Society / Featured Parties

Houston’s Black-Tie Swan Song Brings a Surprise Celebrity Guest, Wine Wows and an Impressive $650,000 For the Houston Symphony

An Aways Popular Night Lives Up to Its Billing

BY // 05.16.22

When Joan and Robert Duff signed on to chair the 2022 Houston Symphony Wine Dinner and Collector’s Auction, they knew exactly what this return to the Jones Hall stage would look like — a bounty of florals topping tables against a black and white backdrop of larger-than-life silhouetted symphony musicians.  When the curtain rose, so to speak, on the dinner setting guests were awed by the masterful work of The Events Company which beautifully orchestrated the decor.

This event, in its 21st year, raised more than $650,000 for the symphony’s education and community engagement initiatives. It was a generous sum achieved not only from table sales but also from the wine auction, which is helmed annually by respected oenophile Bob Weiner. He assembled wines for the auction as well as for the single raffle item — 12 bottles of 100-point wine, all rated 100 points by Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker.

Then there was the fine wine element accompanying the City Kitchen dinner. Houston Symphony Society president John Rydman of Spec’s Wines, Spirits & Finer Foods selected the wines to be paired with the four-course dinner, which concluded with a luscious chocolate panna cotta, espresso gelee and dark chocolate gelato combo served with a divine ice wine, Red Leaf Cabernet Franc, 2019.

This final black-tie event of the season is always a popular evening that saw 360 guests fill the Jones Hall stage setting, the same stage where symphony conducts its performances. More than a few of the gents in the clutch were celebrating the conclusion of black-tie season while many of the attending femmes opted for cocktail dresses rather than formal gowns. As one big table buyer wearing a sparkling cocktail dress quipped of black-tie, “I’m over it.” Even next year’s Wine Dinner chair Bobbie Nau wore cocktail attire though her table guests were in long gowns.

Julie Russell, Haley Duff, Joan Duff and Jana Lester at the Houston Symphony 2022 Wine Dinner and Auction_Photo by Priscilla Dickson, Courtesy of Houston Symphony2
Julie Russell, Haley Duff, Joan Duff and Jana Lester at the Houston Symphony Wine Dinner and Collector’s Auction (Photo by Priscilla Dickson)

Surprise guest (at least to many) was actress, singer, songwriter, television host, writer and fashion designer Haylie Duff, older sister of actress/singer Hilary Duff. They are the daughters of gala chair Robert Duff.

PC Seen: Houston Symphony CEO John Mangum, Lindy Rydman, Betty and Jesse Tutor, Ann and Jonathan Ayre, Janet Clark, Lisa and Eric Lindsey, Valerie and Tracy Dieterich, Vicki West and Ralph Burch, Mary Lynn and Steve Marks, Yoon Smith, Carey Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth and Alan Stein, Robert Sakowitz, Tammie and Dr. Charles Johnson, Gretchen and Jay Watkins, Jacquie Baly and James Craig, Elia Gabinelli, and Eric Brueggeman.

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