Diageo Founders Club Black Tie Gala

Years ago we purchased Chalone Wine Group stock so that we could participate in their annual summer picnics. They were a fun affair in the vineyards of Chalone outside Soledad near the Pinnacles. A large tent was pitched, wines from all of the Chalone Wine Group were available to taste and an excellent lunch was served. They were always themed events involving entertainers, music and lots of wine! When Diagio Chateau & Estate Wines purchased Chalone Wine Group, stockholders could opt to join The Founders Club. The summer picnics have continued but moved to the Beaulieu Vineyards in Napa, although they are a smaller event now but just as fun. In addition to the summer picnic, The Founders Club Black Tie Gala offers club members another opportunity to get together with fellow wine lovers. We were able to make it this year and it was a really fun evening.

The Black Tie event was held at The City Club of San Francisco. We began the evening with hors d’oeuvres and white wines in The City Club Cafe on the 10th floor of the building. Dungeness Crab Salad on Brioche Toast, Thai Vegetable Spring Rolls and Warm Olive Croquettes were passed around as we sipped our wines. A selection of cheese and crackers were available as well. The selection of wines included the 2009 Stellina Di Notte Prosecco, 2007 Domaine Alain Chavy Puilgny-Montrachet and 2009 Provenance Vineyards Estate Sauvignon Blanc. Those of you who follow our blog will know this last selection made Pete very happy. Though he is more a fan of the un-oaked, non-estate Sauvignon Blanc, he was very happy to drink this Sauvignon Blanc!

All three were interesting wines. We thought the Puligny-Mongtrachet was a little lacking in acid, though. We have come to expect that great crisp acidity from white Burgundies! I would describe the Prosecco as less sweet and more yeasty tasting (like fresh baked bread) than some Proseccos I have tasted. It paired well with the food, however. The band, Stompy Jones, set-up and began to play. The room quickly filled with people including our friends George and Gail from Fine Wines of Stockton. We visited, ate and sipped, trying to pace ourselves in both the food and drink departments. We knew we had quite an evening in front of us and didn’t want to fade early.

Dinner was served on the 11th floor in the main dining room. This involved a trip up the grand staircase which allowed us to enjoy the large Art Deco painting behind the staircase. Large round tables of 8 were set in the dining room with pre-assigned seating. I have never seen so much glassware on a table! Each place was set with 4 bordeaux glasses, 2 smaller chardonnay type glasses and a water glass! Our salads awaited us as did the wines with the salad course. The salad of Mixed Greens, Sliced Bosc Pears, Humboldt Fog Cheese and Candied Walnuts was served with a Lemon Vinaigrette. The 2008 Chalone Vineyard Estate Chardonnay Chalone Appellation and the 2008 Acacia Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir Carneros Lone Tree Vineyard had been poured. The chardonnay was crisp with obvious oak, but not over oaked. The Pinot Noir had an amazingly complex nose of ripe fruit and spice. The flavors were rich and complex as well. Both were excellent wines. As we settled in, I noticed how beautiful the room was. The lighting was soft and the tables looked so elegant. Everyone was chatting happily, introducing themselves and generally looking forward to the evening. Some of the others at our table had been to the Chalone picnics and others had not. Some were participating as Founders Club members for the first time. The couple on Pete’s left had become members when Diageo bought Rosenblum Cellars and gave us great information about Rosenblum. One thing all of us at dinner shared is an enthusiasm for wine. Even though we did not all like the same varietals, we did all enjoy the wines!

As we finished the salad course, the servers began filling the four glasses in front of each of us. Each wine glass had a round wine tag at the base to identify the wine—thank goodness! As the glasses filled I felt as though I had my work cut out for me! I was determined to pace myself and pay attention. The wines were 2006 Beaulieu Vineyard Reserve Maestro Collection Cabernet Sauvignon, BV Ranch No 1 Rutherford, 2007 Sterling Vineyards Reserve SVR Bordeaux Blend Napa Valley, 2007 Hewitt Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford and 2007 Rosenblum Cellars Lyon’s Reserve Zinfandel Napa Valley.

