December 18, 2012
Between the male models with flat-tops wandering around the damp grass in pajamas, female fashionistas in $15,000 sustainably made fur coats (really) and the other models posing earnestly nearby in the dark, the debut event felt totally…natural.
OK—the lighting element will evolve, but the fact that there was a throng of upper-crusty wine lovers filling adorable Devendorf Park last week for Rich Pepe’s inaugural Carmel-by-the-Glass did have a certain logical appeal. With so many great tasting rooms within a labradoodle's two-wee wee walk, and clear enthusiasm for the proposed street market—dozens of advisors are weighing in before one table’s been set up—something like last week’s fashion-forward tasting would seem fun, fitting and feasible.
And it was. Turnout was so extensive Pepe and his peeps blew through 350 wine glasses and started fetching stemware from his nearby restaurants, including neighboring Vesuvio (625-1766).
He estimates they ultimately borrowed another 100, which helped allow the event to write a check for $3,000 to Carmel Mission Foundation.
"To see the locals respond—not a couple hundred but twice that—was exhilarating," he said.
On the Devendorf lawns, local pols swooned.
“Isn’t it great?” asked Councilwoman Karen Sharp.
“We’re all here,” said Carmel Planning Commissioner Steve Dallas. “We want to see it do good.”
Industry folks grinned. Mundaka owner Gabe Georis, one of the loudest and most articulate industry voices endorsing the street market—which the Weekly made sure was a priority issue in the fall election—couldn't resist a quick I-told-you-so.
“People say there's no demand for something like this," he said, smiling. "Look around."
Sheid Hospitality Director Stefani Chaney was pleasantly surprised at what normally old-as-the-Cypresses, white-as-the-beach-sand Carmel pulled off.
“Sleepy Carmel on a school night in 40-something degrees?” she said. “Not bad for the first event. There are a lot of locals out—and there are people from the Independent Marketplace! Talk about diverse!"
On the small stage where a couple of bands rotated through, Pepe introduced Galante Vineyards' Jack Galante, whose grandpa is credited with founding the the then-bohemian hamlet and whose name decorates the park that played host to the party.
“If it wasn’t for J.F. Devendorf, we wouldn’t have Carmel,” he said. “If it wasn’t for Rich Pepe, we wouldn’t have Carmel-by-the-Glass.
“I guess it takes an Italian.”
The snacks also leaned Italian: Neilsen Brothers, Salumeria Luca and Bruno's laid out generous mounds of cured meats and tasty cheeses.
Pepe, who distributed gift bags with two $25 gift certificates to his restaurants, was quick to credit the vineyards represented.
"It's nice to see a segment of our retail community work in sync with each other and showcase what we can do," he said.
He sees the next Carmel installment coming in May or June ("It'll be a heck of a lot easier—now we know the ropes," he says) and perhaps a collaboration on a Monterey-by-the-Glass with Monterey Museum of Art and the chamber as early as the end of April.
"I think people really enjoyed it as a community event," he said. "People told me 'Wow, we hadn't seen these friends in so long, thanks for throwing a party outdoors in the park.'
"It's like an adult playground."
While Maddox Haberdasher coordinated fashion with inputs from local outposts Intima, Augustina and Parts Unknown on both the red carpet and the podiums, the Weekly learned De Tierra Vineyards’ tasting room looks to be online in the ivy-climbed brick building on Mission near Fifth (www.detierra.com) next month. Folks will get a shot at their bright Chard, Silacci Vineyard Pinot and the first late harvest Zin I’ve seen surface locally (with Mesa del Sol grapes).
I predicted lighting would be Pepe’s biggest challenge, and while Christmas lights strung above the tables worked nicely, the globe lighting assembled along the red carpet and model podiums did not.
But few really cared. They were far more focused on conversation and superb small-batch vineyard pours—and casting some light on the kind of party a little community cooperation can move down the runway.