerry 

Vintners: Christopher & Ariel Jackson of Gran Moraine Winery & Zena Crown Vineyard, Willamette Valley, OR 

Chef: Stephen Coe of Cork + Table, Plymouth, MA

Sharon and Chuck Hallberg fell in love with Stephen Coe at a Vintner Dinner last year. His dynamic energy has earned the chef a strong onscreen presence (he beat the famed chef on the Food Network’s Chopped: Beat Bobby Flay, won several other Food Network competitions and is currently developing a cooking show, Dangerous Eats). Even so, Coe stands out for the artistry of his dishes, composed of creativity, modern American influences and New England flair (his Lobsta Love food truck in Massachusetts is a beauty).

His menu pairs with the Willamette Valley pinot noirs of Gran Moraine Winery & Zena Crown Vineyard. Oregon’s Willamette Valley has emerged as a beacon for pinot noirs. The wet winters; warm, dry summers; and cool evenings create ideal conditions for the finicky grapes. Jackson Family Wines is now at the center of shaping this relatively young wine region, starting with their acquisition of the 115-acre Zena Crown in 2013. After Barbara Banke’s husband, Jess Jackson, passed, she cemented the family’s legacy in Oregon, adding WillaKenzie Estate, Penner-Ash Wine Cellars and Gran Moraine to the portfolio. Their son, Christopher, and his wife, Ariel, hold top roles at the company. The couple appreciates their family’s focus on unsung wine regions and long view of vineyard cultivation. At the dinner, they pour lively pinots and chardonnays from their Oregon estates to suit the chef’s spirited creations.


We Are the World

Hosts: Stephanie & Fred Pezeshkan with Adria & Jerry Starkey 

Vintners: Shahpar & Darioush Khaledi of Darioush, Napa, CA   

Chef: Alex Seidel of Mercantile dining & provision, Denver, CO    

Winner of the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2018, Alex Seidel is regarded for his commitment to sustainability. In his four Colorado restaurants, he sources everything that he can locally, and his latest restaurant, Chook, is certified as a B Corporation for following the certification’s stringent social and environmental standards. “We operate our restaurants with honest intent, sourcing from the best people and producers,” he says. His ethos: people and planet over profit.   

It’s an apt complement to Shahpar and Darioush Khaledi’s Napa winery. After losing everything during the Iranian Revolution, the couple sought refuge in Los Angeles, where Darioush, a civil engineer by trade, launched several entrepreneurial pursuits (including creating a multi-million, family-owned chain of grocery stores). He followed his heart back to winemaking, when he and Shahpar opened Darioush in Napa Valley in 1997, bringing the art of hospitality ingrained in the centuries-old Persian winemaking culture to California. Raised in Iran, Darioush grew up watching his father make wine. Both he and Shahpar immersed themselves in Bordeaux winemaking, with influences reflected in Darioush’s big, bold reds. For Shahpar, hospitality and winemaking are  rooted in tradition and culture. “It is obvious to treat guests like they are part of our family,” she says.

Sunset Dinner
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High Hopes

Hosts: Libby & Rick Germain with Kathy & Dan Mezzalingua 

Vintners: Emily & Paul Michael of Peter Michael Winery, Calistoga, CA 

Chef: Antione Westermann of Le Coq & Fils, Paris, France

Festival co-chairs for 2023, Libby and Rick Germain, partner with 2018 co-chairs Kathy and Dan Mezzalingua to create the High Hopes dinner. Their energy matches Emily and Paul Michael’s winery. Paul’s father, Peter, dreamed of making Bordeaux-style wines from a California vineyard and found an ideal locale in a 630-acre plot near Mount Saint Helena in the Knights Valley. Peter Michael Winery has always been a family operation; Peter’s sons helped plant the first vines. Nearly 40 years later, Paul and his wife, Emily, oversee the business, which has flourished into a respected limited-production operation with 16 wines in four varietals. Dinner guests get a taste of four of the wines, including ‘Les Pavots’ estate cabernet blend, a staple since 1988.

