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April 16, 2012

High Museum Wine Auction Dinner at The Johnson’s House

Fine Wines + Bocado Chef + Haute Home = A Divine Time

By Nancy Staab

  • Photos by

With Blackbird Vineyards and Whetstone Wine Cellars as the pours, chef Todd Ginsberg of Bocado in the kitchen, and the handsome Johnson estate as the setting, the ingredients were carefully assembled for a memorable spring night. Sprinkle in a chic guest list and High Museum as the sponsor, and this wine auction was taste personified.

Hosts Mary and Neil Johnson Hosts Mary and Neil Johnson




















The VIPs

Hosts Neil and Mary Johnson,  Michael Polenske the founder of Blackbird Vineyards, Winemaker Jamey Whetstone of Whetstone Wine Cellars, and Chef Todd Ginsberg of Bocado

The Venue

The handsome, hillside home and pool terrace of Neil and Mary Johnson

The Scene-Makers

Among the epicurean and art afficionado crowd: Robin and Hilton Howell, Ginny and Charles Brewer, Dennis Dean, Michelle and David Crosland, Danielle Rollins, Liz and Mark Lazarus, Caroline and Jeff Tucker, Robin Delmer, Nancy Rollins


Robin Howell, Michelle Crosland Robin Howell, Michelle Crosland

Spring-attired guests, many bearing hostess gifts, enjoyed sipping Blackbird Vineyard’s Arriviste 2011 and Whetstone’s Viognier poolside for the cocktail hour.  Guests also sampled Ginsberg’s passed appetizers on silver trays, including mussels with aioli on toasts and oysters with mignonette and black caviar. As the sun set, guest retired into the Johnson’s home, where the elegant, De Gournay wallpapered dining room held a table full of wine glasses by candlelight. In a window-filled sunroom, several lavish dining tables, swathed in black-and-white toile tablecloths, were set up for the feast.  Tall candle pillars with florals made gorgeous centerpieces, while a collection of antique silver hunting trophies and goblets from the Johnson’s family collection added extra embellishment to the table. As wine glasses flowed and the meal progressed, festive guests made toasts to the vineyard owners, chef and hosts.

The Menu

First Course:

Vermont burrata with La Quercia prosciutto, strawberries, dressed kale, salsa verde, and almonds


Blackbird Vineyards 2009 arise

Whetstone 2010 Chardonnay, Canereos el Pajaro


Ginny and Charles Brewer Ginny and Charles Brewer

Second Course:

Black trumpet purée with whipped ricotta, brown butter, sunchokes, kohlrabi, English peas, and arugula


Whetstone 2009 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Pleasant Hill

Whetstone 2009 Pinot Noir, Sonoma coast, Bella Vigna Vineyard


Third Course:

Braised beef cheeks, polenta, Japanese turnips and their greens, marinated baby beets, jus


Blackbird Vineyards 2009 Illustration

Blackbird Vineyards 2009 Paramour


Fourth Course:

Sour cherry bread pudding and a spoon of époisses


Whetstone 2007 Syrah, Napa Valley, Phoenix Ranch Vineyard

Blackbird Vineyards 2009 Contrarian


The Cause

The High Wine Auction is the largest fundraiser of the year for the High Museum of Art and the fifth-largest charity wine auction in the U.S. according to the Wine Spectator. Proceeds from the High Wine Auction benefit High Museum programs, education and acquisitions.


Michael Polenske of Blackbird Vineyards and Danielle Rollins Michael Polenske of Blackbird Vineyards and Danielle Rollins