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2016-08-22 07:03:40

And that nymph will seat you Scores of creamy halos flickered from sconces and candelabras around and on the tables at the first vintner dinner John Scot Mueller and Judith Liegeois hosted during the 2005 Naples Winter Wine Festival. Guests thrilled to its artful garland of candlelight. Back in the kitchen, Chef David Myers, of Los Angeles haute dining spot Sona, was experiencing his own thrill: working frenetically in the same dim light, his gas stove and grill supplemented solely by candles. The extra equipment needed to stage the dinner? power for a band, trucked in refrigerators and more? had blown a transformer and thrown their entire Aqualane Shores neighborhood into darkness, except for Liegeois' serendipitous candlelight. On this year's master schedule, a generator arrives Tuesday. It's one of several insurance measures the couple now takes in the staging of a vintner's dinner, long considered one of the stars in the wine festival's diadem. The other: Two dishwashers, who will spend all evening dealing with the couple's expansive inventory of Riedel crystal stemware. Some 396 glasses are expected to take a dip through hot, sudsy water in the Mueller Liegeois kitchen. "The amount of glasses that gets used amazes me," confessed Mueller, listening as his assistant, Margaret Short, counted off the types of glasses that will be used when two vintners share honors at their dinner: Champagne, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon and at least five other reds, even a grappa glass. Piero Incisa della Rocchetta is treating them to a rare taste of Sassicaia, grown for his Tenuta San Guido estate in a one on the planet microclimate in Italy. Among the bottles fellow vintner Bill Phelps will bring from California is his father's groundbreaking Insignia blend? the second vintage, bottled in 1978. Each of the 36 guests here will have handled 11 glasses by the time the evening wafts into early morning departures in limousines. The supporters, who pay either $7,500 per couple or $20,000 for four to attend vintners' dinners and the wine auction, are wisely supplied limo transportation part of their amenities. Hosts such as Liegeois and Mueller have their own transportation costs. The festival flies in chefs and their staff? Rick Tramonto of Tru restaurant in Chicago is bringing two sous chefs and a sommelier? but the hosts pay for their hotel and travel around Naples. Luckily, the couple have as cohosts Sandy and Jim Figge, now of Napa but formerly of Naples, who will share costs and supply a second sommelier, their son, Peter. Mueller and Liegeois also chair the festival's auction lot room, where Liegeois' artistic sense presides for its decor. Her fianc is "fetcher, carrier and sweat equity" participant, he jokes. Mueller's dedication also extends to being on the grant committee, Liegeois' to the decor committee. The two say they depend critically on Short, a former Naples Winter Wine Festival employee and now Mueller's personal assistant. This week she will print daily schedules for each of them, memory joggers for their responsibilities and appointments. The lists also detail arrivals, to the hour, of every contractor? electricians, lighting designers, florists, furniture rental? at the house. "They change a lot," she warned of the times. Both sets of hosts will dine with Tramonto at Bleu Provence after his arrival to get to know their chef. Tramonto already knows them. "I even get a set of blueprints and photos of the home's kitchen so I know what I'm working with," he said. "Probably 50 percent of the menu for this dinner is from recipes from my own books, but the other half is created especially for this dinner." It's a double challenge, created by both the caliber of the festival and the uniqueness of the wines, he added. He may not get to taste the exact vintages while he's planning. But Tramonto says he has enough of these wines in his restaurants to pair directly with his eight course dinner. It includes white truffle risotto with vermouth crema; roasted sturgeon with braised oxtail, spiced carrot, natural jus; and a warm apple stack with white pepper anglaise. Tramonto will ship six 6 foot tall refrigerated boxes? known by the prickly term "coffins" in the trade? full of the specialty stocks and sauces for which Tru, his flagship Chicago restaurant, is known. Another container is Tramonto's equivalent of a mechanic's toolbox, holding a sticklike burr mixer for pureeing; a chinois, the versatile strainer that can deliver smooth soups or dust fine desserts with confectioner's sugar; specialty china for appetizers; and his own knives, among other things. Chefs and vintners rarely stay with hosts because of the transformation worked on their homes. By their Thursday meeting with Tramonto, the Mueller Liegeois living room will have traded its contemporary furniture for a trio of 8 by 8 foot tables with chairs, accompanying linens, china and silver ready. Some of the materials are rented. Bailey, their golden retriever, the two cats, including Harry, who is already complaining loudly about his banishment, and Kowalla, a feisty white cockatoo, will be boarded. The couple's courtyard swimming pool will be topped by lights and a frosted Plexiglas dance floor so guests can sway to a band underneath a leafy arbor. By this time, costumes should be ready for the nymphs who will escort guests into what Liegeois calls their interpretation of the dinner's "Earthly Delights" theme. Bob and Beverly Walbridge, former art department directors for Seacrest Country Day School, are erecting an arbor over the courtyard, but under the screen that may be needed to ward off rain. The couple doesn't know exactly what it will all look like. "But we have to believe it's going to be better than anything we could imagine," said Liegeois, who says the Walbridges have created fantasy decor for years at Seacrest's Gala for Treasures. "They've moved to Orlando, but they're still big, big supporters of Naples." Both Liegeois and Mueller? who actually proposed to her during a vintner's dinner? say they're big supporters of Naples too, and that the Winter Wine Festival gives them a chance to support it in a more effective way. "I enjoy being part of this group. They're so benevolent as individuals, but put all these people together and you set a powerful force in motion to change things for the better," Mueller explained. Michigan born Mueller, founder of Relleum Co., which handles other granite and custom home building material companies, and New Zealand native Liegeois, of JLT Interior Design, excel at another requisite of being a host at the wine festival: a sense of humor. "If I weren't with the wine festival, my employees would wonder about me," Mueller said. "Every week a box arrives at my office with things like wigs or eyebrows for the nymphs." He and Liegeois remember the second year's dinner tale: An elevator that Mueller had Ray Ban RB4167 Sunglasses Yellow Gradient Honey Frame Brown Grad
Ray Ban RB4167 Sunglasses Yellow Gradient Honey Frame Brown Grad installed to replace the circular staircase into a garage loft. Two employees got caught upstairs, and it was well into the evening before they could be freed.

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