By Sophie Bousset (San Jose '11) 


On a beautiful, sunny Saturday in September of 2015, AIESEC Life Bay Area Chair Edith Gong gathered a dozen AIESEC alumni to drive up to Napa Valley for a day of wine tasting, exploring the valley and connecting with fellow AIESEC alumni.


A Distinguished Tour Guide


We met John Tuteur (AIESEC Yale, 1961-64) the County Clerk for the County of Napa up in wine country, where he regaled us with tales of his AIESEC days and of watching Napa Valley blossom into the world-renowned wine destination we know it as today.


Art and Wine


Our first stop was the Hess Collection Winery, a beautiful building complete with charming tasting rooms, an art museum populated with works from the owner’s multi-million dollar personal collection, as well as an outdoor courtyard with a pond.


Our guide walked us through the wines selected for our tasting (2 whites and 2 reds), sharing about the winery’s unusual history, and then showed us around the courtyard and art museum. Have a look at the pictures here!



Lunch at “Chateau Vinnie”


Next, we went to AIESEC India alumni Vinnie and Pam Bandla’s gorgeous home in Calistoga. Pam and Vinnie gave us a grand tour of their mansion (it looks like a castle!) and graciously hosted us for lunch in their beautiful garden. We relaxed and traded AIESEC stories until it was time to hop back into the van for a tour of the historic Greystone Cellars, which now houses the CIA (not that one…)


Culinary Delights


Once a wine cooperative in the late 1880’s, Greystone Cellars in St. Helena is now the home of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America.  We had a brief tour with a one of the docents where we viewed the demonstration kitchens, cooking auditorium, entrance to the old cellars, and the Spice Islands Marketplace and the newly opened Illy Bakery where you could try their wonderful coffee, chocolates and other confections made by CIA students.  Too bad we didn’t have enough time to have a meal at the Wine Spectator Restaurant!  We finally took off for our for our final stop of the day, Domaine Chandon.


Ending on a Light Note


At Domaine Chandon, we wandered the grounds exploring the lush, grassy expanse surrounding a clear blue pond filled with ducks and water lilies until it was time for our sparkling wine tasting.


For our wine tasting, we were led to an intimate patio separated from the main tasting area by a tinkling waterfall. We enjoyed sparkling rose and white wines as the sun slowly reached lower on the horizon, bathing us in soft light and a delicious breeze.

It was a wonderful ending to a fun day. Thanks again to Susan Obuchowski for organizing everything, to John Tuteur for sharing his knowledge of the region and his favorite places, to Vinnie and Pam for opening their home up to us, and to Edith for driving!"


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