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Your truly enjoying The Wooden Floor's Seventh Annual "Keep the Promise" wine tasting benefit

Yours truly enjoying The Wooden Floor’s Seventh Annual “Keep the Promise” wine tasting benefit

The Wooden Floor, the award-winning dance, academic and family services nonprofit that delivers hope and opportunity to 375 low-income youth annually, has hosted a top-drawer wine tasting for years. I attended the inaugural one at its Santa Ana studios, and it was an impressive effort, with stellar vintages featured and lots of money raised to help young students aspire beyond the grip of the poverty cycle. There was always a reason I couldn’t attend any of the successive fundraisers until the seventh annual “Keep the Promise” wine tasting at Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach.

I was very glad I did. The sold-out event drew 280 wine lovers and avid supporters, who were able to blind taste 14 highly-rated, hard-to-find wines from around the world. Each one was hand-selected, with the help of Big Canyon’s Master Sommelier Steven Poe, and graciously donated by honorary co-chairs and premier sponsors John and Janice Markley.  John loves good wine and the couple has a very impressive cellar to prove it. They have combined their love of wines (they have donated the wines for the wine tasting every year) with their love of The Wooden Floor to create a major fundraiser for the nonprofit. You can tell from the smiles on their faces and the passion with which they speak about the organization that they are committed to the cause.

Mona Nesseth, my wine aficionado friend, attended with me, and we had a great time tasting and guessing the wines we were sipping at each of the 14 wine stations. However, neither of us won. Joe and Monica Guillena placed 1st and 2nd, respectively, in the blind tasting competition. They are Wooden Floor supporters and have attended the tasting since 2010.

Honorary Co-Chairs Don and Joan Beall saluted the nonprofit’s 30th anniversary year. “It has changed our lives,” Joan said of their nearly 20-year involvement. “Besides offering dance and other activities, college is part of the mix, and we are so proud that 100% of the graduates completing high school have enrolled in higher education for nine consecutive years.” Don proposed a champagne toast to The Wooden Floor’s anniversary with Melanie (Rios, TWF’s Executive Director) leading the way,” he said.

Students Eliseo, Emma and Wendyolyne shared heartwarming testimonials of their time spent at The Wooden Floor, and Executive Director and CEO Dawn Reese brought remarks to a close by predicting a rosy future, saying, “We believe the next 30 years will be as important as our first, as our students have become agents for change in their neighborhoods, our community and globally.”

The effort netted more than $260,000, a 30% increase from the year before. Hear, Hear! The evening concluded with a French Champagne toast with the 1996 R&L Legras Blanc de Blancs Cuvee Saint-Vincent, rated 97 pts. by noted Swedish Champagne critic Richard Juhlin. It was that kind of night!

Selected photos from Miguel Vasconcellos