Hit The Rails Or The Bay For LGBT Wine Events
LGBTQ Oenophiles Get A Choice Of What Type Of View They Want To Wine And Dine With The Napa Valley Wine Train’s Inaugural Pride Ride And Out In The Vineyards Big Gay Wine Cruise
by Heather Cassell
This year LGBTQ oenophiles can wine and dine on the rails and on San Francisco Bay with two different inaugural events – the Napa Valley Wine Train‘s first-ever Pride Ride and Out in the Vineyard‘s first-ever Big Gay Wine Cruise.
After five successful years hosting the Big Gay Wine Train aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train with Out in the Vineyards, wine train representatives and gay wine event producers decided to part ways. Gary Saperstein, 56, co-principal of Out in the Vineyards, told the Girls That Roam that the two companies had a difference in opinion over sharing email lists and parted amicably.
Andrea Guzman, a 34-year-old ally who is the director of sales and partnerships at the Napa Valley Wine Train, told GTR that from the tour company’s perspective the gay wine event producers had decided to go with another venue this year.
Representatives of both companies said that the split didn’t have anything to do with each other’s respective racial controversies in 2015. Last summer, the wine train was accused of racial discrimination and slapped with a lawsuit by members of the Sistahs on the Reading Edge book club after they were escorted off of the train for allegedly being too rowdy. The controversy erupted just before Seattle-based Nobel House Hotel and Resort LTD bought the Napa Valley Wine Train for a reported $11 million in September.
Out in the Vineyards had its own controversy right before its fifth annual train ride. Gay Persian winery owner Kaveh Azari, who owns Azari Vineyards with his family, pulled out of the event after Mark Vogler, co-principal of Out in the Vineyards, posted on Facebook a photo of Muslim women dressed in hijabs captioned, “Here’s to the ladies who lunch – #Islam style,” taken during his tour of the Middle East.
Kaveh protested the photo and the anti-Middle Eastern commentary following the post. The controversy didn’t affect the wine train or Out in the Vineyard, according to representatives of the two companies.
“When we had decided to do the wine cruise … it was literally that same week when that controversy happened with the African American women on the train and we knew, ‘Oh God! People are going to think that we are not doing the train because of that,’ and that has really nothing to do with it,” says Gary.
“I wasn’t there, but as far as we were treated on the wine train we had nothing but a good experience,” added Gary, who wished the wine train success with its new Pride Ride. “We never felt any homophobia. In fact, most people, pretty much the entire staff on the train, said, ‘We look forward to this event every year. It’s the most fun that we have.'”
Rather than not host the popular gay event, the wine train decided to launch its own rainbow culinary and wine evening on the rails between downtown Napa and St. Helena. It has been renamed the Napa Valley Pride Ride and takes place Saturday, March 19.
“We still wanted to capture our event that we’ve had for five years,” says Andrea. She didn’t have exact figures when she spoke to the B.A.R., but said ticket sales were going well.
Out in the Vineyards decided to take wine country to the bay with a special culinary and wine cruise on the water Saturday, April 2.
“We’ve always wanted to do an event in the city. It would be fun to sort of bring Sonoma to the city,” says Gary, who said the cruise, which can accommodate around 200 people, is already halfway sold out.
Guests will kick off the evening at the train station with the traditional sparkling wine reception before boarding the train and enjoying a specially crafted four-course meal prepared by Executive Chef Kelly Macdonald that will be paired with three wines from guest gay viniculture experts and vintners from the Napa Valley.
Wine experts include Cezanne Hendricks from Raymond Vineyards, wine professional Christopher Barefoot, Ryan Graham from American Wine and Spirits, wine marketing and sales professional Eric Murray, and David Mahaffey at Heron Lake Vineyard.
The wine train will also host an official Pride Ride after-party, dubbed Funky Town, at the train station following the three-hour, 36-mile roundtrip ride. The after-party runs until midnight and will feature a video DJ, go-go dancers and entertainment by Daft-nee, according to a news release from the Napa Valley Wine Train.
“We’ve never actually hosted the party after the train got back, so this is going to be a little added extra for our guests this year,” says Andrea.
The River Terrace Inn is the official host hotel for the event.
An undetermined percentage of the proceeds from the event will be donated to the Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation, said Guzman. The foundation supports local community organizations helping people living with HIV/AIDS, working to eradicate hunger, and to get homeless youth off the streets, said Ken Henderson, REAF executive director.
“We are really excited about it,” says Ken, 58, who will experience the wine train for the first time with his partner Joe Seiler, 52. “I wouldn’t miss it. It just sounds like so much fun. It should be a real blast.”
Henderson hopes that the event will raise more awareness about the foundation’s work.
Ryan, a key account specialist at American Wine and Spirits, used to work for the wine train. He’s excited about participating, along with some of his friends, in the new LGBTQ wine train event.
“It’s nice for me to be able to come back and do this fundraiser with the train because they are a company that truly cares about the minorities, particularly minorities that have been persecuted in the past, and it’s a great venue to have it at,” says Ryan, 40, who will be onboard the train with his husband, Floyd McGregor, 51.
The couple has a special connection to the wine train as their wedding reception was hosted at the train’s commissary in 2008 and they honeymooned at the then-owner Greg McManus’ Hawaiian vacation home.
Big Gay Wine Cruise on the Bay
Gary is excited about the gay wine event company’s new venture on the bay with Hornblower Cruises.
“It should be a really beautiful evening to go around the San Francisco Bay with great food and wine,” he says.
The Hornblower’s Chef de Cuisine, Willie Fuentes, will oversee a four-course wine-paired dinner. Wine experts will include Lloyd Davis of Corner 103, Mike Kobler of Kobler Estates Winery, Richard Sowalsky of Clos Pegase, and Kurt Giusti of Via Giusti Wines. Joy Sterling, partner and CEO of Iron Horse Vineyards, a gay-friendly winery, will premiere the third vintage of the Rainbow Cuvee.
“We are very excited about that. It’s the third vintage of the Rainbow Cuvee that we will get to premiere at the event,” says Gary.
Mike, 32, is a gay man who started Kobler Estates Winery with his father in 2010. He’s also excited to be a part of the inaugural Big Gay Wine Cruise and to be pouring alongside the other gay Sonoma vintners, he said.
“I think it’s going to be a blast,” says Mike. He hopes LGBTQ oenophiles aboard the cruise will enjoy his artesian cool climate Rhone and Burgundy varietals of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache, and Viognier that his winery produces. The wines will hopefully inspire them to come visit more boutique LGBTQ-owned wineries in Sonoma County, he says.
Guests can get a special rate at the LGBTQ-friendly Kimpton’s Harbor Court Hotel, which is the official host hotel for the Big Gay Wine Cruise.
The Napa Valley Pride Ride leaves the Napa Valley Wine Train station at 1275 McKinstry Street at 6:30 p.m. Join the reception at the train station at 5 and attend the after-party at 9:30. Tickets are $195 to $270 per person. To RSVP, contact 800-427-4124 FREE or visit http://winetrain.com/pride-ride.
The Big Gay Wine Cruise departs aboard the Hornblower at Pier 7 from 7 to 10:30 p.m. Tickets are $175 per person. To RSVP, visit http://www.outinthevineyard.com/events/big-gay-train/ -TICKETS.
Originally published by the Bay Area Reporter.
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