EMERIL IN HOPLAND
Kicks It Up A Notch
Famed chef, television personality and author Emeril Lagasse roared through Mendocino County for his annual fundraising effort and harvest visit. Fetzer’s beautiful Valley Oaks Ranch in Hopland was Emeril’s home base for the last week of September.
A consecutive trio of fun-filled events was the highlight of Emeril’s visit to Mendocino’s wine country. More than $120,000 was raised from the three events, with proceeds going to the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, which provides funding for programs that inspire and mentor young people, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances. Emeril also donated more than $28,000 to the local Ukiah school district’s “Growing Healthy Kids” program.
Fetzer’s Reserve Garden at Valley Oaks was the site of Friday evening’s al fresco kick-off event, “Emeril Under the Stars,” an upscale dinner and auction. Emeril prepared the elegant dinner together with select chefs from his award-winning restaurants. Spirited auctioneer Fritz Hatton joined Emeril and managed to raise lots of paddles and money during dinner for a successful start to the weekend’s events. The post-dinner entertainment included a show from New Orleans recording artist Jeremy Davenport. The soirée really got under way when Emeril jumped on stage with the band and played drums for most of the evening. Many do not know that Emeril actually went to college on a music scholarship to study percussion.
Saturday’s first event, “Emeril in the Harvest Sun,” began at 9 a.m. with seminars and demonstrations staged throughout the property by an army of food and wine experts. Emeril took the main stage before lunch and gave a lively cooking demonstration to 1,500 guests who were eager to hear his signature “Bam!” while showing off his culinary talents. Everyone in the audience was treated to a taste of his creation, Root Beer-Glazed Pork Chops with Bourbon-Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Caramelized Onions. Attendees then had the opportunity to taste Emeril’s new release Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay wines that he produces in conjunction with Fetzer.
The Old Barn at Fetzer’s Hopland winery held the finale event, “Emeril Under the Harvest Moon.” The casual, intimate event started with what Emeril called a “Bam-B-Q” as he and his chefs prepared a delicious kicked-up barbecue style dinner for the guests. The evening turned into quite the rip-roaring party when legendary party band Rhythmtown-Jive took the stage.