A sense of impending fun swirled around The Reserve for the first dinner gala of 2016. The intermittent rain that plagued the day just hours before the party was distant history as attendees in their brightly colored spring attire arrived at the Hospitality Barn. It was a homecoming of sorts, and the largest Flowering of the Vines dinner to date. Long-lost and just-made friends heartily greeted each other as if they hadn’t seen each other in years—even if they might’ve reconnected the evening before at the casual Friday night dinner.
Flowering of the Vines Saturday Night Gala Dinner
Given the drizzly Saturday afternoon, the tents were set up, which gave the patio reception a more intimate vibe. Since many of us are conditioned to welcoming the rain nowadays, it could’ve poured all night, and nobody would’ve blinked an eye. Some guests gathered by the fire pits, however most partygoers socialized on the sheltered patio.
As per usual, there was a diverse spread of wines, including the 2014 Napa Valley Reserve White as well as the 2005 Napa Valley Reserve Red poured from 6L Imperial. Champagne, Three Sticks Durrell Vineyard Chardonnay, and Hilt Pinot Noir rounded out the other offerings. There was a table serving caviar—and chicken satay with plum sauce, crab cakes, and arancini circulated throughout the patio.
For the main event, roughly 180 guests made their way to the dining tent that was decorated in all of its bright pink spring glory. Even though the vines were a short week from flowering, each table hosted a fragrant arrangement of pink peonies, peach roses and white hydrangea. Most importantly, the stage was front and center. It’s presence assuring Members that the entertainment on this night was going to be top-notch and memorable.
First course was a delicious duck confit salad paired with the 2014 Napa Valley Reserve White. The main course of beef tenderloin was paired with the 2006 Napa Valley Reserve Red, followed by a cheese course with the 2003 en Magnum that bookended the sit-down meal. Once dinner ended, Managing Director Philip Norfleet came on stage to thank Chef Alejandro and servers and sommeliers, Patrick and Alex as well as Sarah O’Rourke and Carol Norfleet for their tireless efforts in making this a flawless night. He also acknowledged Jeff Gargiulo—of Gargiulo Vineyards with wife Valerie—for all of his musical contributions. Then we all raised our glasses to toast Bill and Deborah Harlan’s 30th wedding anniversary.
Singer and Reserve Member Billy Dean, who also happened to be celebrating his wedding anniversary that night with his wife Stephanie, proceeded to take the stage to speak, sing, and perform. He performed a quick chorus of all the songs that have come through the doors of The Reserve over the years, including: “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” “Maniac,” “Johnny Come Lately” and “Best of My Love.”
Following the musical history, he brought up Tim Rushlow and Don Schlitz for the round. The amount of talent on that stage was staggering. Tim Rushlow was the lead vocalist of Little Texas, a country music group that recorded more than 15 singles on the Billboard country singles charts. Don Schlitz wrote songs like “The Gambler” performed by Kenny Rogers, “Forever and Ever Amen” and “On the Other Hand” performed by Randy Travis, and “When You Say Nothing at All.” He was also entered into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
As the trio performed over the next hour, guests got up and danced. Don Schlitz even sang “The Gambler.” All of this was merely a warm-up for the late-night event, which was the jam session that was hosted at the Hospitality Barn with dessert, which included raspberry tarts, chocolate tarts, opera cake, vanilla macarons, and chunks of Parmesan. If the post-dinner round felt intimate, this after-party jam session took that intimacy to another level. The dance floor was only a step away from the stage, and Billy Dean sang more as Member Jeff Gargiulo jammed with fellow musicians on the keyboard and drums. More dancing ensued, naturally.