The cab sips well with French chef Antoine Westermann’s creations. Westermann opened Le Buerehiesel at 23 and in five years, received a coveted Michelin star. He rose to a three-star rating and became one of the most acclaimed chefs in France. Then, after 32 years in the Michelin guide, he let his son take over the restaurant and went on to other culinary ventures. His latest is Le Coq & Fils in Paris, a bistro specializing in roast chicken—arguably, a culinary benchmark. It’s a straightforward concept—source the best quality free-range poultry and explore its many possibilities with exacting techniques and preparations—-—but one that’s again put him on the culinary map.


Three-Part Harmony

Hosts: Valerie Boyd & Jeff Gargiulo with Kristine & Chris Williams at the home of Betsy & Tony Markel

Vintners: Valerie Boyd & Jeff Gargiulo of Gargiulo Vineyards, Napa, CA

Chef: Reid Shilling of Shilling Canning Company, Washington, D.C.

Founding trustees for the Naples Children and Education Foundation, Valerie Boyd and Jeff Gargiulo always bring Southern twang and their wines from Gargiulo Vineyards to their Vintner Dinners. They bought their first plot in Oakville in 1992 and then a second just a mile down the road about seven years later. They’ve since been dedicated to producing top-of-the-line cabernet sauvignon. 

Boyd and Gargiulo previously hosted wine auction dinners in Napa Valley with Reid Shilling and invited him to participate in NWWF for the first time this year. The chef, who trained under Thomas Keller at Bouchon Bistro, returned to his Mid-Atlantic roots and opened Shilling Canning Company in 2016. Many of his restaurant’s ingredients come from the garden alongside his D.C. establishment. For the Naples dinner, he’ll cook with his region’s bounty and what’s growing seasonally in Southwest Florida. “That’s part of the fun in doing these events,” he says. “You bring the best from where you are and then get your hands on the best from where the event is.” Of course, the festivities center around music, with Gargiulo’s musician friends bringing their unique blend of singer-songwriter soul.


This Moment in Time

Hosts: Kelley & Jim Bailey with Karen & Dale Medford 

Vintners: Kelley & Jim Bailey of Knights Bridge Winery, Calistoga, CA

Chef: Dustin Valette of The Matheson, Healdsburg, CA

Knights Bridge is a small, family-owned winery in the Knights Valley, just north of Napa. (The neighboring winery being fellow NWWF participant Peter Michael Winery). With three types of soil and cooling winds from San Pablo Bay and the Pacific Ocean, the climate creates an ideal atmosphere for producing chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, merlot and cabernet sauvignon. “Cool nights and warm days allow the grapes to create intense flavors with bright acidity,” says Kelley Bailey, a part-time Naples resident. She and her husband, Jim, are newly inducted NCEF trustees.

The couple admires Dustin Valette’s restaurants, Valette and The Matheson, in nearby Healdsburg. Valette, the Sonoma County native, has spent time in prestigious restaurants nationwide, training with heavy hitters like Thomas Keller, Charlie Palmer and Laurent Manrique. But he longed to return to his roots and focus on the bounty of Sonoma, which he does through Valette, Valette’s Wine and his new The Matheson, located on the former site of his great-grandfather’s bakery. Everything is purpose-driven—from the hive-like design of The Matheson’s third-floor lounge inspired by his beekeeper uncle to the self-serve wine wall with 88 options by the glass that reflects his deep understanding of wine and Wine Country cuisine. The same level of intentionality can be expected from his menu.


Follow Your Dreams

Hosts: Laura & Jim Dixon with Nena & Bill Beynon at the Man Cave

Vintner: Jean-Guillaume Prats of Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Rhône Valley, France

Chef: Cassie Raithel of The 404 Kitchen, Nashville, TN

When a pair of NWWF Vintner Committee members co-host a dinner, you can bet the wines will be first class. A new vintner to the festival, Jean-Guillaume Prats has worked with France’s most legendary maisons. He managed Bordeaux Château Cos d’Estournel, oversaw the wine division of the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy group, and became the president and CEO of historic Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite), including overseeing the organic conversion of Château Lafite Rothschild. He’s now part owner of the resort and winery Château d’Estoublon in Provence and manages Paul Jaboulet Aîné and its iconic red wine, La Chapelle, served during this dinner along with the white Chevalier de Sterimberg. 

