The Crowd: Wine festival helps support the Pacific Symphony

A grand early spring festival of the grape, co-chaired by DeDe and Alex McKinnon, attracted some 300 wine lovers and raised an impressive $160,000 for the Pacific Symphony.

Organizers billed the event, which unfolded at the Island Hotel in Newport Beach, as the Pacific Coast Wine Festival. It showcased vintages from 30 wineries worldwide. Participants in the festival were selected by advanced sommelier Jim Houston from the renowned Charlie Palmer's dining rooms.

The Saturday evening party began at sunset with a cocktail reception. Arriving guests pulled into the handsome Island porte-cochère, passing a lineup of Aston Martin vehicles parked there to impress. The Pacific Symphony and the festival were, in fact, supported by the upscale automotive dealer.

A two-hour reception provided the opportunity to wander the wine exhibits, sample the Island's scrumptious hors d'oeuvres, meet and discuss wine with the experts on hand, and check out a silent auction stocked with some very rare vintage selections.

At 7 p.m. the crowd was ushered into The Island ballroom and seated for a multicourse dinner, with wine parings created and prepared under the supervision of respected Island Hotel Executive Chef David Man.

Entertainment during dinner was provided by the Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra, featuring talented cellist Phillip Sheegog.

Capping the festival evening, decadent gourmet chocolates were passed accompanying vintage port wine. In addition to sponsorship from Aston Martin, major corporate generosity came from BNY Mellon, American Airlines, U.S. Bank, Southern Wine & Spirits, Golden State Wine, Learn About Wine, and Pacific Symphony devotees Mary and Phil Lyons.

Funds raised are earmarked for the symphony's ongoing year-round music education programs that reach thousands of students in Orange County, as well as residents at large.

The Pacific Symphony performs some 100 concerts each year in addition to a busy schedule of educational and community outreach programs. Under the direction of longtime Music Director Carl St.Clair, the symphony is considered the largest orchestra formed in the U.S. in the last 40 years.

Spotted in the upbeat crowd were Hoag Hospital's Dr. Rick and Sally Afable, Susan and Sam Anderson, Valerie and Peter Van de Zilver, Catherine and Jim Emmi, Pacific Symphony President John Forsyte and his wife Michele, Roger Kirwan and Tracy Martin, Kathryn and David Moore, Giulia and Richard Merage, Lou Spisto, and Madeline and Len Zuckerman.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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