My entree arrived, Grilled Filet Mignon with Truffled Yukon Gold Puree, Wilted Escarole, Roasted Carrots and Demi Glace. The grilled meat and truffled potatoes smelled so good. I began tasting my way through the four reds. Each was excellent. My favorite was the Hewitt, followed by the Sterling and then the BV and Rosenblum. The Hewitt was rich and complex with plenty of tannins. The Sterling had distinct flavors of tobacco and dark fruit with plenty of tannins and paired well with the filet. The BV was fruity and earthy as well. Zinfandel is a hard sell for me, it is not my favorite varietal and this wine was too ripe for my taste. It was a pleasure to slowly enjoy the food and wine together. The flavors and aromas were so enjoyable. It was fun to compare notes with Pete and our other table mates. Pete’s favorites were first the Hewitt, then the Sterling, BV and the Rosenblum.

Note from Pete: I pretty much agree with Nancy on the wines. In addition the BV is a very round wine while the Hewitt is angular and the Sterling fits right between them. I did like the Zin. I thought it was a very nice Napa style Zin with a lot of fruit but not the jammy flavor you often get from other areas.

The other entre offered for those who did not care for steak was Pan Seared California Sea Bass with Wild Mushrooms and Leek, Wild Basmati Rice, Wilted Spinach and Fennel Soubis.

Wine makers from the various wineries attended. Jeffrey Stambor from Beaulieu Vineyard, Robert Cook from Chalone Vineyard, Mike Westrick from Sterling Vineyards, John Kane from Rosenblum Cellars, Tom Rinaldi from Provenance Vineyards & Hewitt Vineyard and Matthew Glynn from Acacia Vineyard & Orogeny were all present. Each in turn spoke about their wines and winemaking.

As we finished our dinners, the band having relocated, began to play again. The band really brought the place to it’s feet, they play swing and jazz music with so much enthusiasm. You might check out the calendar on their website. Stompy Jones are playing in a variety of locations and I’m certain you would enjoy them.

It was nice to get up and move after eating so much. We danced and danced, enjoying the band enormously, but welcomed their first break. Waiting for us at our table were our desserts — Chocolate Valrhona Pot De Crème with Shortbread Biscuit and Chantilly Crème and Provenance Vineyard Port California NV. The pot de crème was luscious and chocolaty and paired nicely with the rich, spicy sweetness of the port. They were a perfect ending to the meal. Stompy Jones played until 11pm which gave us a chance to dance some more after dessert. A surprising number of people stayed until the band stopped playing. We were all having such a great time!

Diagio Chateau & Estate chose to pour new-release and winery-only selections receiving 90 points or higher for the evening. This was a great opportunity to sample the very best wines from the wineries without having to do a lot of driving around. In short, it was a great excuse to get all dressed up and go out on the town. It was well worth the price of admission and we each received a beautifully wrapped bottle of 2007 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges De Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon on our way out. We look forward to future Founders Club Black Tie events! Oh, and also, we look forward to the delivery of the wines we ordered. Of course we had the opportunity to order wine as we left. What better time to order wine than after an evening of eating good food and drinking good wines!



  1. Any plans for next year? Sounds lile an event we would like to attend. All the weddings are over in our family and I need an event to wear a tux.

    • Unfortunately Diageo hasn’t seen fit to continue this event. Too bad, it was really nicely done and a lot of fun.

  2. It was really fun, great food, wine and dancing. No magnums passed around this time. Tom was pretty toasted when I talked to him after dinner. I also had a good conversation with Jeff Stambor from BV. I hope you guys will make it to the May picnic, although they were asking about have it at Rosenblum Cellars in Alameda. I said I would rather have it at BV again. I like being out of a city and in the vines!

  3. Wow, this event sounds like it matched many of the Chalones of old. And I immediately thought I’d like the Hewitt Rutherford as well—that cab is luscious! But Tom Rinaldi didn’t drop a magnum of Provenance in your lap like at one of the other events, eh Pete?