Nashville chef Cassie Raithel—a hot, up-and-coming chef, whose The 404 Kitchen modernly melds Southern and European traditional cooking—joins the vintner. Raithel draws inspiration from the cuisine in southern France, Spain, Italy and other regions along the Mediterranean. “I love to take the classic comfort foods of all those regions and work with how we can implement local Tennessee and regional ingredients,” she says. She says dinner guests can expect a riff on perhaps the three most classic Rhône Valley dishes: cassoulet with Tennessee ham, chicken jambonette and beef bourguignon with braised lamb.


One Tribe

Hosts: Marilyn Scripps with Linda & Tom Koehn

Vintner: Cliff Lede of Cliff Lede Vineyards, Yountville, CA

Chef: Sue Zemanick of Zasu, New Orleans, LA

When Cliff Lede purchased 60 acres in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley, he replanted most of the vineyard to emphasize each area’s exact soil and exposure and named the parcels after classic rock albums and songs (Dark Side of the Moon, Bohemian Rhapsody). The winery is filled with paintings and signed guitars that reflect Lede’s interests, and his experimental Rock Blocks Series ‘mashes up’ grapes from various plots for bottles that are as energetic and exciting as the tunes that flow through the winery.

Joining Lede is one of the best chefs in New Orleans—a city that dinner co-host Marilyn Scripps adores. Sue Zemanick first rose to fame at NOLA’s fine-dining institution Gautreau’s Restaurant. While there, Food & Wine magazine named her a Best New Chef, she appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, and she won a James Beard Award. The Pennsylvania native then started Zasu as a tribute to her Slovak heritage, with new takes on traditional dishes, such as the wild mushroom and potato pierogies with caramelized Vidalia onion, asparagus, and onion creme fraiche. Expect plenty of seafood and seasonal veggies at the One Tribe dinner. The theme—which reflects on everyone being one tribe for our community and local kids—promises a similar dreamy vibe to Scripps’ Polynesian-inspired dinner last year.


A Song in Your Heart

Hosts: Julia & Rob Heidt, Jr. with Barbie & Paul Hills 

Vintners: Deborah Harlan and Max Kast of BOND, Oakville, CA 

Chef: Fabio Viviani of Fabio Viviani Hospitality Group, Chicago, IL 

Longtime friends, the Heidts and the Hills, know how to throw a good party. Many recall the recreated fuselage that adorned their 2022 Vintner Dinner. Event planner Margaret Short helps the couples achieve the same wow-factor with their A Song in Your Heart dinner. A few musical surprises are promised, including a stellar a capella performance. As for the wines, the BOND team brings its singular focus on world-class cabernet sauvignon. When vintner Bill Harlan and his team set out to create BOND in 1996, they experimented with grapes from more than 100 vineyards in Napa before settling on five. The vineyards are all relatively small, no larger than 12 acres each, and chosen for their distinct expression of Napa wine. BOND’s vineyard team farms the estates themselves. Bill’s wife, Deborah, and BOND estate director Max Kast are curating bottles to accompany Chef Fabio Viviani’s Tuscan-style cooking. 

The Hills are fans of Viviani’s restaurants, like Siena Tavern and Prime & Provisions in Chicago. They were eager to host the chef, who started working in the restaurant industry as a teenager in Florence, Italy. By the time he was 27, he was running two nightclubs and five restaurants. Since moving stateside, the Fabio Viviani Hospitality Group has grown to include more than 60 establishments. The celebrity chef has made a name for himself as a contestant on Bravo’s Top Chef and with frequent appearances on Good Morning America, The Food Network and through his Fabio’s Kitchen show on YouTube.


