Time to Do Your Part for ‘Wretched Excess’

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Bust out the gardening gloves, pruning shears and sunscreen, it’s time once again for the annual Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery harvest and crush celebration this Saturday!

If you’ve never been to the Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery, you’re missing out on a real treat. Off Mesa Drive, just adjacent to the Newport Beach Golf Course, this funky-cool boutique winery is surrounded by horse pastures and overlooks the picturesque 850-acre Upper Newport Bay ecological preserve and bird sanctuary.

It is owned, operated and occupied by the legendary Richard Moriarty and his charming and beautiful significant-other Loren Blackwood. Each year as the brix (sugar) level of the grapes approaches perfection, Loren and Richard hold a traditional wine grape harvest and crush that they share with the community, offering an excellent opportunity to visit the winery and participate in a hands-on experience.

Volunteer Tim Johnstone scoops grapes plucked at the 2010 harvest as they are prepared for the crush. Photo courtesy of Newport Beach Vineyards & Winery

This will be the winery’s 12th year of harvesting. If things go as smoothly and enthusiastically as last year, it won’t take long for volunteers to fill the grape bins, readying them for their journey to becoming one of a variety of delicious blends that the winery produces each year.

Breathtakingly robust, the winery is operated on solar power and boasts an exquisite underground 1,000-square-foot wine cave (the only wine cave in Orange County) and tasting room which is available as a unique event venue for functions large or small.

Besides the vineyard, the property has some truly unique characteristics that make it one of my favorite “best kept secrets” in Newport.  Similar to what one might call a hobby farm, the property is also home to world class botanical gardens, an aviary filled with pheasants and other foul, and a gorgeous herb and vegetable garden.

One of my favorite areas on the property is a large pond bristling with catfish and the biggest, most beautiful koi I have ever laid eyes on. I found out that Richard and Loren have become somewhat of an unofficial koi rescue, adopting these spectacular carp from all over the county when they grow too large for their former environments.

Richard is an expert in viticulture (the science, production and study of grapes) and always has interesting anecdotes about the production and naming of their various gold medal winning Bordeaux-style wine blends including their “Back Bay Cuvee,” “Coyote Cuvee,” “OC Red” and, my favorite, “Wretched Excess Red,” which is sold at the Irvine Ranch Market, Napa Style (South Coast Plaza), local restaurants and country clubs, and at private events.

Though it is not necessary to purchase a ticket to participate as a volunteer in the harvest, tomorrow’s event includes a charitable partnership with The Roosters, who are selling tickets for their Crush4Kids with proceeds going to benefit the Roosters Foundation of Orange County which supports children in need or who are at-risk. The $50 ticket price includes food and wine.  For more information, log on to www.roostersfoundation.org.

Volunteers can still RSVP by emailing [email protected] or calling Justin Myers at 949-500-0273. Participants will be loaned shears (best to bring your own if you have them) and a bucket and set free to roam the vineyards collecting grapes, after which everyone enjoys lunch and the chance to witness the crushing of the fruit before it’s put up to eventually become a palette-pleasing red wine.

If you aren’t able to make the harvest, the winery is open by appointment for flight tastings, and as I mentioned is an excellent venue for everything from an intimate tasting for 12 to a party or fundraiser for up to 160 guests. Visit the website at www.nbwine.com.

Columnist Lynn Selich is a freelance writer, editor and public relations consultant. She can be reached at [email protected]


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