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The Wine Affair

Participants sipped, strolled, savored the sounds and raised funds

Posted: October 25, 2008 8:52 p.m.
Updated: December 27, 2008 5:00 a.m.

A cluster of "grape" balloons waves in the breeze in front of the Vines restaurant.

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Purple balloon sculptures of grapes on the vine waved gently in the breeze and "marked" the spot of participating locations for the inaugural "The Wine Affair ... Sip, Stroll and Savor the Sounds" held Oct. 19 on Town Center Drive in Valencia.

The afternoon wine tasting and entertainment event was a fundraiser hosted by Soroptimist International of Santa Clarita Valley to benefit the Sheila R. Veloz Breast Imaging Center on the campus of Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital.

More than 300 tickets were sold, said event co-chairwoman Rose Chegwin.

"We're very happy with the turnout," she said.

As participants wandered up and down Town Center Drive, from Sisley Italian Kitchen to Lee's Wine Bistro - and all points in between - music from "Lost in Time" echoed throughout the Town Center. The band, stationed outdoors at Ro,Ma Jewelers, gathered a crowd of onlookers. Shoppers, unaware of the The Wine Affair, stopped and asked where to purchase tickets.

Wine and dine
Tickets, which cost $40 pre-event and $50 at the door, gave attendees three pours at each of the eight participating locations - Bella Sport, which offered wines poured by Vino 100 and Raven Oaks Vineyards; Lee's Wine Bistro; Ro,Ma Jewelers, with wines poured by the Loose Goose; Salt Creek Grille; Sisley Italian Kitchen; South Pointe Grill; Vines Restaurant and Valencia Wine Company.

Each venue also offered hors d'oeuvres and entertainment.

In addition to "Lost in Time," entertainment included "Clever Little Pun," Joel Hill, "Kounterfeit Change," 97.7 The Wave, "Men of Harmony," Niki B and Michael A acoustic duo, "The Producers" and "Nuts & Bolts Band."

The food was provided by Salt Creek Grille, Lee's Wine Bistro, Sisley Italian Kitchen, South Pointe Grill, Vines Restaurant, Mojitos, Babe's Desserts, Be A Guest at Your Own Party and An Affair Extraordinaire.

A great idea
"This is a great event," Santa Clarita City Councilwoman Marsha McLean said. McLean was spotted with ticket in hand as she perused the clothing racks at Bella Sport. "The Soroptimists do such fantastic work and I want to support them in any way I can."

Chegwin said the idea for the fundraiser sprang from a similar event attended by co-chairwoman Tamara Levine.

"She told me about an event like this in Pasadena called The Wine Walk," Chegwin said. "We were having dinner one night and I asked how it went ... and I thought, ‘We could do that.' I thought it wouldn't be too much work; the restaurants are already here on Town Center Drive and that would be a piece of cake. I have to say it has been really, really fun."

Other co-chairwomen included Sheryl Geraci, Jo Ann Vindigni and Darlene Gandara. Soroptimist member Geri Jacobs, owner of The Travel Bug, took on the role of event title sponsor.

For "Barrel Club" sponsors the event began at noon in the offices of SCV Bank, which offered a special VIP "Wine Vault" tasting.

The Loose Goose provided champagne and orange juice Mimosas to the Wine Vault guests as "Schwartz Cellars," "Sterndahl Vineyards" and "Geraci Vineyards" poured from behind the bank's teller stations.

An affair to remember
The wine from Schwartz Cellars came from the private wine cellar of Robert and Annie Schwartz. Robert Schwartz was on hand to pour and discuss his wine, as were Chip Sterndahl and John Geraci, who also poured from their private stock of wine.

Chegwin told the assembled crowd that the committee wanted to do something special to thank the sponsors.

"So these three gentlemen stepped right up and went into their private cellars and brought these amazing wines," she said. "They just want to share their wines with each of you. There are very nice bottles of wine for you to enjoy."

John Geraci said he randomly selected which of his wines to bring to the event.

"We all (Geraci, Sterndahl and Schwartz) talked and made sure we didn't bring the same wines," he said. "We want people to drink it and enjoy it and have a good time."

