The National Ability Center will serve up some gourmet dishes and pour an abundance of flutes of wine during its 16th annual Red, White and Snow fundraiser.
The annual event, which will run from March 4-7 in various venues around town, will feature wine and dine options, a gala, live and silent auctions and vintner dinners designed to raise money for the nonprofit’s sport, recreation and educational programs for people of all abilities, said Clay Mauritson, owner and winemaker of Mauritson Winery, which is one of the 32 vintners that will participate this time around.
The 2020 event will mark the fourth year the winery will come to Park City to participate in the event, although it had submitted auction lots for the past six, Mauritson said.
ed, White and Snow is dear to Mauritson’s heart, because his oldest son, Brady, has down syndrome.
“The National Ability Center is such an amazing organization, and the simple fact that they call themselves the National Ability Center, and not the ‘National Disability Center,’ is very significant,” he said. “They focus on outdoor pursuits to fulfill people, and I feel everyone deserves that.”
Mauritson Winery will participate in one of the 27 vintner dinners that will be held in private homes on Friday, March 6.
Participants of these intimate dining sessions will not only taste wines from participating vintners, but also enjoy gourmet dinners created by world-renowned chefs, Mauritson said.
Mauritson Winery will premiere a new muscat wine that will be paired with a meal by Chris Hall of Local Three Kitchens that is based in Atlanta, Georgia. The dinner will be hosted by Kelsi and John Mellor.
This is the second time the winery has worked with the Mellors for a vintner dinner, according to Mauritson.
“They’re nothing short of amazing,” he said. “They are such awesome human beings, and have become dear friends. I’m so honored to be invited back to do a dinner at their homes.”
Although Mauritson and Hall have known each other for years, this is the first time they’ve worked together for Red, White and Snow.
“Chris is a dear friend and one of the most talented chefs that I have been around,” Mauritson said. “He has a passion for food and a passion for philanthropy. And I’ve met few people who have that level of passion.”
Hall and Mauritson collaborated on the dinner and the chef built the meal around the muscat, an aromatic white wine that is, as Mauritson said, “bone dry and racy.”
“Even though it’s an aromatic white, it reminded me of provencal rose,” Mauritson said. “While Chris and I have worked together for years, and he knows our wines inside and out, he has never tasted this one. So, we had these poignant discussions about the wine, and he came up with an amazing menu that will consist of a lobster spaghettini with a leek-fermented chili butter, mint and mohica.”
Mauritson’s path to winemaking started when he was a child. He’s a sixth-generation grape grower.
“It’s funny, because I wanted nothing to do with winemaking,” he said. “I had aspirations to be the next Jerry Maguire. I played sports, but I also studied sports marketing. I got a minor in finance.”
During his college days, Mauritson played outside linebacker for the University of Oregon and played in the 1995 Rose Bowl and the 1996 Cotton Bowl.
“Being away from Sonoma County made me realize what an amazing place it was to be born and raised,” he said. “When I realized I missed Sonoma County, I was drawn back to my family’s legacy, and went in my own direction.”
Mauritson produced his first bottling of Dry Creek Zinfandel under the Mauritson label in 1998, and committed full-time to the Mauritson Family Winery project in 2002.
“To sum up what happened is, you just don’t know what you got until it’s gone,” he said.
Like Mauritson, Mac Watson, proprietor of Macauley Vineyards, which is this year’s honorary vintner, grew up around wine.
His mother, Ann Macauley Watson, purchased some land in St. Helena, California, and founded what would become Macauley Vineyards in the early 1980s.
“My mom had an MBA and wanted to do something about it,” Watson said. “She debated whether or not to open a cheese factory or winery, and decided on the winery.”
The smell of fermenting sauvignon blanc grapes for Watson is akin to the smell of cookies baking in the oven for other kids, he said.
“It takes me back to that time, when I was 10 and 11,” Watson said. “At that time, I obviously didn’t know I was going to go into wine, but I did like the idea of fermenting, hooking up the hoses with tri-clover clamps to different tanks and racking from one place to another. It was a fun world to experience.”
Watson remembers how patient his mother was when she taught him and his sister how to properly taste wines.
“She would ask what we tasted, and I would always say it tasted like the last wine she had me taste,” he said with a laugh. “So she would get more specific and asked us to think about the subtleties. She broke things down, which is something. I do that with my sons.”
When Watson was 13, his mother died in a car accident, and he moved in with his father, who was a doctor in San Francisco.
Watson didn’t reconnect with wine until he started attending the University of Colorado and met up with an old friend whom he hadn’t seen since seventh grade in St. Helena.
“Through her, I still felt included in the St. Helena crew,” he said.
One day Watson’s father gave him some wine, which led to Watson wanting to start collecting wine.
“I built a cellar and after I graduated from CU, I decided to import and export wines,” he said. “I ended up coming back to Napa Valley and got a harvest job, and within the first week, I decided to revive Macauley.”
Watson’s plan was different than his mom’s in that he didn’t have a business plan, he said laughing.
“I just wanted to find grapes, ferment them, bottle them and sell some wine,” he said. “I just wanted to try to make it happen.”
Watson hooked up with another childhood friend, Kirk Venge of Venge Vineyards, who has been his winemaker from day one.
“Things kind of fell into a place,” he said. “And it’s been fun.”
Watson is humbled that Macauley Vineyards is this year’s Honorary Vintner.
“It’s an honor to be, first and foremost, involved with the National Ability Center,” he said. “This is a great organization to be a part of. They do some wonderful things.”