Thursday, June 12, 2008

Report from ... A Toast to Dionysus at Mastronardi Winery – June 7, 2008

Dionysus: the Greek God of wine and inspirer of madness. That about sums up A Toast to Dionysus at Mastronardi, now in its third year, an event that features wine, music and a cause – the Irish Rovers put it best when they sang: “wasn’t that a party”, and while no cats were talked to or car chases with police happened – it was a wild time.

The day started with some winery touring of the area (those stops will appear in the newsletter over the months ahead). Then to a specially created dinner at a restaurant in Kingsville called Mephisto’s Grill and Lounge (15 Main Street West) where an awesome “small portion” meal was available. Guests of Dionysus were invited to take part in this $25 a head dinner menu that featured salmon, chicken or beef. I had the chicken medallions, my partner in crime had the beef tenderloin, both came with plenty of fixin’s like potatoes and veggies and both were excellent … I know because we shared. I mentioned the “small portions” part because the waitress told us that usually there’s more food on the plate, but they were requested to scale down because of the hors d’oeuvres being served during the party. The size of the meal was ample as it was and we couldn’t imagine being served more. Now let’s go meet the God of Wine’s disciples.

Might as well get this out of the way right away: the only glitch I heard about, and witnessed, was the confusion over the start time. Clearly printed on the ticket was “6:30PM”, but early arrivals were not allowed entry and were asked to wait in the wine store. Now for those of you who have been you’ll know that Mastronardi’s wine store is not that big, and with over a dozen people the place because cramped and crowded (or so I was told). I opted to wait in the car, with the windows down, and took a brief catnap that my lazy feline would have been jealous of.

Once the doors opened all was forgiven … there was a complementary glass of wine offered upon entry, hors d’oeuvres were served at your table, and wine, water, pop and Sangria were available for purchase (sausages were made available later in the evening for a pay-what-you-want donation charge). The Sangria to which I referred is a Mastronardi exclusive. For $5 a glass you got this fruity concoction made with their Zweigelt-Baco blend (sold by the pail to restaurants and available at events Mastronardi attends or holds) – awesome, thirst quenching and definitely worth the price. Eadie Mastronardi refused to share the recipe with me, beyond the wine used – maybe if you get a few into her she’ll share, but not tonight.

It’s important to remember that Dionysus is a fundraising effort for Batten Disease ( a neurological disease that affects, primarily, children. Our hosts for the evening, Eadie and Tony Mastronardi’s daughter, Brittany, succumbed to the disease at the age of 11, and they have been working tirelessly to promote and raise both awareness of the disease and funds for a cure. The very first bottle of wine made and sold at Mastronardi Winery was called “Brianje” (Brittany Angel) and was, and still is, a Riesling whose proceeds go towards Batten’s. Talk about turning tragedy into a celebration: that is what Dionysus is all about.

I’ve described the booze, the reason for the event, and the 450 people under the big top tent complete with chandeliers (okay – so this is my first mention – see picture on left). But now it’s time to talk about the entertainment. First the bad news … the comedy duo, the Doo Wops, who were suppose to perform, dropped out last minute due to laryngitis – not a good thing for a performer, especially one who talks for a living. A local comedian named Leo Dufour replaced them – he was excellent, but stayed on a little too long, he had lost half the crowd about halfway through his allotted time. Not surprising really, people were there to see Pavlo, who put on an excellent performance – full of life and exotic music, as well as popular favourites. He played “Little Green Bag” with a Mediterranean flair, this proved to be a real highlight of his opening set and he dedicated the song to Eadie Mastronardi.

Intermission was the time for the door prize draw, played out to the theme of Deal or No Deal – with twelve suitcases and models of all shapes, sizes and sexes … though I did notice that the female suitcases were picked first. Pavlo returned to play a rousing rendition of “Bésame Mucho”, with jazz trumpeter Brownman Ali leading the way. He closed with a tune call “Cumbersome” (or that’s what we heard him introduce it as) and promised us all he’d return next year – to much approval of the boisterous wine soaked crowd.

I wish I could report the goings on of the
final act: The Fabulous Soul Shakers, but the combination of an early train the next morning and a previous late night of Adam Sandler films (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry & Reign Over Me) forced me to leave early … though I am told these guys “rock”, especially from a couple of self admitted Soul Shaker Groupies, who claimed they were there more for them than Pavlo (a rarity in this crowd) … maybe next year I’ll have a better understanding of the Bacchanalia I’m getting involved in and catch the right amount of zzz’s the night before.

And with that my night was over, but as I left I scanned the crowd one more time. Eadie was aglow with the excitement of the evening – the planning was over, the enjoy
ment time was here you could see the weight lifted from her shoulders. The crowd was still abuzz from the electrifying performance of Pavlo and it hit me: that as much as this night is about raising money for the charity and awareness for the disease – and is dedicated to the memory of a forever young eleven year old girl – spirits were also raised on this night, both to our lips and in our collective hearts.

No comments: