The Napa Valley Wine Wave

Founded in 1861, the Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena has been the site of plenty of action over the years. But this weekend’s record-setting relay wine toast had to be a first for those venerable grounds.

There was food, there was music, there were speeches, happily of the shortwinded variety, and there were stunning green lawns spread out under a blue October sky. Oh, and there was wine, lots of wine, to facilitate the  Napa Valley Wine Wave, a community effort to set a Guinness World Record.

The event was created by the St. Helena Kiwanis Club, in partnership  with the wineries of Appellation St. Helena, CHEERS! St. Helena and the St. Helena Chamber of Commerce, as a way to raise money for scholarships in agriculture, viticulture, winemaking, business and hospitality industries.

The mission: beat the previous record of 321 set in Guangzhou, China, in November 2011. The method:  Form a giant, snaking line and clink, sip, turn, clink, sip. The result: 487 toasts, a new world record.

As a participant, I can tell you it was a lot more stressful than you might imagine. Sure, it sounds simple enough, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget that second sip, especially when one is under the eyes of a Guinness World Record adjudicator. “I’m from the Napa Valley. I’m relying on muscle memory,” announced one of my line-mates.

I am pleased to report that I did not drop my glass, forget to turn or make any slips between the clink and the sip.

As it happened, I was with my own representative of Guangzhou, Mr. Vinecdote, who came along as camera man.

Let me digress briefly to note that our start was slightly delayed when he presented himself in his oldest pair of jeans, a wrinkled shirt and a face full of stubble that was more “Police Find Man Lost in Woods” than “Bradley Cooper Takes Late-Night Stroll in Paris.” Time has mercifully blotted out the footwear situation but it may very well have been his cherished combo of black (faux) Crocs and white socks.

A brief conversation about the proper attire for a record wine toast ensued and he reappeared five minutes later smooth of face still wrinkled of shirt but impeccably shod in brown leather.

I must say he took the besting of his hometown very well — to the point that I had to ask: “Aren’t you sad to see Guangzhou lose the record?”

“Guangzhou?” he said. “I thought they were saying Quanzhou (an entirely different city it turns out).”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how international incidents occur, although not this time.

The wine used for the toast was Charles Krug zinfandel, which was delicious, although what with one thing and another I only got about four sips of it. (Two practice, two for the official toast.)

That clearly needed to be remedied and after we got home I had to think for a minute. What, exactly, is the correct tipple for celebrating a wine record set for Guinness? And then it came to me: vodka.

Cheers, record-settingly.

Napa Valley Wine Wave /Photo Pang Ho