Wine Country. It's just a hop, skip and a jump north of San Jose. Well that's if a hop is 93 miles, a skip is over 2 hours of driving time and a jump is traveling on 6 highways. I rarely head up to Napa or Sonoma. Maybe because I don't drink wine or because 2 hours is just really far to drive. But each of the four times I've driven through Sonoma I've thought to myself "Ah, I'd really love to live up here." So when I decided to attend the Wine Country Connections wedding industry networking event, I knew I would be glad I drove up once I was there :)
The event was hosted at B.R. Cohn Winery. The funny thing about B.R. Cohn is that for the past 15 years or so I thought they were a gourmet food company. I had no idea they sold wine.
I knew they sold bottles of olive oil and vinegar. Their Pear Chardonnay Vinegar was memorable from the moment I first saw it because of the color and design of the label and logo. I also loved the "frosted" glass bottles.
As I arrived at the winery (which is located in Glen Ellen, north of Sonoma and west of Yountville) I was thinking I would only know one person there that evening. Which is good and bad. Bad because it's always nice to see friendly faces you know, but good because it meant I would meet new people. Turned out it was a bit of both! I knew about 6 of the dozens of guests who attended that evening so I was able to revisit with friends and past acquaintances and met a LOT of new, really nice and interesting event professionals by the end of the night.
The evening began with a poolside reception and cocktails (will have to confirm who provided the cocktails) and an espresso bar by Traveling Joe Espresso and Catering. Guests mingled in the late afternoon sun and listened to great live vocals and music by the Donna Spitzer Band.
Those who were interested were invited to hop onto a sleek shuttle bus by Pure Luxury Transportation and take a short ride into the vineyard to view Fox Hill, the ceremony site available for weddings and other gatherings.
An interesting thing to know about Fox Hill is that the shuttle drops you off on a main road and then you (and your guests) walk through the vineyard, down this smaller gravel road, to reach the ceremony site nestled amongst the trees ahead to the left of the road.
When you arrive at Fox Hill it's like a little island in a sea of grape vines. It's a small clearing, planted with lichen covered trees. It is peaceful, beautiful and serene. For nature and wine lovers or people who simply want a unique ceremony experience it might be the perfect place to say "I do."
Most brides and grooms choose to take their vows beneath the boughs of the large oak tree in the center of this photo. Chairs can be brought in and guests sit in rows to the left and right with an aisle runner, often flower petals, dotting the path.
Fox Hill is best for short ceremonies because there are no "facilities." Furnishings (as well as port-a-potties) can be brought in and set up for all day events but most couples stick with a 15 minute ceremony then head back to the winery for their cocktail hour, reception and other amenities.
When we returned we spent more time at the poolside reception before dinner began... The flowers at dinner were by Karen Brown and they were really gorgeous!
It was a beautiful summer day and the outdoor dining area was set up perfectly. There were lit chandeliers and plenty of heat lamps by Patio Heaters R-Us to keep us warm and cozy as the sun set.
And there was plenty of wine! Everyone at my table enjoyed the wine thoroughly.
Dinner was by Alex's Catering. The first course was a mushroom quiche on a bed of arugula. EVERYONE said it was good and ate every bite. Well, everyone but me. But it was me, not the quiche... It looked good, but as it happens, two of my least favorite foods in the entire world are mushrooms and arugula. The only thing missing to make this my least favorite food trifecta was eggplant :)
The entree I loved! A nice piece of mahi mahi with mixed summer vegetables and olives. It was delicious!
An unusual twist was a mystery ingredient mixed in with the vegetables. That's a photo of it at left. Slightly larger than an olive and filled with tiny seeds we were at a loss as to what the unidentifiable ingredient was. Everyone who tried it, liked it but even after eating it it remained a mystery. I finally asked our server, he asked the chef and came back to report that they were in fact "caperberries" which are not to be confused with the smaller and more well known capers often found in Italian cooking.
What is a caperberry? Caperberries are the third stage of a caper's life span. First it is the smaller caper often seen in Italian cooking. If the caper isn't harvested at that stage it will blossom. After the blossom fades the caper berry (seed pod) is formed, so I guess it's kind of like a rose hip, but a caper one. Anyways it makes a nice addition to sauteed veggies, an antipasto tray or I'd imagine, sliced into a pasta dish.
Dessert! The cake by Judy Chadwick at True Confections was also delicious! Toasted Almond Sponge cake filled with Dark Chocolate Truffle filling and Caramel Buttercream. The raspberry sauce was provided by Alex's Catering. The chocolate truffle filling was so perfect. It was just enough richness to contrast with the light flavor of the cake. This was not an overly sweet and sugary cake. The flavors were clean and bright and I ate every last crumb on my plate.
I had never been to a Wine Country Connections event in the past but recently my friend Michael Peterson, a Professional Wedding DJ, became the new co-owner of the organization along with Robin Hawkey, so I went to support him and to meet a lot of new, really nice wedding professionals!
Michael introduced us to several of the evening's sponsors and we listened to a presentation about how to effectively connect with others by Non Denominational Minister Diana Morgan of Whole Heart Path. It was an extremely pleasurable evening and I really had fun chatting with the other women at my table.
At the end of the evening my friend Jonathan Metcalf, from Met Media Video, introduced me to a wedding professional who wants to learn more about social media. When I handed her my business card she exclaimed that we had met in the past, years earlier at another industry event. Even though she didn't remember me, she remembered the "look" of my business card and said she had been hoping to "meet" me again.
We discussed how I could help her as the tables were cleared and I've agreed to come up to Napa to teach one of my 4 hour seminars for Newbie Bloggers who want to blog but don't really understand what blogs are, how they work or how to begin. The class size is limited to ten people so you'll be able to ask plenty of questions.
And a special treat. I arrived just a tiny bit early so was able to go to the gift shop at the winery and purchase these two jars of olive tapenade. Yum right? I haven't opened either yet. I plan to use them on bread and pasta. Ooooh just looking at the pictures makes my mouth water.
To brides and groom who want a wine country wedding: A visit to B.R. Cohn may be in order. Especially if you love the idea of being married in an actual vineyard, not just on a vineyard property. The short drive to Fox Hill is in a very comfortable shuttle but on (for just a short bit) a kind of bumpy road. There is also the walk down the gravel road to the ceremony site so I think it's best for you to go in person and check out all of the details.
To people who love wine and/or The Doobie Brothers: This wold be a fun stop on a day of wine tasting. The owner of the winery has a history with The Doobie Brothers (as their manager) and I've read online that there is some memorabilia on display in the tasting room. There is also an annual fall charity concert hosted at the winery each year that The Doobie Brothers perform at.
To my friends who are colleagues who live in the South Bay: All I have to say is the next time there's a Wine Country Connection event and you want to go, let me know. Maybe we can carpool. I'm certain the drive up and back will be more fun talking to real people instead of listening to my GPS mispronounce the name of every highway from San Jose to Sonoma. LOL