Cindy and Michael Kuenzler know how to throw a party.
A week ago (Dec. 1), the Dracut couple co-hosted a spectacular wine dinner at their Four Oaks Country Club with Doubleback winery owners Drew and Maura Bledsoe.
The place at the top of Meadow Creek Lane was lit up like Santa's Castle, featuring a beautiful outdoor 19-foot tall outdoor Christmas tree that I swear could serve as an FAA control tower.
More than 125 guests packed the soldout event, where they dined on Chef Beni's superb four-course cuisine and drank three equally elegant Doubleback wines.
Drew Bledsoe -- trim, fit and sporting a diamond-cluster New England Patriots Hall of Fame ring -- wowed the crowd with his neighborly banter ("I grew up in a town that's so great we named it twice -- Walla Walla.") and wine knowledge.
The former Patriots' quarterback (1993-2001) told guests that Doubleback will be creating its first white wines, two Chardonnays, while adding a mid-priced Cabernet Sauvignon to its existing four-wine portfolio. Also, a new Walla Walla production facility and tasting room is set to open in late 2017, he said.
The evening's highlight came when the luxurious 2013 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon (a Wine Enthusiast magazine 2016 Cellar Selection) met up with Chef Beni's short rib braised in Doubleback wine, complemented with horseradish whipped potatoes and a vegetable skewer.
Glory be to Heaven and Earth!
Guests also tasted the Bledsoe Family Wine, a Bordeaux-style blend served in a 7-liter bottle; and Doubleback's 2013 Stolen Horse Syrah, a flavorful, spicy 100 percent varietal that is among Washington State's best.
All are available on Four Oaks' wine list and diners get to take home the bottle, signed by Bledsoe.
Although 3,000 miles from their Walla Walla Valley vineyards, the Bledsoes seemed quite at home moving from table to table, chatting with guests, signing Doubleback bottles, and graciously taking photos with anyone who requested one. In fact, Drew and Maura were among the last to leave the event, well after midnight.
"I'd never been to Dracut before but I'd sure like to come back. What a great restaurant and the people are just wonderful," said Bledsoe of Four Oaks. "I'd even like to play the golf course."
But what really bowled over the Bledsoes was the charitable generosity of the Kuenzlers and Merrimack Valley residents.
On the same night as the tasting, the Boys & Girls Club of Lowell held its annual fundraiser at the Lowell Auditorium. Kuenzler, a former Boys & Girls Club chairman, arranged for Bledsoe to videotape a message to the crowd and to sign 15 bottles to be offered to donors. The bottles brought in an astounding $37,500!
At Four Oaks, a live auction of Doubleback wines and other items brought in another $11,000 for the Salvation Army.
"It's truly incredible what happened here tonight," said Drew Bledsoe, with wife Maura by his side. "The warmth and hospitality of all the people was one thing, and the overwhelming generosity to important charities at this time of year was sensational. We're proud to have helped out."
It was truly a memorable night of wine, food and sharing.
While Bledsoe's premium 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ($100) can be found in Massachusetts fine wine stores, it is in limited supply. Less than 4,000 cases were produced and a majority of the bottles go to Doubleback Wine Club members (join at www.doubleback.com). But don't despair. On Saturday, Dec. 10, a one-of-a-kind collector's set of Doubleback wines -- four separate bottlings -- will be auctioned off during the annual WCAP (980 AM) Salvation Army Radiothon. The set includes two signed bottles -- Bledsoe's 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon and Stolen Horse Syrah (sold out) -- as well as Bledsoe Family Wine (7-liter bottle) and the first vintage of Healy Rosé 2015 (sold out). The donations are from my private cellar and I doubt there is a similar set in Massachusetts. The auction runs from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and all proceeds benefit Greater Lowell families in need, via the Salvation Army.
Also up for auction is a fabulous wine tasting of "Old World" wines -- for up to 10 people -- at Ricardo's Trattoria in Lowell. Richard "Ricardo" Rourke, the restaurant's owner, and yours truly will co-host the event and provide the wines from our private cellars. Appetizers will be served. I guarantee it will be a spectacular night for the lucky bidder and guests.