Napa wine stars at this year's Bacchanal

On Nov. 9, for the 15th consecutive year, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts will host Bacchanal.

This year's gala will celebrate Napa and the historic 1976 Paris Tasting, featuring distinguished winemakers and chef Kevin Sbraga, chef-owner of Sbraga and the forthcoming The Fat Ham.

Bacchanal 2013 will be held in the Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building (128 N. Broad St.) and include wine tastings, silent and live auctions of unique items and travel destinations, a four-course dinner, and dancing. 

During Bacchanal 2013, PAFA will honor individuals and wineries that were instrumental in The Making of Napa with the presentation of the Thomas Jefferson Award to the  honorees Mike Grgich, Founder and Winemaker, Grgich Hills Estate; Warren Winiarski, Founder, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars; and George Taber, Author of The Judgment of Paris.

Live auction highlights include:

• The Winiarski Legacy: Dinner for four with Warren Winiarski at his home overlooking the famed vineyards that were the source of his celebrated 1973 Cabernet joined by three next generation Napa Valley winemakers: John Kongsgaard of Kongsgaard; Françoise Peschon, Winemaker, Vine Hill Ranch, and former Director of Winemaking, Araujo Estate; and Michael Silacci of Opus One. Also included are private tours with the winemakers and signed magnums, including a special bottle from Warren Winiarski’s private cellar.

• The Grgich Wine Experience: This once-in-a-lifetime invitation to immerse yourself in the ultimate vineyard experience. A group of six will enjoy a two-night stay at the Grgich Victorian Vineyard Home, along with private tours, tastings and an intimate dinner with Mike Grgich’s daughter, Violet Grgich, and her family.

• Foodies: Get in the Kitchen with Bravo’s Top Chef, Kevin Sbraga: A private cooking class for two with Bacchanal 2013 Celebrity Chef, Kevin Sbraga, and a mixology class with bartender and Rittenhouse Row Cocktail Competition winner, Anwar Morgan. Followed by an exclusive dinner and a signed menu.

• A variety of sought-after and cult wines from private collections: Verticals, horizontals and large-format signed bottles including Bordeaux First Growths, Petrus, Latour and Haut Brion and American wineries including Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Joseph Phelps, BOND, David Ramey, VIADER and Continuum.

The 1976 Paris tasting, or Judgment of Paris as it became known, had a revolutionary effect as it changed the world’s view of California wines forever. Curious to see how these newcomers would fare against French wines made from the same kind of grapes, British wine merchant Steven Spurrier arranged a blind wine tasting in celebration of the American Bicentennial activities in Paris on May 24, 1976. The French tasters chosen for the event had impeccable professional credentials. The French wines were first and other classified-growth red Bordeaux and white Burgundies. They were matched against California Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays. The tasting was blind, with the identities of the wines concealed and the labels revealed only after the jury of nine tasters had voted its order of preference.

The unthinkable happened. The 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon —t he first vintage produced with grapes from vines a mere three years old by winemaker Warren Winiarski — was judged the best red wine. The Cabernet had bested four top-ranked Bordeaux, including first-growths Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Haut-Brion. Meanwhile, the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay created by winemaker Mike Grgich bested the finest white wines of Burgundy. Since this historic event, the 1976 Paris tasting has been duplicated over the years, often with similar results.

During Bacchanal 2013, guests will enjoy the following wines with dinner created by Sbraga:

• 1st Course: Grgich Hills Chardonnay 2010; Château Montelena Chardonnay 2009

• 2nd Course: Grgich Hills Zinfandel 2008

• 3rd Course: Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars ARTEMIS 2010

• 4th Course: Selection of Port

Bacchanal is PAFA’s flagship wine affair, raising over $500,000 annually to support PAFA student scholarships and education programs. Since Bacchanal’s inception in 1999, the event has raised over $4.5 million. This vibrant support has been invested in the Philadelphia community and has helped promote arts education.

Consistently recognized as the premier wine and auction event in the region, Bacchanal was cited in 2010 by Haute Living Magazine as one of the “Five Best Galas in Philadelphia.”

Tickets start at $750 a person. To inquire about Bacchanal 2013, please contact Judite Morais at or call 215-972-2037.