Something was not right and Napa Valley residents take a stand at Charles Krug Winery, Oct. 7, 2012.
Located in one of the premier wine growing regions of the world, Napa residents, winemakers, growers and businesses believe the rightful place for the longest relay wine toast record belongs in St. Helena, California.
The problem: A group of Chinese located in Guangzhou, China, set a new record of 321 participants in November 2011. Knowing this was going to happen, seemed to rub St. Helena resident Lowell Smith the wrong way and he, with support from the St. Helena Kiwanis Club, birthed the idea of the Napa Valley Wine Wave and decided to raise scholarship money for local schools in the process.
“We actually applied for a Guinness World Record and the Wine Wave about a year and a half ago,” Smith said. “We then got the approval to apply for this record and have been planning this event ever since.”
Smith said Guinness World Records get 50,000 requests a year for setting records. Out of those, Guinness approves about 2,000 and most get accomplished.
Johanna Hessling, an official Guinness World Book of Records adjudicator (a judge) from New York City, was invited to the event because the St. Helena and Napa Valley area community planned a record attempt for the longest wine toast relay.
“I actually walk down the line as the attempt is happening and will be counting with my clicker to make sure that everyone who participates does it correctly,” Hessling said. “What this group needs to do in order to break, or achieve, that record today is to have a minimum of 322 participants take part in the toast, according to the guidelines that are established by Guinness.”
Jay Lewis, a member of St. Helena Kiwanis Wine Wave Committee and retired professor from Pacific Union College in Angwin, Calif., volunteered to be a line captain to make sure his charges did everything right.
“I’m excited because so many people are coming together to participate in a World Record,” Lewis said. “The Chinese hold the record with over 300 plus and we are hoping to get 500. This is a great event to hold in the Napa Valley, the center of the wine industry, but the Chinese currently hold the record. Oh, come on!”
Set on the tree-lined grounds of the first commercial winery in California, Charles Krug Winery is a natural place to host over 500 people to participate or watch the Napa Valley Wine Wave.
Kara Chamberlain, a student at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Greystone in St. Helena, heard about the Wine Wave and record attempt from her professor.
“We were sent out an email asking for volunteers or participants because this is for a scholarship fund that actually benefits our school,” Chamberlain said. “A few of my friends from school came here to promote something that we love. This has been so good for me to talk to the many winemakers of the St. Helena area and taste their many different wines. I appreciate that because that is what we are studying. I am hoping to become a wine writer. I am talking to the winemakers as much as possible and networking as well.”
In fact these and other students, along with local businesses, including French Blue, Sorensen Catering and Armadillos Restaurant, served appetizers while the wine relay participants toasted and clinked their way into the record book.
Charles Krug Winery is unique in the Napa Valley as it is still 100 percent family owned and now moving into the fourth generation. Pete Jr., the youngest son of Peter Mondavi, Sr., believes Napa is the rightful place for a record like the Wine Wave.
“St. Helena is where the industry started and Charles Krug Winery is as good as any in Napa Valley,” Mondavi said. “The winery opened in 1861 … 151 years ago. But first and foremost, this is about Kiwanis. We have been involved with St. Helena Kiwanis Club as a venue for fundraising events for many years. They came over with this idea and what better place to host this event? We have beautiful grounds that can hold over 500 people. Come to see where Napa all started.”
The “wave” of toasters kept Hessling busy from 1:30-2:30 p.m. She watches as each takes turns clinking glasses and sipping wine. After toasting, each participant turns to the person next to them and the process follows from one to two, two to three and so on. The longest relay wine toast is a sequential toast where participants clink glasses in order, from start to finish, rather than the more common toast where everyone clinks glasses simultaneously. Hessling kept pace and smiles each time a red flag raises, denoting when a 100th participant completes the toast.
As each one took turns, a “cheers,” “salut” or other proclamations sounded as individuals look into a partner’s eyes while sipping 2009 Charles Krug Zinfandel. A distinct ‘clink’ and the ringing sound of glasses chime as the dings or pings mix with laughter and chatter.
A 65-foot red and yellow hot air balloon from Napa Valley Balloons provided an impressive backdrop and participants danced to Ancestree, a Santa Cruz roots reggae band. The group grooved and mixed three-part harmonies into an impressive reggae/rock mix from 10:30-1:30 p.m.
St. Helena resident Sue Collins came with her husband Peter to enjoy the unusual afternoon festivities. Peter said they have had many memorable events at the winery and Charles Krug continues to be community-oriented, hosting great events on the property.
“We are here to support Kiwanis and support the wine industry,” Sue said. “We hope to have a little fun, get together with some good music and friends and enjoy a glass of wine in a beautiful location. Oh, and of course, there’s that Guinness thing, too.”
Ira C. Smith, Sports Director at KVON/KVYN, proclaims to the 487 participants, they broke the Guiness World Record. Johanna Hessling then awards Pam Simpson (CEO/President of St. Helena Chamber of Commerce) a framed certificate honoring the Napa Valley Wine Wave record, while Lowell Smith thanks Hessling with a commemorative bungstarter.
While hundreds gathered on the Charles Krug grounds, including the 487 people who took turns to ‘clink, sip and clink,’ there were dozens of others who watched as spectators; students and volunteers served and the Saint Helena Community Band played instrumental numbers until most revelers left.
“We brought our community together and we set a Guinness World Record,” St. Helena Mayor, Del Britton, said. “This unique world record now resides in the Napa Valley, the heart of the wine experience.”
Upon completion of the record, Hessling, along with Master of Ceremony, Ira Smith, announces that the new world record of 487 now belongs to the Napa Valley Wine Wave of St. Helena, California. Each participant also received a world record medallion to commemorate the event.
Local food trucks, Marks The Spot and Awful Falafel, served gourmet pulled pork and chicken sliders and Middle-Eastern food. These where paired with wines from Appellation St. Helena, including Ballentine Vineyards, Charnu Winery, Chase Family Cellars, J. Lohr & Wines, Raymond Vineyards, Robert Biale Vineyards, Rutherford Grove, Salvestrin Winery, Trinchero Napa Valley, Tudal Winery, and V. Sattui Winery.
The Napa Valley Wine Wave was created by the St. Helena Kiwanis Club, in partnership with the wineries of Appellation St. Helena, St Helena and St. Helena Chamber, CHEERS! St. Helena, as a way to raise money for scholarships. Proceeds raised from the event go towards scholarships in the agriculture, viticulture, winemaking, business and hospitality industries. For more information and opportunities to purchase commemorative merchandise and donations for scholarships, visit the Napa Valley Wine Wave or on Twitter at @NVWineWave.
For more information on the Napa Valley Wine Wave, visit the award-winning channel Wine Oh TV and watch Monique Soltani’s VIDEO.