Pouring it on: Chamber’s ‘Glory of the Grape’ brings people together
Tourist season is officially over, and summer has begun. The Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce “Glory of the Grape” event, held Sunday evening at Chop 239 in the Esplanade, served as a marker that the dog days are on us, and the island will move at a slower pace for the next few months.
The annual wine pairing, held for the eighth time, and the first at a restaurant other than CJ’s on the Bay, brought together the island’s business establishment, bookending with the more raucous and counter-cultural “Spammy Jammy” party held the night before at the Little Bar in Goodland.
Glory of the Grape’s move across the Esplanade courtyard put the event into a larger venue, with more elbow room for patrons and able to accommodate more of them, which was part of the rationale, said Chamber Executive Director Dianna Dohm.
Light from the sunset streamed across the marina and through the full-length windows at Chop 239, highlighting the location and casting a “golden hour” glow on the foods and wines being consumed. These included wines from all of the globe’s major wine producing regions, said host Marco Porto, under a broad, all-encompassing theme, “The World Cup of Wine,” sort of an oenological preview of next year’s soccer World Cup.
With 17 different vintages to choose among, and generous pours from the sommeliers on loan from area wine merchants and distributors, sampling all of them was perhaps not possible, and certainly not advisable. But several favorites did emerge from dedicated drinkers who kept their wits intact and their palates cleansed.
Sharyn Campmeyer expressed her preference for the Ponzi Tavola Pinot Noir, a product of the Willamete Valley in Oregon, and paired with the shrimp, squid and scallop ceviche, flat breads and six different cheeses, along with “an assortment of chocolate-covered fruit,” notably featuring luscious ripe strawberries. Similar to the Ponzi – and how distressing to have your wine confused with a notorious business scam – the 2015 Pinot Blanc from the Blanck winery (more confusion) in the Alsace region between France and Germany also drew adherents for its balance between light and robust character.
If you were confused and had wine-related questions, the sommeliers pouring were ready, able and even eager to tell you everything you wanted to know, and more, about the background, provenance, terroir and characteristics of the wines they were pouring.
Along with the strawberries, standout food items included the baby lamb chops in a blackberry demi, perfect as finger food, the blackened beef tips with Bearnaise sauce, and the baked onion tart in an edible crust, as well as the arancini balls served with marinara sauce. The Morse Code shiraz from South Australia paired admirably with the lamb, although you could probably have taken the reds and whites from any of the four stations, switched them around, and completely satisfied the diners’ desires.
Chamber president Alex Parker of A P Builders, who as he reminded the guests was also one of the wine table sponsors, conducted the live auction, having fun with the crowd and seeming to squeeze just about every available dollar out of each of the eight auction packages. These included an “Olde Marco Staycation,” with lodging provided by the Olde Marco Island Inn & Suites, not the JW Marriott as previously reported based on erroneous information. Other packages included “Dine Around,” which did include Ario at the Marriott, and a variety of golf, “Marco Island swag,” jewelry and gifts.
One of the most anticipated items was “Mid Town,” a lunch and cooking demonstration for eight to be hosted at CJ’s by Chef Laura Owen. Lynn and Elaine Orr celebrated after placing the successful bid.
With 160 in attendance, the chamber did not expect to have a tally of proceeds, which go to the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce scholarship fund and other charitable efforts, before presstime. Last year’s “Glory” raised about $8,000, said the chamber’s Katy O’Hara, the principal organizer of the event.