This past weekend, a big Tablas Creek contingent made the trip up to San Francisco to cheer on my dad as he received the Rhone Rangers 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award. I wrote about the significance of the honor when we first received notice of the award, so I won't delve too deeply into the background of his career, but I did want to share the remarkable tribute video that the Rhone Rangers put together and debuted at the awards dinner where he received the honor. It features interviews with some icons of the California wine industry, including Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards, Josh Jensen of Calera, Gary Eberle of Eberle Winery, and Bob Lindquist of Qupe, as well as a wonderful message toward the end from Jean-Pierre Perrin. The warmth of the comments from these titans is palpable, probably my single most memorable impression from seeing the video for the first time. Take a few minutes to watch it, and then we'll pick back up after:
OK, welcome back. The ceremony itself was wonderful, highlighted by a touching acceptance speech from my dad and an unexpected appearance by last year's award winner, Bonny Doon Vineyard's inimitable Randall Grahm. I got a photo of the two of them together: the first two Rhone Rangers lifetime achievement award winners:
This award dinner kicked off a full Rhone Rangers weekend, which included that night's dinner (wonderfully catered by the Girl and the Fig) and live auction, and two seminars and grand trade and consumer tastings the following day. While the Winemaker Dinner remained on the grounds of the Fort Mason Center (at the nicely restored General's Residence) policy changes at Fort Mason, forced the seminars and tastings to move to the Craneway Pavilion, a gorgeous, newly renovated space in the East Bay:
On the one hand, it's too bad to leave Fort Mason, which has been home to not just Rhone Rangers for the last fifteen years, but had become the go-to venue for most Bay Area wine events. But on the other hand, the Craneway's setting is even more beautiful than Fort Mason's, the venue is newly renovated and contains wonderful touches like sound panels on the walls so the hubbub of voices doesn't reach deafening levels, and the practicalities of getting there (freeway access, parking, and public transit) are all in its favor.
And, it wasn't like the organization had any choice. The changes that the Fort Mason Center has made, all designed to discourage alcohol-related events because of worries and complaints from their local community, left the Rhone Rangers no choice. Some changes were minor but inconvenient (like their new process for requiring food vendors to individually obtain permits to show their wares, which was so long and time-consuming that the first year it was implemented it cut the number of vendors in half). Others were financial, as they reclassified wine events as "for profit" rather than "nonprofit" (even though organizations like Rhone Rangers are all nonprofit) and raised the costs by some 50%. But the final requirement, which eliminated a wine event from the long-standing option of holding their same weekend for the next year -- instead allowing them only to reserve a six months out, if they had in the interim been unable to sell the weekend to another event -- meant that organizations like Rhone Rangers couldn't plan or set their schedules, and had no assurance of continuity from year to year. And there isn't really another viable venue in San Francisco for a tasting like this one of around 100 wineries. Hence the move to the East Bay.
The good news is that I think that the event landed in a great home. The venue really is gorgeous, inside and out, and the staff there was great to work with. Rhone Rangers even ran dedicated ferries across the bay from Embarcadero, which on a day like last Sunday (mid-70's and sunny) would have been a highlight in itself.
I leave you with a few other photos of the wonderful weekend. First, a photo of my dad, getting the award from Ridge's David Gates, current President of the Rhone Rangers Board of Directors:
Next, a photo of the lot we donated to raise money for the Rhone Rangers Scholarship Fund: a six-vintage magnum vertical of our signature Esprit wines, and a private tour, tasting and lunch or dinner with my dad and wines out of his cellar:
A photo of the seminar space at the Craneway Pavilion, flooded with light:
And a photo of the Craneway's interior during the Grand Tasting:
And finally, a photo of me and my dad, taken the night of his award. It was really an honor to be a part of the festivities, and see my dad get his moment in the limelight.