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Arts / Society

A Surprise Major Retirement Turns This Symphony Dinner Into a Show Stopper

Wines and Gossip Galore Enliven the Night

BY // 03.17.17
photography Jenny Antill Clifton, Wilson Parish

Like Alice stepping through the looking glass, Houston Symphony Wine Dinner patrons ascending onto the stage of Jones Hall were magically transported to a beautiful wine cellar setting that had all in the black-tie coterie stunned by its authenticity. And that’s exactly what ever-genial chairs Tara and David Wuthrich had in mind.

“We wanted it to be as if you were in a wine cellar in France or Italy or California,” the chairwoman explained.

The Events Company and Richard Flowers worked the magic that cloaked the space in colossal murals of old world wine cellars and set the stage with rustic farm-like tables and chairs such as you might find in the caves of Bordeaux or Napa. Honorary chair, the always-dainty Margaret Alkek Williams settled into her head table with aplomb enjoying the rustic environs juxtaposed to the formal attire of guests.

In addition to the unexpected decor, the evening held several surprises including David Wuthrich’s announcement that caterer extraordinaire Jackson Hicks of Jackson and company fame was retiring. Unbeknownst to the crowd of 300, who gave the dapper gent a standing ovation, he officially retired at the end of 2016.

It was a poignant moment for Jackson fans as Jackson and Company has catered the symphony’s gourmet evening each of its 16 years. On behalf of all, Symphony Society board president Steve Mach tossed verbal kisses to the catering maestro, the night’s honoree.

And then there was the wine — always a pleasant tasting exercise overseen by the Spec’s Wine’s Spirits and Finer Foods Rydman family — Lindy and John and their daughter Lisa. The dinner chairs had wanted no holds bars on this exceptional evening and the Rydmans obliged with a fine wine for each course including the showstopper — Yao Ming‘s California cab. It was that good. (In fact, celebrated wine critic Robert Parker has given Yao’s 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon reserve a stellar 96 rating.) Party favors were treasured Riedel wine glasses with the wine dinner logo on the side and Spec’s playful bunny at the base.

Even after 90 minutes of bidding at the lavish wine auction, guests were in a chatty mood with Kathy and Marty Goossen discussing their recent trip to Israel, Valerie and Tracy Dieterich (expecting their first image in late June) talking about heading to New Zealand the following day, and the Wuthriches reminiscing about chairing the Symphony Ball five years ago to that very day.

The 2017 Symphony Ball chairs Christina and Mark Hanson, symphony CEO and executive director, applauded this evening that raised more than $485,000. That handsome sum due in no small part to the wine auction with more than 135 tempting lots. The auction committee was headed by Bob Weiner with Robert Sakowitz serving as chair emeritus.

Who: Gina and Dr. Devinder Bhatia, Joella Mach, Robin Angly and Miles Smith, Beth Madison, Cora Sue and Harry Mach, Nancy and Bob Peiser, Viviana and David Denechaud, Charlotte and Randolph Wands, Janet F. Clark, Mary Lynn and Steve Marks, Denise and Philip Bahr, and Anne and Andrew Calder.

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