Attending wine country events never gets old, and attending wine country events that raise funds for great causes is really where its at. It’s wonderful to live in a community where raising funds for great causes is a lifestyle—and there certainly seems to be no shortage of those who generously give back to people in need.
About Project Zin
For the past five years, Clay and Carrie Mauritson of Mauritson Wines have teamed up with renowned Chef Charlie Palmer at his Dry Creek Kitchen restaurant, located within Hotel Healdsburg, to raise funds for the Down Syndrome Association of North Bay (DSANB). Project Zin brings together twenty-one premier Zinfandel producers and more than a dozen culinary experts with which to wine and dine guests during the fundraiser. A silent auction with astounding vacation packages, vertical wine collections, spa experiences, and more is followed by a live paddle raise in which attendees are able to donate anywhere from $50 to $2,500.
Silent Auction & Paddle Raise
This year’s main auction item, the only getaway to be auctioned off live, was a 3-Night Dream Escape to Paradise—an all inclusive stay for eight guests in a four bedroom suite at the Four Season Resort in Punta Mita. The final results of the live auction, paddle raise and silent auction totaled an impressive amount of $75,000. With this vast amount of funds raised for the DSANB, the immense opportunity this opens up for the parents and kids of DSANB is simply incredible.
Supporting DSANB Families
“We have been able to do unbelievable things with the money we have raised at Project Zin,” Clay Mauritson stated during the paddle raise. “The most important thing we are doing here is raising awareness for our children. The second most important thing we are doing here is raising funds, and these paddle raises have really enriched the lives of our children,” Clay stated proudly, with son Brady standing by his side. “We can’t thank the support of the wine community and the culinary community enough.” Indeed, as this highly successful fundraiser has succeeded in raising enough funds for DSANB to host camps, activities, classes and so much more over the last five years—making these opportunities free for the families of DSANB.
“Doing these events is all about you,” Chef Charlie Palmer reiterated during the paddle raise. “All those who have been so generous and giving—we couldn’t do this without you.” A total of more than $250,000 has been raised over the last five years—an incredible accomplishment that has supported and enriched the lives of so many families.
21 Premier Zinfandel Producers
The star Zinfandel of the event was without a doubt Mauritson Wines’ 2013 Rockpile Zinfandel. Black cherry cola and minerality aromatics give way to a medium bodied palate with soft tannins, full of blackberry, black cherry and blueberry fruit alongside subtle notes of granite, earth and baking spices. This wine shows excellent structure and complexity in its youth—definitely a fine candidate for aging.
Turley Wine Cellars’ 2013 Sonoma Valley Zinfandel showed well, with red cherry cola and vanilla on the nose, and baking spice, rhubarb, black cherry and blackberry on the palate. Another lovely, young 2013 was Ridge Vineyards’ classic Lytton Springs Vineyard Zinfandel with aromatics of vanilla, black cherry and clove; the deep, rich palate is full of complex black and red fruit with vanilla and spice. Sbragia Family Vineyards’ 2013 La Promesa was by far the most robust Zinfandel of the night—aromas of pepper and black cherry abound, while the palate boasts strong oak, a full body and flavors of vanilla, red cherry liqueur, blackberry and lingering blueberry in the background.
More Than a Dozen Culinary Experts
Leading the way in culinary expertise was none other than Chef Charlie Palmer’s very own Dry Creek Kitchen, serving up wood-grilled NY strip steak with white corn grits, sweet corn and truffle relish, and Zinfandel jus. This tender piece of steak was perfectly complemented by the Zinfandel jus, and had excellent flavor complexity with the accompaniment of the creamy white corn grits. The sweet corn and truffle relish provided a bit of contrast and brightened the rich flavors for an overall delightful tasting experience.
Diavola’s sausage pizza with plentiful olive oil, crushed tomatoes and mascarpone cheese had a unique flavor profile that went above and beyond most pizza-tasting experiences. The crust was perfectly crispy while the combination of ingredients was not too rich or overwhelming, but just the right amount of each to provide an excellently-balanced slice of Italian heaven.
Bourbon House, literally flying all the way in from New Orleans’ Bourbon Street with plentiful amounts of crawfish, served up a trifecta of New Orleans cuisine. Seriously delicious gumbo with an immense amount of depth and flavor, fresh crawfish, and a moist, flavorful hush puppy made Bourbon House’s menu complete. The incredible depth of flavor complexity in the gumbo was recognizable as hours of flavor development and simmer time, while the crawfish couldn't have been any more tender, juicy and fresh. The hush puppy was packed with delicious ingredients such as crab and andouille sausage, and fried to perfection with its delectable crispy outer coating.
Bringing together the very best in Zinfandel production, along with renowned, talented chefs from the local area, is certainly a pleasure to experience. More important though, is that the wine and food is really only a perk to an evening that is full of enrichment for the families of DSANB. Cheers to Clay and Carrie Mauritson, to Chef Charlie Palmer and his fabulous Dry Creek Kitchen restaurant in Hotel Healdsburg, and the community at DSANB—whose families deserve the immense amount of generosity that our local community has for those in need.
*Originally published on Examiner.com.