A Guide to Wine, Food & the Good Life


Christine Graham • 7/5/11        Print This Post Print This PostComment Bookmark and Share

Celebrating three decades of exceptional wine from acclaimed vintners along with delicious gourmet cuisine at the majestic Ahwahnee in spectacular Yosemite National Park from November 6 to December 8, 2011

The Ahwahnee, AAA Four-Diamond Hotel, located in beautiful Yosemite Valley, will welcome 33 of California’s leading vintners for its 30th annual Vintners’ Holidays event series, kicking off November 6.   Celebrating three decades of excellence in winemaking in the gorgeous setting of Yosemite National Park, Vintners’ Holidays will be held over a series of eight sessions from November 6 to December 8, 2011.  Each session features several wineries with winemakers and other experts leading tasting seminars and panel discussions.  Participants in the sessions will have personal access to meet the vintners, taste their latest vintages, many of which are rare and of limited release, and learn about their viticultural practices.  After two days of tasting seminars, the sessions close with a fabulous five-course gala candlelit dinner in The Ahwahnee’s grand Dining Room.  Vintners’ Holidays appeals to everyone from the novice to the connoisseur.

Since its inception as a small gathering of vintners and hotel guests in the winter of 1982, Vintners’ Holidays has become a premier, highly popular destination for aficionados and winemakers alike.  Held every year in the Fall, and while any time is a wonderful time of year to visit The Ahwahnee and Yosemite National Park, Fall is especially great as the foliage changes color, the fireplaces are roaring and, thanks to this year’s snow and rain, the waterfalls should be very visible, said Brett Archer, general manager of The Ahwahnee.  Recently refurbished, The Ahwahnee offers guests even more comfortable and attractive lodging.

Many vintners have participated multiple years, and returning for the 2011 season are boutique producers such as Jaffurs Wine Cellars and such widely-recognizable names as Mumm Napa.  New wineries joining the festivities this year are Hitching Post and Blackbird Vineyards.  A number of vintners have a family history with the event, including three winemakers whose fathers have also presented at Vintners’ Holidays including K.R. Rombauer III and his father Koerner Rombauer of Rombauer Vineyards, Bill Phelps and his father Joe Phelps of Joseph Phelps Vineyards, and Bo Barrett and his father Jim Barrett of Chateau Montelena Winery.

The sessions commence with a “Meet the Vintners” reception, followed by educational tasting seminars with enlightening discussions, and conclude with a five-course dinner prepared by Executive Chef Percy Whatley in The Ahwahnee Dining Room.  Whatley prides himself in providing the best in local and organic California ingredients with his seasonal American menu.  Working with each vintner, he expertly crafts each course to complement the presenting wines in a fun role-reversal on the more traditional wine pairing, creating beautiful and delicious dishes for each guest to enjoy.



The sessions are hosted and moderated by leading experts in wine, sharing their own knowledge with guests and engaging the vintners in discussions about their experiences in the industry.  This year welcomes back Gilles de Chambure, MS, director of wine education at Meadowood; Peter Marks, MW and vice president of education at Constellation Academy of Wine; Dan Berger, syndicated wine journalist and judge; Evan Goldstein, MS and president of Full Circle Wine Solutions, Inc.; and Michael Stepanovich, wine journalist and judge.

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Dan Berger, wine journalist and judge

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Gilles de Chambure, Director of Wine Education, Meadowood

The 2011 schedule is as follows:

Session 1:  November 6-8 (Sunday-Tuesday)
Moderator:  Gilles de Chambure, MS, director of wine education, Meadowood
Bob Talbott, Talbott Vineyards
Daniel Baron, Silver Oak cellars
Robin Baggett, Alpha Omega
David Duncan, Twomey Cellars

Session 2:  November 9-10 (Wednesday-Thursday)
Moderator:  Gilles de Chambure, MS, director of wine education, Meadowood
Frank Ostini, Hitching Post Winery*
Paul Leary, Blackbird Vineyards*
K.R. Rombauer, III, Rombauer Vineyards
Cathy Corison, Corison Winery


