I used to fancy myself something of a wine enthusiast. I paid my way through college by working at a high-end restaurant in Columbia, Mo. -- yes, there is such a thing -- that specialized in fine wines.
A knowledge and understanding (general, if not comprehensive) of wines was required of all the servers and bartenders, so we spent a good amount of time tasting, studying and learning about wine.
Although it's been a few years since my stint as a faux wine connoisseur, my appreciation for fine wine hasn't waned. Neither, surprisingly, has the little bit of knowledge I gained during that stint, for, as I perused the list of 44 vintners that will be in attendance at Philbrook Museum of Art's Wine Experience this weekend, I recognized at least 30.
The Wine Experience is Philbrook's biennial fundraiser -- a massive event that has, in each of the past two occurrences, raised $1 million for the museum.
"When the event started 10 years ago, it was fairly small," said Karen Fraser, fundraising events manager for Philbrook. "We only had about 19 vintners who came, and we made probably $20,000."
It didn't take long for the event to grow in both popularity and income.
"I think, when we started in 1992, people were just starting to learn about wines," Fraser said. " The wine movement was just starting to take off. Now, there are a couple of major wine events -- one in Napa Valley, one in New York -- but this is considered one of the premier events in the country."
The event spans two evenings -- Friday, April 30 and Saturday, May 1 -- and promises to have "something for everyone" -- the wine novice as well as the connoisseur.
Friday evening's event offers a formal dinner and live and silent auctions. Guests are seated with various vintners, who happen to be principals in their respective wineries and not simply sales representatives, who pour and educate them about their wine.
Philbrook brings in a professional auctioneer to host the live auction, which Fraser said is "fun and loud and crazy." Many of the items up for auction are premier bottles of wine, inaccessible to most people.
"You can get these really incredible bottles of wine that you couldn't get anywhere else," Fraser said. "And the bottles are really beautiful. Some of them are signed, some are etched."
Tickets to the Vintner Dinner and Live Auction are available by table.
Saturday evening's festivities, the Grand Wine Tasting, features all of the participating vintners and accompanying food catered by 27 local restaurants.
"It's such a deal because you're tasting some of the finest wines, you get to meet the vintners and talk to them and sample great food," Fraser said. "It's a very fun, more casual event."
Tickets to that are $125 for Philbrook museum members and $150 for non-members.
"It's a really special event because it's only every two years, so people save up. They know they're coming," Fraser said. "People start calling early to get it on their calendars."
She said the event's increasingly popularity can partly be attributed to an equally increasing knowledge of wine and to patron's appreciation for the museum.
"We have tremendous supporters," Fraser said.
While some proceeds from the event benefit the museum's operations, most fund its educational programs, which include My Museum, a free club for children; Free Second Saturdays; public programs, which include lectures, symposia, gallery talks, tours and demonstrations; gallery guides for special exhibitions; Phil-Book Story Time; The Heyman Family Adventures in Art series; tours and after-school programs; Visual Voyage, a docent-facilitated program for middle school children; and Spot's Suitcase, an after-school program for third graders attending Tulsa Public Schools.
Fraser said she and the museum's executives hope for another million-dollar year but acknowledged the economic downturn could affect the event's success. And, though the event is the museum's largest fundraiser -- and one of the region's largest nonprofit fundraisers, for that matter -- it still doesn't fulfill all of Philbrook's annual financial needs.
"I know people think Philbrook just has lots of money, but it takes a lot to run a museum," Fraser said. "Our programs reach the entire population of this area, plus visitors. It takes a lot of money to keep those programs running, not to mention the art."
For more information about this year's Wine Experience and to purchase tickets, visit philbrook.org or call 749-7941.
Shakespeare in the PAC
Theatre Pops, a local nonprofit theatre company, presents William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing -- but with a twist.
The company has replaced the original setting of Messina, Italy, with pre-statehood Texas, and the "youthful embrace of love at first sight with Lady Hero and Count Claudio is countered by the cynical and barbed wooing of Lady Beatrice and Signor Benedick. Jealousy, treachery and good-natured trickery come together on stage through two stories of romantic love with quite different journeys."
Randall Whalen directs a cast that includes John Clark, Tim Neller, Steve Raiford and Claire Johnson, along with members of Central High School's Drama department led by Ed Dill.
The show plays April 29, 30 and May 1 at 8pm and May 1 and 2 at 2pm in the Liddy Doenges Theatre of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, 110 E. Second St.
Tickets are $15, with discounts for students and TPS teachers, and are available at tulsapac.com or by calling 596-7111.
Another Classic on Stage
Tulsa Spotlight Theatre, at 1381 Riverside Drive, presents Little Women, April 23-25 and April 29-May 2. Thursday and Friday performances are at 7:30pm and Saturday and Sunday performances are at 2pm.
Minday Barker directs Sarah Woldum, Tabitha Littlefield, Abby Cascairo and Cristen Burdell as the March sisters. The cast also includes Tamara Faylor, Joshua Branson Barker, Valeska Littlefield and Mark Cascairo.
Tickets are $10 for adults, $9 for seniors and $8 for children. For more information, visit spotlighttheater.org or call 587-5030.
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