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How Randall Graham, Steve Heimoff, and Charlie Palmer Led to Sean Thackrey, Steve Heimoff, and Hardy Wallace

What a cast of characters…

The Sonoma County Wine Library (in Healdsburg) is only seven miles from my house, which occasionally host authors. I’m on the distribution list for announcements.

In December, they hosted a wine writers reception, that included Randall Grahm (of Bonny Doon Vineyards fame) and Steve Heimoff.

Having never met Randall in person, but having sent copious Emails back-and-forth, I thought, “Hum, this might be fun.” Also, knowing that my friend Steve would be in town was even more incentive. I don’t get enough person-to-person time with Steve. We both run at a very fast pace, so having him also right in my neighborhood was an opportunity to get together for dinner, again.

Randall was presenting his Been Doon So Long book, and Steve was going to be presenting his A Wine Journey along the Russian River. This book really turned me on to what an amazing writer Steve is, and began my love affair with his writing. I’m also a huge collector of books, and rarely ever give away one that I treasure. That would mean that I have to really treasure the person to whom I’d be giving one of my books…

In this case, that person was Chang Liow, of Chinois Asian Bistro, My favorite restaurant in the world. Jose (my life’s partner) and I frequently dine at Chinois. Chang is the sommelier and proprietor. One night when we had brought Steve with us to Chinois, Chang had pulled out all the stops with his wine list, opening very special and rare wines to get Steve’s opinion. It was delightfully amusing to watch. Chang, too, was a huge fan of Steve’s writing. I eventually handed over my book to Chang, as we continued to reminisce the night with Steve on future visits. Chang would treasure the Russian River book, I knew. I was now without my copy of A Wine Journey along the Russian River. This would be a perfect time to purchase another copy, which I did.

I also wanted to do more that night than be a part of the reception’s audience, so Jose and I invited both Steve and Randall to dinner, which would follow the SCWL event. I’m also a publicist, remember, so we can’t just do dinner in quiet. I have to call ahead for something like this; and when I make the reservations, I also make it very clear who’s coming to dinner… and it’s not about me.

We originally wanted to return to Chinois, but they were regrettably (on both ends) having a holiday party (December), and the restaurant was dedicated to it and closed for the night. So I thought, “Where would be an excellent place to bring these two gentlemen?”

“Ah!” I thought, “Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen, and it’s right in Healdsburg.” Both gentlemen were being hosted in Healdsburg overnight, so this would be very convenient and luscious. I called and made the reservation; and no, Charlie was not going to be there this night. Had he been there, he would have come out to say “Hello,” because he’s that kind of man. I brought a bottle of J Cuvée 20 Brut NV with me, that George Rose ~ the new publicist for J Wine Company ~ had sent to me for the holidays. Steve brought another bottle of Roederer Estate. It became an amazing celebration.

But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

We’ve got to go back to the wine writers reception and bring Hardy Wallace, of Dirty South Wine and a Very Goode Job at Murphy Goode, into the story.

This reception was just steps away from the house where Hardy’s living in in downtown Healdsburg, and of course he was there. I watched the making of A Very Goode Job carefully as a marketer, and knew that whomever got that job, I would come to know as a neighbor and fellow blogger. Hardy was chosen, and we naturally met. I had always felt, once he was chosen, that we should have a day together in wine country. I wanted it to be something that his job wouldn’t otherwise expose him to. I know the inner workings of his job, because I worked for a while within the K-J system, as Hardy now is. I wanted it to be something he’d long remember as totally unique.

As we talked about what we’d be doing that night, I told him that I also wanted to do something original, like visit someone I’d never visited before. It was going to have to be a total adventure for both of us. I thought, “Hum… what about Sean Thackrey?” When I started PS I Love You, Sean just sent me two bottles of his 2000 Sirius. For me, they came out of the blue. For him, it was an introduction for me to know his wines. At the time, I didn’t know about Sean Thackrey, yet. Jose, however, was very familiar with Sean’s wines. At the time, Jose was working at the Wine Spectrum selling high end, eclectic wine. He was being exposed to the best of the best, including Sean Thackrey. I was confused, though, not really understanding why I received those two bottles. Today, I totally understand.

