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Celebrating America’s wines, 50 states at a time

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How many bottles of wine does it take to make a perfect Fourth of July celebration?

For Lenard Davis, a longtime Newport Beach resident, it takes 50 bottles — one from each state of the union — to really get the party started.

The 62-year-old has welcomed friends, family and neighbors to his Newport Crest home for a Fourth of July party for the past eight years.

“I figured what better day to celebrate American wines than the Fourth of July,” he said.

Davis, who has been developing his palate for wine for the past 20 years, happened upon the beverage in a most unusual fashion.

While traveling in Brazil in the early 1990s, he had become entranced by the country’s national cocktail, caipirinha, which is made with a type of liquor not often found in the United States.

Upon his return home, Davis searched for the liquor to make the cocktail. One day he went to Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa and promptly found a seat at its wine bar.

He said the atmosphere and the “winos” he met kept him going back. Over time, he became an enthusiast of trying new styles and brands of wine.

Davis became so interested in wine that he transformed a section of his garage into a state-of-the-art wine cellar with a collection of 1,500 bottles chilled to a perfect 60 degrees. The ceiling is adorned with peeled-off wine bottle labels from 20 years of experimenting.

He also published the book “Wine Memories: The Personal Recollections of a Wine Lover.”

“Everything I do becomes a wine event,” he said.

His passion for wine is one that he hopes to pass on to guests during his party Saturday evening, he said.

Davis had already set up a U.S. map on his kitchen table two days before the holiday.

Before the party begins, he plans to place the bottles of wine on the state in which they were made, allowing his guests the opportunity to take a trip with their taste buds.

Davis also expanded his food menu this year to include 10 hot dog options from cities and states around the country to go with the wine selections.

Guests can create anything from a Chicago Dog made with a poppy seed bun, yellow mustard, relish, onion, tomatoes and peppers to a Hawaiian dog made with a grilled Hawaiian-style bun, yellow mustard, Hawaiian relish and avocado slices.

While he enjoys searching for new bottles, the process of collecting wines from around the United States for the party isn’t an easy one, Davis said.

Because each state has its own rules regarding liquor sales, he sometimes has to ship the bottles to family members in other parts of the country and then have them send the bottles to his home in Newport Beach. The entire process can take up to a year.

This holiday will be the first time all 50 states are represented in the Davis household.

One of the notable bottles he plans to serve this year is a 2006 Konstantin Frank Riesling from New York, the same wine served at President Obama’s second inauguration dinner in 2013.

“I try to get the best wine I can from each state,” he said. “You never know what’s going to be good and what isn’t, but it opens your eyes to a variety of wine from different states.”


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