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Who knew there was a winery in Orange County?! Apparently there has been one in Newport Beach since Richard Moriarty and Loren Blackwood founded Newport Beach Vineyards & Winery in Upper Newport Bay and planted their first vines in 1999. “I bought the first wine license in Orange County in 100 years,” Moriarty shared at a fundraiser at the vineyard for The Laguna Playhouse themed “First Summer Night in the Vineyards.” One hundred guests enjoyed the summer solstice soiree tasting Moriarty’s award-winning red wines. I personally thought the Back Bay Cuvee, 2006, was superb. Justin Myers, the vineyards’s managing director, told me the vineyards on the 3.5-acre estate feature 1,200 Bordeaux style grape vines, which are harvested, crushed and fermented each September to produce the Meritage-style red wine. Guests entered the estate through a walk-way in the vineyards to sip the wines and sample tasty hors d’oeuvres before viewing the magnificent botanical and tropical gardens (Moriarty used to own a nursery), as well as the delightful koi ponds and bird aviary. Also of interest was the 1,000 square foot underground wine cave with its 3,000-pound mahogany doors, where the wine is aged in French oak barrels.

In keeping with the spirit of the theater – Laguna Playhouse will celebrate its 92nd anniversary in October producing and presenting great theatre and entertainment – Shakespeare vignettes were presented, which were conceived by the playhouse’s Artistic Director Ann Wareham and directed by Domaso Rodriguez, who is a free-lance director for Pasadena Playhouse and Furious Theatre. Actors Stasha Sturdyke and Hayden Adams had sparks flying with their takes on scenes from Midsummer Night’s Dream and Taming of the Shrew. The one live auction item – a private dinner for 12 in the wine cave featuring Moriarty’s amazing wines – went for $900 to outgoing LP board chairman Henry Mayhew. A pre-event VIP reception, which charged guests $1,000 a couple to view Moriarty’s car collection in his 2,800 square foot garage, also provided a special tasting of the vineyard’s 2001 Back Bay Cuvee, Moriarty’s first vintage and a Gold Medal winner at the Orange County Fair. Net proceeds of $3,200 were garnered for the award-winning theatre and its outstanding youth education programs.