15th Annual Music Festival for Mental Health

18 09 2009

Last weekend I headed up to Napa to work a benefit.  Saturday September 12, 2009 Staglin Family Vineyard in Rutherford, CA held their 15th annual Music Festival for Mental Health.  Each year the Staglins hold a symposium to review research funded by past festivals and discuss new research, this year the Staglins announced the formation of IMHRO (International Mental Health Research Organization).  The symposium was followed by a reception with rare wines and food prepared this year by Douglas Keane of Cyrus Restaurant, a concert with Pat Benatar (next year Dwight Yoakam) and finally a gala dinner, this year hosted by Staffan Terje of San Francisco’s Perbacco.  This benefit has raised $95 million in the past 15 years!   www.music-festival.org  I have worked this benefit for nine years as a volunteer sommelier and this year lead the team of sommeliers for the event. 


The Staglins were kind enough to arrange for the sommeliers to visit a series of wineries on Friday prior to the event.  We traipsed around the valley and were graciously hosted by some of the greatest Napa Valley producers.  Pure Luxury Transportation carted us around (yes in a limo, slightly embarrassing, but better not to drive, and they have other vehicles in their fleet www.pureluxury.com; ask for Philip Alonso) definitely better than driving.  We hit Vineyard 29, Kuleto Estate, Revana (amazing!), and had a party complete with margaritas, just what you want after a day of tasting, and a selection of amazing wines from Tuck Beckstoffer, BOND and Harlan.  The evening was capped off by a delicious dinner prepared by Keiko Niccolini with wines hosted by Flowers Vineyard and Winery.  There may have been some dancing as we refreshed our memories with Pat Benetar tunes.

One of the highlights of the weekend is always the reception and walk around tasting in the Staglin caves featuring wines from some of the world’s best producers including multiple “cult” bottlings.  This year I had the opportunity to taste and pour the Screaming Eagle, usually one of the most hectic jobs.  This year I eked out as many pours as possible for the crowd, check out the mayhem on this video kindly taken by Stephanie Bailey at Jones Family.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDaU45FaYpc

Apart from the melee at the Screaming Eagle table there were plenty of other amazing wines on hand and because my pouring duties were fulfilled after an hour and ten minutes I had a chance to briefly taste some of the wines.  Favorite producers included Anomaly Vineyards, BOND, Domaine de la Vougeraie, Favia Erickson Winegrowers, Harlan Estate, Jonata, Jones Family Vineyards, Miner Oracle, and Skipstone. 

The tasting was followed by a concert with Pat Benatar and her husband Neil Giraldo.  Although I did not get to see the actual concert, she was amazing and can still really belt out those songs!  Dinner following looked delicious as the food prepared by the team from Perbacco looked and smelled identical to that they serve at the restaurant!  To prepare that for a banquet of 200 people is quite  a feat and this year’s meal was one of the most smooth and efficient I can remember!  Unfortunately the sommeliers were too busy keeping wine glasses full to taste the food, but famed vintner Abe Schoener of Scholium Project was prepping food for the volunteer team while we worked.  After the benefit dinner concluded we were able to enjoy great steaks (Browns Valley Market), romano beans (Lee Hudson’s garden), heirloom tomatoes, cheeses, sausages and tons of great wine that Garen Staglin pulled from his cellar for us, including Kongsgaard Chardonnay and of course some of Abe’s own wines. http://www.scholiumwines.com/

Over the course of many years of working on this event I have learned a lot about mental health and am happy to see the advances that have been made in mental health research.  There is still much to do and the proceeds of this event make a tremendous impact due to the Staglin’s generosity and support from the community.  It was great to learn of a new public service announcment that will help to fight the stigma associated with mental illness.  This campaign was spearheaded by actress Glenn Close and a group called Bring Change 2 Mind.  This PSA features about twelve people with mental illness and their families and will be released in October.  I am very proud to say that Brandon Staglin and his parents were included in the filming.  Their openness is amazing and is the first step in helping the general public to understand mental illness better.  You can sign up to be notified when it is released by going to www.bringchange2mind.org.  Another way to help is to attend next years Music Festival and in the meantime you can toast mental health with a bottle of Staglin Salus Estate Chardonnay, the proceeds of this wine support mental health research.  www.staglinfamily.com



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