There are just some places that once you’ve visited, they’ve found a home deep within your heart.

The Longboat Key Club has done such a thing to me… And the placement is so deep that I find myself not only continually finding my way back, but also bringing others along for the experience.

This past April, I arranged with Jan Crudele and Sandy Loevner of the Florida Winefest & Auction to allow me to setup a Petite Sirah panel that included the following:

Honestly, that wasn’t enough for me, either. I also arranged for Greg Lint (president) and Jeff Herinckx (winemaker) of Willamette Valley’s Oak Knoll Winery to sign up for the Florida Winefest & Auction, as well as Black Coyote Chateau (represented by Jose Diaz, their marketing director).

Now that this is a “past” experience, you’d think that this satisfied my need to be there? Absolutely not!

We’ve already begun the panel for 2009, which is going to be called, “Cab is King.” And, the cast of characters is already underway, with some very exciting additions to be announced when finalized.

The bottom line for me is this… It’s taken me a few years to get back there, but it’s time for this to be an annual event again. It’s such a beautiful venue, it’s for a worthy cause (Children’s Charities), and I get to return to this wonderful place that’s become part of my soul… The Longboat Key Club.

Why is this place so fabulous?

  • It’s paradise. The tropical experience is like no other in the United States. (Hawaii and Puerto Rico are other options for me, but this one is within the mainland’s borders, which makes it a bit easier to get to.)
  • The attention to detail and service amenities are done to perfection by their staff.
  • Their Gulf Coast white sand beach is gorgeous, with their aquamarine surf pounding on the beach… More paradise.
  • The condo-style living has a home-away-from-home feeling.

This season, because we were sharing a condo with the guys from Oak Knoll Winery, we were given a first floor hospitality suite. It was one that I used to visit in past years, but this year’s was given to Greg, Jeff, Jose, and me. We were positioned right in front of the pool and Jacuzzi, with our own private deck and walkway to the beach.

Okay… I had to pinch myself several times. It was a condo that begged for a party, so we had one on our last night.

While beachcombing, I met a new friend, who also loves the seashell collecting aspects of this area. Her name is Ada Levy, and is a recent transplant from Ohio. Ada now permanently lives on this island, and we got to chatting about the plethora of seashells that litter the beach with each new tide’s offering.

[Pictured left to right: Jeff Hendrickx, Jose Diaz, John Monnich, Greg Lint, Judie Monnich, and Helen Concannon]

Ada asked what brought me to the island. I shared that I’m in the wine business and working at the Florida Winefest. She then shared that Bogle is her favorite wine. I shared that Patty Bogle is a friend, and decided to invite her to our grand finale vintner party on our final night together. Ada and her husband Lucien Levy were our guests that night on the deck… And, it was their turn to pinch themselves. Several times Lucien said to me, “Jo, this is just so special. So many people go to winemaker dinners just to get close to one winemaker. This just isn’t something that anyone outside of the wine business has access to. We feel so privileged.”

[Pictured left to right: Jim Concannon, Ada Levy, Miro Tcholakov, Lucien Levy]

He was right. He was surrounded by one winemaker after another, but he was also someone who understood how lucky we all were, and I thank Longboat Key Club for having made it all possible for all of us.

If you’re traveling to the Gulf Coast, this is one place that’s worth finding. The comfort, friendly over-the-top service, and lush tropical surroundings are magnificent and worth the drive from the mainland to the island.

As we all headed to the airport, we were formulating our plans for 2009!