Sweet Harmony

Hosts: Carol & Harry Rose with Joy & Chuck Waterman

Vintners: Marilisa Allegrini of Allegrini Estates, Tuscany, Italy and Violet Grgich of Grgich Hills Estate, Rutherford, CA

Chef: Joe Flamm of Rose Mary, Chicago, IL 

The Allegrini family has been synonymous with winemaking in Italy for more than 400 years. They’ve raised the bar for Amarone and other red wines from the Valpolicella region. Marilisa Allegrini, who has appeared at NWWF multiple times, is joined at the Roses’ and Watermans’ dinner by Violet Grgich, who took the helm of her father’s Grgich Hills Estate four years ago. In 2023, the winery celebrates the 100th birthday of their patriarch, Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, with a yearlong celebration, which includes their appearance at NWWF. An immigrant from Croatia, Mike arrived in Napa in the late-1950s with a cardboard suitcase, a few wine books and a dream. In less than two decades, his chardonnay beat the best from French wineries in the 1976 Judgment of Paris blind tasting.

Both wineries’ focus on heritage and family ties pair with dishes developed by Joe Flamm, who grew up on Italian cooking. The winner of Bravo’s Top Chef in 2018, Flamm started Rose Mary in honor of his grandmothers, Mary and Rose. He spent much of his youth in the kitchen, cooking and making pasta with his family. His Chicago restaurant draws heavily on his Italian heritage, adding elements of his wife’s native Croatian cuisine. His gnocchi, for example, comes with a Croatian-style beef stew. “We are able to tell a tale of the cuisine from the coast of Italy and Croatia. It’s approachable and very hospitable food, rooted in tradition,” Flamm says.

Bone-in Ribeye
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What a Wonderful World

Hosts: Jacki & Max Guinn with Sherie Marek

Vintners: Laura Catena of Catena Zapata, Mendoza, Argentina and Dominic Symington of Symington Family Estates, Douro, Portugal

Chef: Dean Fearing of Fearing’s Restaurant, Dallas, TX    

A staple at the NWWF, Texan chef Dean Fearing was honored as a Pioneer of American Cuisine by The Culinary Institute of America for bringing Southwestern cooking into the international conscience. The author of The Texas Food Bible, Fearing has focused on locally sourced, regional dishes since the ’80s—long before the locavore movement took off. His namesake Fearing’s Restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas, is famed for its tortilla soup and other Southwestern staples. But it’s Fearing’s big, robust steaks that pair exceptionally well with the bold wines from Catena Zapata and Symington Family Estates. 

Italian immigrant Nicola Catena founded his namesake winery in the Andean foothills of Argentina in 1902. More than 100 years later, the winery’s still in the family and run by the fourth generation of descendants. Catena is credited with bringing worldwide acclaim to Argentine malbec. Meanwhile, Dominic Symington and crew are highly regarded for their Portugal red wines and legendary port houses, Graham’s, Cockburn’s, Dow’s and Warre’s. The new sustainable building for their Quinta do Ataíde winery reflects the group’s growing commitment to unfortified wines from Portugal’s Duoro region. At What a Wonderful World, Symington’s ports mark the perfect ending to a perfect evening.


A Million Dreams

Hosts: Amy & John Quinn with Dena Rae Hancock & P. Robert Caito 

Vintner: Jesse Katz of Aperture Cellars, Healdsburg, CA

Chef: Sheldon Simeon of Tiffany’s, Wailuku, HI and Tin Roof Maui, Kahului, HI

For new trustees Amy and John Quinn, and Dena Rae Hancock and Rob Caito, it’s fitting to have a pair of young, dynamic culinary pros. Vintner Jesse Katz established himself as a rising star, landing on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list and Wine Enthusiasts’ 40 Under 40 Tastemakers. His passion for winemaking started at an early age on worldwide travels with his noted photographer father, Andy. They’d frequently stop at famed wineries. After mentoring at vineyards in France, Argentina and Napa, he created blends for celebrities like Tony Hawk and Justin Timberlake and established Aperture Cellars (a nod to his father’s profession) and Devil Proof Vineyards (known for its 100-point malbec). At the Vintner Dinner, the 38-year-old Katz teams up with another up-and-comer: Hawaii native Sheldon Simeon.