Session 3:  November 13-15 (Sunday-Tuesday)
Moderator:  Evan Goldstein, MS, president, Full Circle Wine Solutions, Inc.
Rob McNeil, Mumm Napa
Tom Rinaldi, Provenance Vineyards
George Bursick, Villa Toscano Winery
Ed Sbragia, Sbragia Family Vineyards

Session 4:  November 16-17 (Wednesday-Thursday)
Moderator:  Michael Stepanovich, wine journalist and judge
Brian Talley, Talley Vineyards
Kent Rosenblum, Rosenblum Family – Rock Wall Wine Co.
Craig Jaffurs, Jaffurs Wine Cellars
Bill Phelps, Joseph Phelps Vineyards

Session 5:  November 27-29 (Sunday-Tuesday)
Moderator:  Peter Marks, MW, vice president of education, Icon Estates
Milla Handley, Handley Cellars
Dan Goldfield, Dutton-Goldfield Winery
Steve Reeder, Simi Winery
Bill Easton, Terre Rouge & Easton Wines

Session 6:  November 30-December 1 (Wednesday-Thursday)
Moderator:  Peter Marks, MW, vice president of education, Icon Estates
Ross Halleck, Halleck Vineyards
Janet Myers, Mount Veeder Winery
Ron & Lorie Gianelli, Gianelli Vineyards
Joel Peterson, Ravenswood Winery

Session 7:  December 4-6 (Sunday-Tuesday)
Moderator:  Dan Berger, wine journalist and judge
Jason Haas, Tablas Creek Vineyard
Tim Carl, Huge Bear Wines
Andy Beckstoffer, Beckstoffer Vineyards
Ehren Jordan, Failla Wines
Larry Turley, Turley Wine Cellars

Session 8:  December 7-8 (Wednesday-Thursday)
Moderator:  Dan Berger, wine journalist and judge
Amelia Moran Ceja, Ceja Vineyards
Lawrence “Buck” Cobb, Karly Winery
Larry Brooks, Tolosa Winery
Bo Barrett, Chateau Montelena Winery

*Indicates new winery this year.

Vintners’ Holidays Lodging Packages

Vintners’ Holidays lodging packages feature the choice of lodging at The Ahwahnee or Yosemite Lodge at the Falls.  Two-night packages are available, but three-night packages are recommended as some of the sessions begin before the check-in time.  All packages include accommodations for two plus admission for two to one session, which includes the “Meet the Vintners Wine Tasting Reception,” four wine tasting seminars, and the Gala Vintners’ Dinner in The Ahwahnee Dining Room with a menu designed to complement the session’s featured wines and opportunities to talk with the vintners.

These special packages represent a significant value and guest savings off the regular rack rate for accommodations and services.  Package prices are based on double occupancy, subject to change and do not include room taxes.  Rates at The Ahwahnee start at $896 for two nights and $1,145 for three nights.  Yosemite Lodge at the Falls rates  start at $665 for two nights and $800 for three nights.  Individual tickets for the Gala Dinner may be purchased for the special 30th Anniversary at a reduced price of $199 per person, including gratuity and excluding tax.

For more information on Yosemite Vintners’ Holidays at The Ahwahnee or to make reservations, call 801-559-4903 or visit online at www.YosemitePark.com/Vintners.

Both The Ahwahnee and Yosemite Lodge at the Falls are managed and operated by Delaware North Companies, a leading global hospitality and food service provider, through its Parks & Resorts subsidiary.

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Yosemite – America’s Most Visited National Park

Located in Central California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, Yosemite National Park encompasses 1,170 square miles of breathtaking natural splendor.  Ranging in altitude from 2,000 feet to over 13,000 feet above sea level.  The exquisite grandeur of Yosemite’s attractions have delighted and inspired visitors since it became a national park in 1890.  The famous waterfalls, including Bridal Veil, Yosemite, Vernal and others, are hallmarks of the Park.  Just as famous are the incredible rock formations of Half Dome, El Capitan, Cathedral Rocks and Glacier Point among others.  Yosemite also is home to diverse wildlife, trees, plants, and flowers.  The two rivers that flow through the Park, originating among the snowy peaks, are the Merced and Tuolumne.  The Merced River flows through Yosemite Valley which was formed eons ago by glaciers. The Tuolumne River carves a magnificent gorge through the north half of the Park.  The glacial Valley, one of the world’s most beautiful places, is only a small part of park land, seven miles long and one mile wide.  The polished granite walls of the Valley rise to 3,200 feet, offering immense precipices, domes, pinnacles and lofty waterfalls.  For more information, visit www.yosemitepark.com.