So, I emailed him, “Dear Sean, you’ve made a terrible mistake and sent me two bottles that must have been meant for someone else.” He told me to just keep them.

“Hum…” I pondered. Taking my cues from Jose about how amazing the gift was, I gave one to my grandson born in the year 2000, so we can celebrate when he turns 21. Jose and I enjoyed the other on a special occasion. I was then very familiar with Sean. I went on to have him as a guest speaker at the 2007 Foppiano Petite Sirah Symposium’s to talk about his wine making style, and we’ve just kept in touch ever since the gift. I’ve now been yearning to go to Marin to visit with him, but the timing had just never been right.

Hardy said he’d love to go along for the ride, so I thought… “Ride… Hum… Pure Luxury Limousine… That would be a ride!” For me, think limo ~ think Steve Heimoff, because he’s always such a hoot in limo. Yes, I love to party, and I know who the perfect guests are. The environment was created, and a date took shape for January.

So now, back to December and Randall Grahm, Charlie Palmer’s restaurant, and Steve Heimoff…

Charlie Palmer thinks like I do… Special people deserve special treatment once in a while, and he had his staff pull out all of the stops… I mean r-e-a-l-l-y.

We started with a complimentary Champagne. (This was totally cool.) The above image is of my salad. Notice how it’s held together by long, thin cucumber slices.

Between each course that we had ordered, we also enjoyed something especially prepared by Chef  Dustin Valette (above) for us. Our meals were drippingly delicious, and filled our tummies really well. Our wait service was impeccable. Chef  Dustin came out to pay his respects, but truly it was we who needed to compliment him. By the time it came time to even think about desert, we couldn’t think, and so we passed; however, a smorgasbord of delights was still brought to our table regardless. We slowly and delicately tried each one… Each one better than the next. That should have been the close of our wonderful meal, but then we were each delivered a small jar of DCK (Dry Creek Kitchen) Pinot Noir Jelly, and a small brown box tied with a cranberry colored bow. It was filled with ever-so-smooth truffles. I’m still amazed and eternally grateful that Dry Creek Kitchen took the moment to make a huge impression, which has made it a special night to remember for us all.

Randall invited Jose and me to come visit him in the Santa Cruz Mountains… A trip I eagerly anticipate.

This ends today’s story. Tomorrow’s will pick up where this one leaves off, in order to come full circle with the title, How Randall Graham, Steve Heimoff, and Charlie Palmer Led to Sean Thackrey, Steve Heimoff, and Hardy Wallace, because this adventure is only half told.

Tomorrow, we’re off to visit another legend… Sean Thackrey.

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6 Responses to “How Randall Graham, Steve Heimoff, and Charlie Palmer Led to Sean Thackrey, Steve Heimoff, and Hardy Wallace”

  1. Roger says:

    A really mesmerizing story Jo,

    I can’t wait to read the rest.

  2. A great time was had by all on both occasions! Love the bottom pic. Right out of Mayberry (with a nod to American Gothic)>

  3. Jo says:

    Love your Mayberry reference, Steve.

    I can look at that picture without going into hysterics.

    I also love the one of Randall, our Amazing Wait Server, Jose, and you. It’s got an interesting cast of characters… which I think I wrote in this one somewhere…

  4. Jo says:

    Roger, the one tomorrow is also pretty cool. It’s amazing to me how we do something, then internalize it for so long, before it finds a voice. These two days – that tie together well – have been rattling around in my brain for what feels like quite a while.

  5. Denise says:

    Jo – You have always known how to entertain and who doesn’t enjoy a Diaz laugh fest. I too am enjoying your adventures. Denise

  6. Jo says:

    Denise… You’re so funny. A Diaz laugh fest, indeed.

    It takes one to know one, Sanders Laugh Fest et al… Let’s do lunch, again. We can catch up on your winery stories… and laugh it out.

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