On Friday, October 27th, we were joined by a true prince of the Napa Valley, Jeremy Nickel and his mother, Susan for an exclusive Wine Dinner.
So exclusive in fact, that we never even got the chance to share it with the public. For that reason and because it was an evening that's candidly going to be hard to top, we thought it deserved a recap here on the blog. Once the menu was set, we extended personal invitations to the attendees of our previous, ticketed, multi-course pairing-dinners. And, by October 11th, they'd bought up all the tickets.
From there, we waited. Until finally, Friday the 27th arrived and it was time to party! Chef Stephen was in the kitchen with our heart of house team, long time Wine Director, Mario Ortiz was in the house and GM Dan Hatch was giving the front of house their marching orders. Guests began to arrive, TVH sparkling flowed, the caviar canapes were passed, and then, the prince arrived! Cowboy-hatted and bespectacled, with his mom in tow and his fiancée leading the way Mr. Nickel had joined the chat. And boy did the whole entourage smell good. Almost as good as the foie gras that was about to be fired in the kitchen...
This course was paired with a fill-up of the aforementioned, vintage 2017 sparkling Blanc de Blancs. Jeremy began his first post-greeting oration after the above course was cleared. In which he began at the beginning, in Napa Muskogee, Oklahoma. Birthplace of his father, Gil Nickel. Fun wine fact: Gil Nickel and Beth Yorman (a fellow Oklahoma/Napa transplant) crafted and sold wine-coolers which they had named "Dos Okies." A six pack once sold at auction for $2,800 in 1987 (that's $7,750 in today's dollars).
It was during this part of the evening that we learned of how his mom and dad met, their meandering life together which began in Oklahoma, passed through New York, then Chicago, and landed in San Francisco (it involved being KFC franchisees with one of Gil's brothers for a while) before they discovered Napa and bought Far Niente in 1979. It had been established in 1885 by John Benson, a '49er of the California gold rush and uncle of the famous American impressionist painter Winslow Homer. The winery was in disrepair having been abandoned 60 years prior, during Prohibition and it took Gil and his family about three years to get the place in working order, and another three until it pressed it's first harvest in six decades. If you'd like to know more about Gil, there's a wonderful tribute page on The Vineyard House website.
There's also a Reel on Instagram that recaps this whole night in about a minute if you're tired of reading.
If not, let's sally forth! After JN speech #1 there was Lobster & Chardonnay. Then Jeremy told us more stories. Some about the property upon which The Vineyard House sits, some about Napa's history/early days, and why certain things are named the way they are.
Then, much of the next bit centered on how he met his fiancée in Maui. If you want to know more about that you can Google it.
Then, there was a funny interlude about one of the wines, where he actually did put "To Kalon" on the bottle because apparently that's where the fruit was from. But, he got sued by Constellation Brands because they own the vineyard by that name, and had to take it off going forward + put correction tape on a few hundred (possibly thousands...?) of bottles that already existed. He has some other things to say on this topic, and it seems as if the big names in Napa, are a fairly litigious bunch.
Is summation, what a hoot! We'll leave you with more photos in the gallery below chronicling the rest of the evening, and we'd like to give a big THANK YOU, to The Vineyard House, Jeremy, his family, his team, and our amazing guests. It was truly, a night for the ages!