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Fine wine, great food, a spectacular garden setting, and a worthy cause. No wonder Vintage Affaire continues to be the Peninsula's premier wine event, raising thousands of dollars to benefit the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
For the past 26 years, the garden party-wine auction event has given guests access to some of the area's grandest estates. This year's event takes place Saturday, July 19, at a Los Altos Hills estate.
While there will be no Oprah Winfrey sightings, as at last month's Auction Napa Valley, approximately 500 of the "beautiful people" will attend Vintage Affaire. The event is expected to raise more than $400,000.
Quite a contrast to the first auction at Green Gables, the Fleishhacker estate in Woodside; that event was held in 1982, drew 100 guests and raised $65,000. Over the past 25 years, Vintage Affaire has provided more than $5.5 million for Vista Center.
Founded in 1936, the Palo Alto-based Vista Center serves more than 1,400 clients and families each year. Its services include counseling, orientation and mobility training, living skills instruction, and computer training.
The party begins at 3 p.m. with a stroll through the gardens, a silent auction, wine tasting and hors d'oeuvres prepared by chefs from some of the Bay Area's poshest restaurants and resorts. "It's a real commitment for these chefs to leave their restaurants on a Saturday night," says Vintage Affaire spokeswoman Courtney Charney.
The chefs are Alessandro Cartumini, Quattro Restaurant, the Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley; Christopher Kostow, Meadowood Resort, Napa Valley; Xavier Salomon, the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay; Cal Stamenov, Bernardus Lodge, Carmel Valley; Daniel Patino, Michael Mina's Arcadia, San Jose; and Robert Holt, Cetrella, Half Moon Bay.
The hors d'oeuvres range from tomato confit with summer beans and gnocchetti topped with shaved goat cheese, prepared by Chef Cartumini, to osetra caviar parfait, prepared by Chef Patino.
Among the California vintners who will be pouring their wines for the tasting and supper are Ramey Wine Cellars, Far Niente (along with their Nickel & Nickel and Dolce brands), Pride Mountain, Blackbird Vineyards, Jaffe Estate Wines, Barnett Vineyards, and Ridge Vineyards.
The live auction begins at 4:30 with auctioneer Fritz Hatton, who has presided over the auction since the first year, and has missed only one year (for his wedding).
Auction highlights include a 10-day voyage for two on "The World" offered by ResidenSea, valued at $28,000. The winners will have their own apartment with a personal chef, who will prepare a special dinner paired with exclusive wines. Another hot ticket is four nights at the Four Seasons Hualalai near Kona on the island of Hawaii, including golf and spa treatments. A three-night getaway is offered at the Point Resort on Upper Saranac Lake, New York, which was originally built by William Avery Rockefeller. Point Resort is one of the last remaining Adirondack camps.
The Vintage Affaire invitation lists such auction highlights as seven cases of world-class ZD Wines, containing vintages from 1992 to 2006, a case of Nickel & Nickel single vineyard 2005 cabernet sauvignon, several bottles of Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac, and a bottle of 1982 Chateau Haut Brion valued at $750.
Far Niente Winery is offering a tasting and tour for six people of its tri-level winery built into a hillside.
Last year's top auction item was a tour of Ridge Vineyard's Upper Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains with Ridge CEO Paul Draper and President Donn Reisen. Two tours were auctioned at $15,000 each.
A drawing will feature a woman's ring from Tiffany's with sapphires and diamonds set in platinum, and a man's Tiffany Mark stainless steel coupe quartz watch. Tickets are $100 each.
As they have done since the mid-1990s, McCall Associates of San Francisco will keep guests well fed during the afternoon and evening. Throughout the auction they will be serving salmon and mushroom rillettes, individual lamb chops, and goat cheese fondue with apples, almonds and dried apricots.
The dinner will feature roasted chicken breast with orzo and vegetables, with desserts of cherry clafoutti and chocolate pot-au-creme. For the drive home, there will be coffee to go and ice cream bonbons.
Co-chairs and "friends forever"
Last year was the first time Susan Martin of Woodside and Dana Griffin of San Mateo volunteered for Vintage Affaire. This year, they are co-chairing the event.
"We both were on the committee last year. Now we've formed a life-long friendship," says Ms. Martin, who became involved after offering the Martins' 20-acre estate in Woodside as the setting for last year's Vintage Affaire.
The women say they work well together because "we're both very organized, we're on the same page," says Ms. Martin. "We know the center (Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired) really depends on us." Vintage Affaire and the Menlo Charity Horse Show are major sources of income for Vista Center.
Meetings for this year's wine auction began last November. Ms. Griffin had just finished a stint as chairman of the St. Ignatius High School fashion show in San Francisco.
Luncheon meetings for the wine auction have been held once a month at Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club. They start on time and last an hour. "We know everyone has another life and time is really respected," says Ms. Charney, the event's spokesperson, who added that many of the members have full-time jobs.
The co-chairs, who both like to cook, added their personal touch to the meetings by bringing along homemade toffee, fudge or biscotti. At a cocktail party for the committee, they prepared all the food. Ms. Martin made her special chicken enchiladas and chicken liver pate. "Dana made an unbelievable flan," she adds.
Serving with Ms. Martin and Ms. Griffin on the Vista Center Foundation Board are Pat Dunbar, Dave Heppberger, Ivan Brockman, Susan Gregory, Hilary Holmquist, Elizabeth Minno, Bridge Madigan, Jan Woolsey, Vanessa Roach, Courtney Charney, Martha Kambe, Debbie Eastburn, Mary Rudolph, Mary Johnson, Martha Barry, Suzanne Legallet, Barb Peyton, and Pam Brandin, Vista Center's executive director. Several committee members are past presidents of the Vista Center Foundation Board.
Tickets to Vintage Affaire are $250 per person. To receive an invitation, call Vista Center at 858-0202. For more information, go to http://www.vintageaffaire.org .