For a good cause
Geraci's wife, Sheryl, served as a co-chairwoman of the event and is a breast cancer survivor.

"Years ago my wife had a bout with breast cancer so it's a cause very near and dear to my heart," he said.
Sheryl Geraci said it was a privilege to be part of the event.

"My husband was so excited to be able to share his private wines and to raise money for a great cause," she said. "We've had breast cancer affect our family, myself personally, so it is important to us and this event is a great thing to do. This is our first year and it is going fabulous. I think next year is going to be even bigger and better, we'll raise even more money."

Dora Zavala, president of the Soroptimist International of Greater SCV, welcomed guests to the Wine Vault event and introduced the club.

"It's an honor and thrill to have you join us today because for those who don't know Soroptimist is an international organization for women founded in 1921 with only 80 women in Oakland. Today it is in more than 100 countries with more than 100,000 professional women making a difference for women and girls," she said. "Our club chartered six months ago in April with 58 members and today we're more than 70 women strong and we have more than 17 friends and ‘Soropti-misters' who believe in the cause of making a difference for women and girls."

Zavala also recognized Cheri Fleming, governor of the Soroptimist International Camino Real Region.

Fleming, a resident of Westridge, is also co-owner of Valencia Acura.

"Just so you know how big this job is, Cheri is the governor of four districts within the Camino Real region which makes up 29 clubs, with more than 850 women - do I have to say anything else?" Zavala said.

Soroptiomist International now has two clubs in the SCV including the Soroptimist International of SCV club.

Chegwin then introduced the featured speaker of the afternoon, Gail McCroskey of Affaire Extraordinaire catering.

Speaking from experience
McCroskey, the 2008 Henry Mayo Breast Cancer Awareness spokeswoman, spoke movingly about her experience with breast cancer and how Diana Vose, president of the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital Foundation, the fundraising arm of Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial and Terry Bucknall, director of the Sheila R. Veloz Breast Imaging Center, convinced her to become this year's spokeswoman.

"I took on this task reluctantly. For those of you who have been touched by cancer, personally or with a loved one, it affects each and every one of us differently," she said. "It will always be a part of my life but a part that I didn't really want to talk about a lot."

McCroskey said she met with Vose and Bucknall and was convinced to tell her story.

"They convinced me that I have a good story to tell and if it's a story that gets just one woman to go for a mammogram or do a self exam - which in my case I did and found it myself - then we have potentially saved a life."

In 2006 McCroskey had her first bout with breast cancer.

"It really took the wind out of my sails. Fortunately, I came through that and maybe to a certain degree had more self confidence about it then I should have," she said. "My breast cancer health was taking place in the San Fernando Valley not in the Santa Clarita Valley because that's where my physician is. And when it came knocking on my door last summer I again started the process in the San Fernando Valley for my cure."

McCroskey said it didn't take long for her to feel that the process wasn't working.

"It just didn't feel right. It was taking too long, it was moving too slow. I was absolutely scared to death.

About five weeks in I picked up the phone on a Sunday afternoon and called my friend Cheri Fleming," she said. "I said please help. I need help. Why does everything take so long? This was on a Sunday afternoon and she (Fleming) had just flown in from Scotland. The next morning she had me at the UCLA Center with Dr. (Gregory M.) Senofsky, Dr. (John) Barstis, Dr. (Alexander) Black and Terry (Bucknall) from Sheila Veloz (Breast Imaging Center) and by Wednesday of that week I had my surgery. It is absolutely the way a precision team of physicians and professionals I believe should work. And if any of you are in a position to need the services of a breast cancer center I cannot speak highly enough of the care I was given."

As the Wine Vault portion of the event wound down Chegwin asked everyone to raise a glass.

"Please join me and raise your glass in a toast to all of you for helping and making our event a success - and to Peter Goossens for providing us with the wonderful Mimosas. Enjoy."

For more information about the Sheila R. Veloz Breast Imaging Center, 23929 McBean Parkway, Valencia, call (661) 253-8822. For information on Soroptimist International of Greater SCV visit www.sigscv.org.

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