Picture this. A sun-dappled afternoon at the Montagna Estate on world-renowned Pritchard Hill in Napa Valley, graciously hosted by Bob Long and Nancy McIntosh. A privileged perch located at the edge of the Vaca Mountain Range, where the views and the vines take your breath away. A gathering of some of the greatest names in California wine, donned in Napa chic attire. An agenda of champion speakers, notable all and actionably committed to sustainability. And conversation, intimate and engaging, that inspires your passion for pets of all size and pedigree, hoofed, horned, feathered and furred – and not a few glasses, filled to the brim, of handcrafted estate vintages, perfectly poured, highly rated and exceptionally easy to drink.
The setting and the scenery paid homage to an event that Wine Spectator magazine named “One of the top ten wine events in the country.” Venü was there to support a cause dear to our hearts, the annual WineaPAWlooza fundraiser for Jameson Humane, a Napa Valley rescue sanctuary for homeless companion and farm animals. Their tag line “connecting animals, humans and our planet” was a unifying theme of this year’s event, underscored by a line-up of experts who know a thing or two about inspiring change for the benefit of all life.
This heartfelt annual event wouldn’t happen if not for the vision and passion of Monica Stevens, Co-Founder and president of Jameson Humane, and a rock star in every way. A dedicated animal welfare advocate, she is all about making the world a better place for people and their pets, along with rescued pigs, goats, cows and more saved from a devastating fate. Nurturing a healthy and sustainable environment for animals of all kinds is also critical to her mission and plays out in the disaster recovery aid Jameson Humane provides, including a pet food pantry! From killer wildfires to COVID hardships, animal abuse and neglect, Monica makes sure pets and their people are protected. Since she founded her non-profit organization in 2014, she has inspired collaboration and change in both local and global communities, offering education and intervention solutions that foster lasting harmony between animals, humans and the environment. So how does wine fit into her humane mission? Turns out she and her husband have been pioneers of the Napa Valley Wine Industry for decades, launching 750 Wines to offer high end limited production boutique wines to customers through elevated retail and tasting experiences. Their longstanding relationships with the top Napa Valley vintners and winemakers are a win-win for everyone, animals included. Monica was on hand to share updates about Jameson Humane’s projects and to introduce the speakers each night.
The first program of the event, Innovations in Food and Solutions for Impact, featured a talented trio of knowledgeable panelists dedicated to a more compassionate vegan lifestyle, moderated by Brian Cooley of CNET. Maia Keerie, an ambassador for the alternative protein section and communications manager for The Good Food Institute, a nonprofit think- tank working to make the global food system better for the planet, people and animals, talked about efforts underway to initiate positive change in the food industry. Erin Gort, social media and community manager for Miyoko’s Creamery, who represents celebrity chef and artisan vegan cheesemaker Miyoko Schinner, shared insights about the animal-free transformation of the dairy industry. Chef Tamearra Dyson, renowned for her Souley Vegan cooking and soul food restaurants, talked about her experiences cooking for a line-up of stars like Stevie Wonder and Eric Benet, and her passion for vegan dining.
Christopher Jackson, the son of Barbara Banke and Jess Jackson, kicked off the second half of the program, Innovations in Wine and Solutions for Climate and the Industry, which was moderated by Sommelier and wine personality, Amanda McCrossin, also known as SommVivant.
Christopher grew up surrounded by wine and naturally cultivated a deep respect for the challenges and unique rewards of high-elevation winegrowing. He talked about his family’s 10-year sustainability and climate action plan, Rooted-for-Good, A Roadmap to 2030, with goals and initiatives designed to lead climate solutions, create a positive social impact, and support the Jackson family’s long-term vision for a sustainable future. Additionally, he shared details about the Jackson family’s International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA), cofounded in 2019 with Spain’s Familia Torres to galvanize the global wine industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate impacts in vineyard and winery operations.
Molly Sheppard, Educational Winemaker for Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery, helped turn Spottswoode into one of Napa Valley’s most iconic and respected wineries. In 2020 Spottswoode became the first Napa winery to achieve rigorous B Corp certification, which measures both a company’s environmental impact and what it is doing for workers and the community. Molly spoke eloquently about what it takes to steward meaningful change in the industry.
Carlo Mondavi, grandson of Napa’s Robert Mondavi, and today the proprietor of RAEN Winery, and Co-Founder of Monarch Tractor, focused on clean farming and explained how his driver-optional electric tractors help increase profitability, lessen harmful practices and enhance the farm’s ecosystem on the whole.
Celebrity guest Christie Brinkley wowed the crowd at the end of the evening by sharing stories about the organic, certified-vegan wines she produces with her Italian partners, including Bellisima Prosecco and her five still wines, all zero-sugar. A classic beauty herself, Christie puts her ideals behind her brands, celebrating friendships, fun and festivities with pourable products that are true to her vegetarian beliefs and taste great too. Even the wine’s labels are beautiful to behold, depicting Botticelli’s Venus with grace and style. Christie also has a shelter pup at home that only further endeared her to us all.
We enjoyed premium Pritchard Hill wines, Billecart-Salmon Champagne and hors d’oeuvres by plant-based restaurant Little Saint, overseen by a three-time Michelin-starred chef, Kyle Connaughton with his wife, Katina, just as the sun set over the valley. And this was only day one of the event.
The hosts for our next night in Napa were none other than Andy and Betty Beckstoffer at their Beckstoffer Farm Center. Beckstoffer Vineyards owns and farms over 3,600 acres of the highest quality grape growing properties in Napa Valley, Mendocino County and the Red Hills of Lake County. Andy is as down to earth as his land is but his wines sent our taste buds soaring, they were so good. He and his wife were presented with a Lifetime Philanthropic Achievement Award for all the good they spread around California’s northern wine country.
Christie Brinkley treated us all to her signature vegan Bellisima Prosecco, made with organic grapes and sparkling with the effervescence Christie is known for. And artist Amy Burkman showed us how to turn it around with her amazing style, painting upside down during her live art show, revealing a perfect portrait of a horse upon completion in record time, what a motivational story she has too. We want to know more about her for a future feature.
The evening included a Vintner Grand Tasting that was truly over the top. We sipped and savored some very special wines, from a velvety Bevan Cellars Sauvignon and Raen’s Sonoma Coast’s Pinot Noirs to Paula Kornell’s sparkling wine, Pulido Walker’s Cabernets, Dakota Shy’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Detert Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Aperture Cabernet Sauvignon and many more delectable, locally grown wines. Check out the sidebar for a complete list of participating vintners featured this year.
A surprise highlight for everyone was the adorable animal parade, with pigs, goats, and puppies stealing our hearts away. Their love for the animals manifested money in the auction tent where they raised a record-setting $2.2 million for Jameson Humane’s programs, including their Vet Mobile and Animal Assisted Healing programs. Well deserved!
Top winning lots included “TOR’S” Cut of Beckstoffer To Kalon, a 10-case lot of 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon at $200K, the largest winning bid on a single lot in WineaPAWlooza’s history; A Barrel of Bevan, 25 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Phelan Vineyard, garnered $80K and doubled to $160K; and Tusk and the Masters, a four-night stay in Augusta for four, with lodging, TUSK wine and a hosted dinner which went for $100K.
I can’t say enough about the hospitality that poured out all night, with vintners and afficionados bonding over bottles I won’t soon forget, and animal lovers happily lending their support to initiatives well-executed and sorely needed.
Wow, what a weekend indeed! ☐