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The Ahwahnee – One of the Most Distinctive Hotels in North America

The majestic Ahwahnee, set among fir, pines, elm and oak trees, dwarfed by the towering granite slabs of Royal Arches, is situated at one end of Yosemite Valley.  The Hotel, California’s leading man-made wonder, designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood using massive slabs of native granite and timber.  It took 5,000 tons of stone, 1,000 tons of steel and 30,000 feet of timber to make the magnificent seven-story fortress.  It has delighted guests since opening in 1927 except for a time in the 1940s when the U.S. Navy took over the hotel converting it to a convalescent hospital for war veterans.  The design of the Hotel blends an array of influences:  Art Deco, Native American, Middle Eastern and the Arts and Crafts movement reflected in tapestries, paintings, murals, baskets and pottery.  The AAA, Four-Diamond Hotel is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and has earned an Historic Hotels of America designation from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  The Ahwahnee was recognized by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine’s “Reader’s Choice Awards” in 2010 as one of the top 100 resorts in the United States.  Early this year, The Ahwahnee received an $8 Million facelift, the first major renovation since the 1940s when it had to be converted from a hospital back to a hotel.


The luxurious hotel has 123 guest rooms, including hotel rooms, parlors and suites and 24 cottages.  The Great Lounge has a 24-foot high ceiling, floor to ceiling windows, giant beams, wrought-iron chandeliers, original hand-stained glass panels, rich tapestries, huge oak tables and a massive eight-foot fireplace.  The Ahwahnee Dining Room features a soaring, 34 foot high beamed ceiling, granite pillars, sugar pine trestles and floor to ceiling windows that offer spectacular views during the day.  At night, chandeliers and candles set a romantic mood.  The Hotel also houses a unique gift shop, the Solarium, the Ahwahnee Lounge and, outside a swimming pool, a vast lawn, a grassy, sunlit meadow and woodlands.  From the Hotel, you can see Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls and Glacier Point.  For more information, visit www.yosemitepark.com/ahwahnee.

Last year, Ron Brown and I attended one of the sessions of Vintners’ Holidays and it was definitely a not-to-be missed wine and food and event.  Enjoying fabulous wine and delicious gourmet cuisine while staying at the majestic Ahwahnee in the unparalleled beauty of Yosemite National Park, is a spectacular experience.  That’s why Yosemite National Park’s Vintners’ Holidays series at The Ahwahnee, celebrating winemakers and their exceptional wines, is still a resounding success after 29 years.  Read all about our visit last year by clicking here.


The Ahwahnee is renowned for other wonderful activities.  Early last year, we published an article on The Ahwahnee’s annual Bracebridge Dinner, inspired by Washington Irving’s Sketch Book, written by John Tilson.  John and his wife, Laurie, have attended this 17th Century English manor Christmas celebration in Yosemite Valley on a number of occasions and always found the elegant, four-hour pageant to be an exciting and memorable event.  To read the article please click here.

Chefs’ Holidays, held each year in January and February, feature some of the world’s most innovative and acclaimed chefs, along with a reception, cooking classes, cooking demonstrations, tastings, kitchen tours and a Gala Dinner.

Photos were taken by Kenny Karst, Chris Andre, Christine Graham and Ron Brown

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  • Louis says:

    Please let me know if you’re looking for a author for
    your blog. You have some really great articles and I think I would be a good asset.
    If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d absolutely love to write some material for your blog in
    exchange for a link back to mine. Please blast me an e-mail if interested.

    Many thanks!

    • John Tilson says:

      Thanks Louis. The Underground website is dedicated solely to wine food and travel. I took a look at your website and it does not seem to relate to these. If you are a wine enthusiast and would like to submit a brief biography and an example of one of your articles we would certainly consider it.
      Thanks again for your interest in the Underground.
      In Vino Veritas,
      John Tilson

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