Will this be the wine dinner of the year? New York City hosts a lot of cool, inventive, and often complicated sit-down events, many of them inclusive of wine, but few are actually the brainchild of a winery that hopes to coordinate the dining equivalent of a four-ring circus from its base in Sonoma, California.
To celebrate its 25th silver anniversary, Rodney Strong Vineyards organized four cities, four venues, and multiple celebrity chefs for a simultaneous feast held over live web broadcast on September 20, 2014. The New York dinner will take place at Oceana (120 West 49th Street, 212-759-5941) and start at 8 p.m. (Californians, on the other hand, have to dine at 5 p.m. to keep up with the East Coast).
The price tag for this unprecedented event is $225 per person. If you think that’s expensive, consider that initial pricing strategy talks included a debate over upcharging New Yorkers since “hey, it’s NYC, and everything always costs more money.” Organizers considerately decided that would be uncool, so in the context of the rest of the country, New York actually catches a break — every city pays $225.
The sister venues and cities are Rodney Strong Vineyards, the mother ship and headquarters, near Healdsburg, California; Uchi in Austin, Texas; and the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Miami.
For each five-course dinner, multiple chefs will create an original dish to complement a Rodney Strong wine. Chefs joining revelers at Oceana will include the restaurant’s own Ben Pollinger and Colleen Grapes; Gunnar Karl Gislason of Restaurant Dill in Reykjavík, Iceland; Esteban Villalpando of Lofoten Fish Restaurant in Oslo, Norway; and Dan Kluger, formerly of abc kitchen and abc cocina in New York City.
The evening’s emcee, author and wine personality Leslie Sbrocco, will greet guests and others around the country from Rodney Strong in Healdsburg. A live video feed from each location will link the cities together through an online broadcast with multiple viewing screens in each restaurant. New York’s own Ray Isle, Food & Wine executive wine editor, will keep New Yorkers entertained at Oceana restaurant, while Food & Wine contributing editor Anthony Giglio teams up with the Biltmore Hotel in Miami, and radio show host Ziggy the Wine Gal holds court at Uchi in Austin.
Why has the family-owned winery decided to go to such great and complicated lengths to celebrate their anniversary with a national audience?
“This is a once in a lifetime event that acknowledges our pride and passion of being in the wine business,” said Tom Klein, owner of the winery they purchased from Rod Strong in 1989. “The shared dinner will be a fantastic celebration, bringing together partners, friends, and fans we’ve come to know over 25 years of running Rodney Strong. Wine is what brings family and friends together at the table, and there is no better way to show our appreciation than hosting these special dinners that will bring people from across the country together on one spectacular night.”
Rodney Strong Vineyards was founded in 1959 by former ballet dancer and wine pioneer, Rod Strong. Strong put Sonoma County on the world map of wine as the first to produce and release a single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma County, the first to produce and release a Chalk Hill appellation Chardonnay, and one of the first to plant Pinot Noir in Russian River Valley. Six Rodney Strong wines will be poured at the dinner, including a Chalk Hill Chardonnay, a Russian River Pinot, and the 2010 Rodney Strong Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley.