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If they weren't gourmet snackers when they arrived, they certainly were just that when they left.

Chef Laura Owen of CJ's on the Bay restaurant made sure of that as the annual Glory of the Grape wine celebration evening played out with a sell-out guest list of 150.

Owen paired snacks like Florida caviar canapé and alligator boudin with wines like Acrobat Pinot Gris; duck confit terrine with H3 Cabernet Sauvignon; conch fritters with Chester's Anvil Gewurtztraminer and coffee cocoa rubbed beef tenderloin over caramelized onions with Kokomo cuvee red blend.

There were 16 wines in all - most with slightly elevated pedigrees – although Greg Christensen of Premier Beverage did point out that a big favorite like Groth Sauvignon Blanc goes for about $20 retail.

"There's a great variety here," said Cydney Wilson, who first started with whites – as did Marco Porto and his wife Deanna, who coincidentally own the neighboring chop239 restaurant. Porto is a wine columnist for the Sun Times, as is Chef Owen.

Writing in her most recent column, Owen gave some insight into how the various choices are made – juggling whether to choose by region, old world vs new world, California and other west coast selections.

"Once we have settled on our concept, we begin the conversation with our wine purveyors. Between three and four of our expert wine purveyors begin searching their "books". Each one brings a dozen (or so) wines they think will fit the bill. Then the real work begins – tasting all of these wines to find just the right ones. Sounds like fun? The reality is the process can turn into drudgery. We tasted some amazing wines and some real dogs too. By the time we were through sampling over 40 wines, we selected our 15 finalists."

For the record, and in case anybody wants to recreate their own private Glory of the Grape celebration, the other wines on offer (and carefully selected by Owen) were SanFelo Pinot Grigio, Ferrari-Carano Siena, Bourgogne Pinot Noir, Symposio (red wine, Italy), Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay, Laetitia Brut Cuvee (sparkling wine), Lange Nebbiolo, Guenoc Merlot, Goyette Pinot Noir, and Eroica Riesling.

Other snacks paired with whites were gulf shrimp, pelican reef oysters, cobia crudo, New England clam canapé, edamame potstickers, CJ's tuna tartar, and a fresh baked bread bowl of warm cheese for dipping.

Extra red snack companions were a roasted veggie stack, gnocchi with oven roasted tomato and basil, braised farmhouse chicken, lamb kefta, and cheeses like brie, camembert and bleu.

The evening also featured some auction items like getaways, golfing and wine-inspired gift baskets, with all the proceeds benefitting the hosts, the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce.

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