“Our First VinNEBRASKA”

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Over the weekend, I’ve been helping in my small way to orchestrate a massive, important tradition here in Omaha called VinNEBRASKA, a two-night charity event the proceeds from which benefit Partnership for Kids, one of Nebraska’s most important and efficacious charities. My role as a committee member was to bring vintners to the event, to schlepp some boxes once in a while, assist some with the planning over the course of the year, and to help make sure things went smoothly at our events. In the end, I think we as a committee accomplished our mission, and the event went off beautifully.

I won’t go into the play-by-play of the event in a blog post, in part because I plan do that for Food & Spirits Magazine, and in part because I can’t really fathom writing that much in a blog post before I’ve had breakfast. That said, what follows are a few of the highlights of Sonja and my experience at our first ever VinNEBRASKA, and I hope they’ll be enough to entice you to read my article in Food & Spirits and, more importantly, attend the event yourself next year.

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On Friday night, I made Sonja arrive far too early at Happy Hollow Country Club, where we helped put a few finishing touches on setting things up before waiting for people to arrive. The vintners and owners of wineries we had invited were soon there. I met wonderful people I’d previously only read or written about, or whose wines I love, such as Rob from Barnard Griffin, Jay from Delille, Miro from Trentadue, Matt from Fullerton, and more. Also, Sonja and I were reunited with other winemakers and industry people we’ve known for a long time, such as Bethany from Illahe, Stu from Smith-Madrone, Jon from Silverado, Laura from Yount Ridge, and Jennifer from Tamber Bey, with whom we spent the most time by far. The reunions were a great deal of fun, and I loved having the opportunity to spend time both with my wife on what amounted to a date for us, as well as with the wonderful people from the wineries whose donated time and wine was making everything possible this weekend.

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Jennifer was seated at our table both nights, and she and Sonja became fast friends. The three of us spent a lot of time talking over two nights, a wonderful and somewhat rare opportunity to really start to get to know someone. I was grateful to Jennifer for being there to talk to Sonja when my duties as part of the committee pulled me away, and I know Sonja is really looking forward to seeing Jennifer when we visit the Napa Valley this summer. At the end of the night, Jennifer sent us home with the beautiful arrangement of flowers she’d had made for her table, and a bottle of her awesome Cabernet. We can’t wait to see Jennifer and her husband, Barry, this summer.

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Another fun highlight from the evening was William from Schramsberg, my favorite sparkling wine producer, sabering a bottle on stage. It was really cool to see done, and flawlessly executed. He then took people to the back of the room and taught them how to do it. I allllllllmost got to saber my first bottle, but someone beat me to the last one. That’s okay. I’ll make sure I get to do it next year.

Of course, the wines at this event were utterly amazing. While I didn’t have my camera out quite as often as I typically do due to my other obligations, I did get a few bottle shots of some of the show-stopping wines we tasted. Some of these I have had many times, while others were new to me. This sample, of course, out of a field of hundreds. Man, there was some amazing wine poured this weekend!

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Finally, I’ll just add that I made some new friends at this event. Some of the fine folk in this picture, Rob and Bethany, I’d known for quite a while, while Helen, Chad, and Christopher were new friends who Sonja and I hope to spend more time with soon. Just for reference, I was not invited to be a part of this photograph originally, though I do think my presence adds something to the overall aesthetic, no?

The very fact that I’m sitting down to write this at 8:25 in the morning, a full four hours later than I normally pen my wine notions, is perhaps some indication of how much fun Sonja and I had at our first VinNebraska event. It was the first time we’ve ever shut down an after party in our married lives, and getting to do that with Stu Smith was absolutely wonderful. The 2018 VinNEBRASKA event was amazing, and raised a lot of money — we’ll know precisely how much soon, for Partnership for Kids, which does amazing work in the Omaha area for kids who need it most. It was an absolute honor for me to become a small cog in this tremendous, important, and well-oiled machine, and I look forward to doing it all again next year. I hope you’ll be there.

Cheers to Partnership for Kids, and to the one thousand people who supported them this weekend, including the generous vintners who made this event possible!

Mark

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