Food and wine fans from across the country will have a chance to share in a virtual community dinner in one of four cities on September 20 as part of a special event by Rodney Strong Vineyards. Benefitting the James Beard Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports culinary heritage in American through education and community, the multi-course dinners will take place in Healdsburg, California, at Rodney Strong Vineyards; in New York, at Oceana restaurant; in Miami, at the Biltmore; and in Austin, at Uchi

In previous years, the Rodney Strong has hosted individual dinners across the country with prominent chefs in an effort to introduce food and wine lovers to their broad range of food friendly wines. This weekend’s dinner will be the first to be broadcast live to each of the participating restauarnts on in-house television screens as well as online. 

The evening’s emcee, author and wine personality Leslie Sbrocco, will greet guests and others around the country from Rodney Strong in Healdsburg, California. She’ll be joined by Food & Wine executive wine editor, Ray Isle in New York at Oceana restaurant, Food & Wine contributing editor, Anthony Giglio at the Biltmore Hotel in Miami, and radio show host, Ziggy the Wine Gal at Uchi in Austin, as they connect live to share the evening.

In Austin, Uchi’s dinner is as follows:

Passed appetizers by Jeff Mall of Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar in Healdsburg, CA

Eastside Farm’s Eggs & Shishito Peppers, deviled with Miso & Pickled with Ginger.

2013 Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon

First course by Tatsu Aikawa, Ramen Tatsu-Ya

Kombu Dashi Soup, Foie, Daikon

2012 Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay

Second course by Tyson Cole, Uchi Restaurants

King crab, kabocha, nasturtium, lemon

2012 Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Third course by James Robert, upcoming Fixe

Smoked Beef Neck, Potato and Peanut, Barbecued Okra

2011 Rodney Strong Symmetry (Red Meritage), Alexander Valley

2010 Rodney Strong Brother Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley

Dessert by Janina O’Leary, laV

Chocolate coconut meringue tart, thyme, salted chocolate cremeux, almond

2008 Rodney Strong A True Gentleman’s Port


We spoke with Robert Larsen of Rodney Strong Vineyards to find out about the big event and what guests and online viewers from home across the country can expect. 

How did the idea of this virtual community dinner come about? 

Rodney Strong owner, Tom Klein and I had talked about doing something special to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of family ownership. At first, we were just going to host a big dinner at the vineyard, but a few other things came together. We have always been a big supporter of the James Beard Foundation and we have also hosted many celebrity chef dinners across the country for the past few years. Over a few glasses of wine one night, we hatched a plan to do one simultaneous dinner event across the country.

How did you select the four different cities to participate? 

Well we already knew we wanted to host one at the vineyards in Healdsburg. From there we talked to our staff to see which areas of the country would suit a wine dinner like this. New York, Florida, and Texas are all big markets for Rodney Strong wines and so we started working with the relationships we have in those states to narrow down where we would host each dinner.

What made you settle on Austin and Uchi for this dinner? 

Austin was a natural pick for us. It’s one of the fastest growing cities in the country with people moving there from all over. People are going there because it’s a hip place and they like to go out and have a fine meal, which is often accompanied by fine wine. The food scene there is just off the charts and it continues to get stronger.

We have great relationships in Austin and it was immediately clear that Uchi was our top pick for a restaurant host. Getting a chance to work with a James Beard award winner like Tyson Cole of Uchi was also a key for us.

How will the night go? What can observers expect to witness? 

Each of the dinners are modeled after the special invite-only dinners at the James Beard House in New York. They include a one hour reception with passed hors d’ouerves followed by a five-course dinner paired with our wines.

A live video feed from each location will link the cities together through an online broadcast with multiple viewing screens in each restaurant so guests can see what other cities are having. Each person at the dinner will receive a program with a complete menu from every location. It will be interesting to lay out a cross section of those menus to see what people are having with each wine.

And what’s great is, even those not attending the event, can watch it live online at

The diversity in food is pretty broad, not only at the Austin dinner, but for each of the dinners. How does this relate to what Rodney Strong Wines are about? 

Our winemakers strive for balance and ripe flavors with proper balance of tannin and acidity and I think that translates across the board for all of our wines. When we drill down to certain sites, it’s about the expression of the grapes from their specific plates like our single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, or our Chalk Hill Chardonnay, which is something we’ve been making since the mid- 1970s.

But more than that, our wines lend themselves to a number of different cuisines, which each of the menus being served represent very well.

What do you hope guests will take away from the experience? 

On the face of it, I really hope everyone has a great time. It’s a unique experience to eat something different across the country but have the same wines. The shared dinner will be a fantastic celebration. I hope the people sitting around the tables enjoy the experience of having 20 chefs feed all of these people at the same time while they enjoy these wines. We hope it’s a great way for them to discover our wines and enjoy them in the future. This is a way for people to virtually come together in for a high-tone experience and see things in a new light.

We are also excited to be use this as another opportunity for us to support the James Beard Foundation. These chefs are all giving their time to this event for the JBF and it’s great that at the end of the evening, the foundation will benefit from such a community experience shared across the country. 

Festivities begin at 7:00 p.m. and tickets are $225 per person. Click here for more information.