The Top Chef alum has gained a following at Tin Roof and Tiffany’s for his unique spin on island food, with a strong emphasis on Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Filipino flavors. Among the dishes to be served at A Million Dreams is Champagne-poached mahi-mahi with a puree of Molokai sweet potato, bok choi, passionfruit beurre blanc and smoked trout roe. “It’s always been my mission to introduce mainlanders to the true food of Hawaii,” he says.



One Love

Hosts: Shelly & Ralph Stayer 

Vintner: Alessia Antinori of Marchesi Antinori, Florence, Italy   

Chef: Danny Grant of Maple & Ash, Chicago, IL     

The Stayers love Italian wine, which makes Marchesi Antinori an ideal fit for their One Love dinner. In 1385, Giovanni di Piero Antinori joined the Florentine Winemakers’ Guild, and today Marchesi Antinori is among the oldest continuously owned family businesses in the world, having lasted through 26 generations. Alessia Antinori and her two sisters took on the mantle as the first women to run the 600-plus-year-old dynasty. And though Antinori estates have spread throughout Italy and overseas, their roots remain in the Chianti Classico region, where they were instrumental in fueling the Super Tuscan movement in the 1970s.   

The tradition of Marchesi Antinori complements the burgeoning restaurant legacy of Danny Grant, who made his name in the high-profile kitchens of the former Elysian Hotel Chicago. His mastery of French cooking helped him become the youngest American chef to earn two Michelin stars in 2011 and 2012. Food & Wine named him the Best New Chef in 2012. Since, he’s branched out to partner with the What If Syndicate hospitality group and establish restaurants in Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas and Scottsdale–with further expansion underway.

Marchesi Antinori
The more than 600-year-old Marchesi Antinori is among the oldest family businesses in the world, having lasted through 26 generations. (Courtesy Image)


Stand by You

Hosts: Anne Welsh McNulty with Beth & Jeff Wessel

Vintners: Olivier Krug of Krug Champagne, Reims, France and Lucas Löwi of Bodega Numanthia, Toro, Spain

Chef: Brian Baxter of The Catbird Seat, Nashville, TN

Ann Welsh McNulty is known for having lots of dancing at her dinners. This year, she and her co-hosts, Beth and Jeff Wessel, do it up with the rollicking Ben Allen Band as the entertainment. Everything else follows suit. Chef Brian Baxter brings his inspired version of down-home Southern cuisine to the party. Fans know that at his 22-seat The Catbird Seat in Nashville, Baxter cooks with few limitations. The magic happens in the open as the diners watch and interact with the kitchen team. That’s the vibe guests can expect at Stand by You, where Baxter plans a meal with Southwest Florida ingredients and Tennessee imports, such as dry-aged Bear Creek Farm beef.

On the wine front, you’ll find the same bold energy with Bodega Numanthia from Spain. The LVMH-owned winery lies in the Toro appellation, where hearty, robust wines have been grown since Roman times. Numanthia’s “little monsters” deliver a punch for lovers of big wines. Much like Baxter’s respectful-yet-modern take on Southern cuisine, Numanthia takes a fresh approach to wrangling its rugged, remote, ancient tempranillo vines. More recent vintages are brighter, aging for seven to eight years in the bottle before their release. It all goes down well with the king of Champagne Olivier Krug’s effervescent pours. Part of the sixth generation of the Krug family to oversee the Krug Champagne line, Olivier continues the meticulous tradition established by his ancestors. Grapes are sourced from various vineyards, and some blends, such as the famous light gold Krug Grande Cuvèe, take as many as 1,000 tastings to perfect.

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