Vintners’ Holidays in Yosemite: Managing the Wining & Dining at The Ahwahnee

If you have ever attended Vintners’ Holidays at The Ahwahnee in Yosemite, pat yourself on the back for choosing one of California’s most treasured landscapes to do your wine tasting. Napa Valley notwithstanding, Yosemite Valley offers the National Historic Landmark Ahwahnee hotel as one of the premier venues to taste California wines. Each fall for the past 35 years, California vintners have gathered in Yosemite National Park to share their knowledge (and their wine!) with park visitors. For the past four years, Kathy Langley has managed the Vintners’ Holidays event for The Ahwahnee, and as you may imagine, she really enjoys her work! Kathy shared her views on the event in the interview below.

Q1: How many years have you been involved in planning the event?
A1: Four years as the Food & Wine Events Manager [Kathy worked many years as a concierge at The Ahwahnee involved in the events prior to becoming the manager].

Q2:What makes The Ahwahnee a venue that a wine lover must check out at least once?
A2: Enjoying wine is a good thing. Enjoying wine in Yosemite is a great thing!

Q3:What do you look for when looking for speakers to present their wines?
A3: A variety of wines, grape-growing regions, and personalities

Q4: Do you have a certain session you are looking forward to and what do each have to offer guests?
A4: That’s really a difficult question to answer as each session has something unique to offer. However, at Session 4, Joy Sterling of Iron Horse Vineyards will be pouring their Summit Cuvee in honor of Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s ascent of the Dawn Wall on El Capitan in Yosemite. Kevin is a Sonoma County boy, born and raised.

Q5: What is your favorite part of the event?
A5: Getting the first of six sessions started. That’s really seeing the fruits of my labor come to life!

Q6: Do you have a certain wine that is your favorite?
A6: The one in my glass!

Q7: What special memories do you have attending and help organizing the event? A7: Getting to know the vintners and their families. I’ve had the privilege of seeing their children grow up over the years of their visits to Yosemite for Vintners’ Holidays.

Q8: How does the executive chef at The Ahwahnee make it over-the-top when pairing food and wine?
A8: Chef Percy Whatley has an amazing palate and is a real wizard at pairing. The vintners agree, in that their comments with regard to the pairing of the wine is typically, “He nailed it!”

Q9: What makes Vintners’ Holidays different from other wine events?
A9: The opportunity to meet the actual winemakers and proprietors of the wineries. There are very few events that feature the actual winemakers.

Q10: How does the scenery and The Ahwahnee’s history add to the venue?
A10: Tasting seminars are held in the Great Lounge – what a spectacular place to sip wine! Most events of this type are held in hotel banquet rooms – not exactly a warm and fuzzy place to be! Here you sip…look at Half Dome…sip again…look at Yosemite Falls.

Q11: Why do you think it has continued all these years?
A11: The combination of wine and Yosemite with The Ahwahnee as the event venue is pretty hard to beat. Over the course of two or three days, guests run into the vintners in the bar, elevator, hallways, etc. That kind of access is not common at wine events.

Q12: What do you have to say about the judges and speakers this year?
A12: With Peter Marks, Evan Goldstein and Dan Berger, there is plenty of history in Yosemite. They have all participated for a number of years. Fred Dame, who some may recognize from the film “Somm“, was a moderator in the early years of Vintners’ Holidays and returns this year, as he did in 2014.

Q13: And anything else you would like to add?
A13: I can’t wait for the event!

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