Fine Wine With a Fun Finish

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Rita Rudner will be on hand Thursday at the Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery for a celebration of Laguna Playhouse's new season .

“What pairs well with red wine, cheese and appetizers?” I asked Stasha, smiling.

She glanced up at me from her computer.

“Is that a trick question?” she inquired, before shifting her gaze back to her desktop. “To me, that already sounds like a perfect pairing.”

“Almost. You need one more ingredient: laughter.”

Stasha turned back and stared at me, taking her glasses off and folding them carefully.

“As usual, Chris, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“The Laguna Playhouse is holding an End of Summer Soirée at Newport Beach Vineyard and Winery next Thursday, and their special guest is comedienne Rita Rudner.”

“I love Rita Rudner!”

“And I love Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery’s wine.”

“The Wretched Excess blend we sampled at the Newport Beach Film Festival’s closing night party was pretty fabulous,” she admitted.

“And what could be more fabulous than enjoying a glass of wine with Rita Rudner?”

“I honestly can’t think of anything, so sign me up. Sounds like we’re going to a soirée.”

“We are indeed—and Justin Myers, the winery’s director of sales and marketing, invited me to the winery today to get a sneak preview of the event.”

“Chris, you do the preview,” Stasha said, putting her glasses back on and returning to her computer screen. “I’ll wait for the real thing.”

I slowly piloted my car down a short dirt road near the Newport Beach Golf Course and parked in front of a tall rack of wine barrels. Justin came out of the office to greet me and escort me past several acres of vineyards to the wine cave.

Justin Myers at Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery shows off a bottle of OC Red.

“A lot of people still don’t know we’re here, even though we planted our first vines in 1999 and started bottling in 2001,” explained Justin. “We have 3½ acres of vineyards where we grow cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petite verdot, and malbec. We pick the grapes and blend them together, and then keep our fingers crossed and hope for a great result.”

“Do people ask you why someone would put a vineyard in Newport Beach, an area not exactly known for growing grapes?”

“Wine is owner Richard Moriarty’s passion,” said Justin. “When he bought this property, he did not want horses or a field of grass, so he decided to plant grapevines. Like he once told me, Newport Beach is not bad farm land, it’s just expensive farm land.”

We strolled to the wine cave—a 1,000 square foot room dug into a hillside next to Richard’s house. Justin pulled back the huge wooden door to reveal a long row of wine barrels, plus several sets of bistro-style tables (made from wine barrels) and chairs.

“Most of the barrels contain our 2010 vintage,” noted Justin. “Guests who attend the Laguna Playhouse party next week will taste the 2009 OC Red blend. We’ll be serving appetizers and cheeses from Summit Event Catering, and I’ve invited the sommelier from Villa Nova to come and pour his family-owned Rugg wines. We’ll also be offering tours of the gardens and koi ponds.”

“I believe the invitation to the soirée mentioned something about a VIP experience, and a dangling Lamborghini.”

Justin laughed, then explained that Richard has a Lamborghini hanging on his wall, which VIP attendees will get to see.

“Our VIP guests will sample Richard’s 2001 Back Bay Cuvee and his 2002 Coyote Cuvee, which is a rare treat because he only made 80 cases of each,” said Justin. ”Vin Goat is supplying artisan cheeses to go with the wines, and we’ll have special VIP gift bags.”

“Sounds like a great event.”

“I think it will be great fun. We’ve been doing more events here recently. A jeweler just launched his new collection among the vines, and a lighting company launched their new product catalogue by displaying their designs among the vines. Charities and corporations are now coming here to do everything from luncheons and dinners to meetings and product launches.”

“I know you’re on the board of directors for Laguna Playhouse, but how did you manage to get Rita Rudner to attend the event?”

“She’s performing her stand-up comedy at The Laguna Playhouse the weekend after the soirée, so I asked if she might be in town a little early to attend our event. Fortunately, she has a home in Monarch Beach and was available, so she agreed to attend. She’s bringing her husband, Martin Bergman, a playwright and director. It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet her in an intimate environment.”

Tickets for the End of Summer Soiree are $90 each. VIP experience tickets are $1,000 each and limited to 10 people. All tickets include hosted valet parking. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call 949-497-2787, Ext. 216.


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