Newport Harbor's Reuben E. Lee river boat-restaurant, where the Red Ribbon 100 women's advisory council to the Orange County chapter of the American Red Cross--and hundreds more--stepped aboard Tuesday for an evening of champagne and wine tasting.
The moon wasn't quite as full as the showboat (filled to capacity with about 400 guests). Elbows got a full workout, bending frequently to lift those souvenir champagne glasses and politely prodding their way through the close-packed crowd.
For the fourth year, the Showboat Champagne Fest was sold out well in advance, according to event chairwoman Jane Martin. At $65 per person, the event brought in about $30,000, Martin said.
Most popular table again this year was Robert Mondavi, where a new vintage (1986) of Opus 1 Cabernet was being uncorked. At $55 a bottle, Opus 1 is the most expensive domestic wine, according to a Mondavi representative. Those with even more expensive tastes climbed the stairs to the wheelhouse, where a Remy Martin representative offered a brief lecture and sips of Louis XIII cognac at $600 a bottle.
This year the Red Ribbon 100 won't need a meeting to decide where the money should go. Hurricane Hugo and the San Francisco earthquake already made that decision, Martin said. Awareness of the Red Cross' urgent needs this year made the revelers more appreciative than ever of their own good fortune.
"Late-day business," according to Red Ribbon member Donna Brownell. That was defined by guests as anything from I-just-left-the-office attire to sequins and furs.
On the Menu
A feast of seafood snacks befitting not just a river boat but a cruise ship, from stir-fried shrimp to oysters Rockefeller, garnished with bread in the shape of lobsters and alligators. Plus a plethora of desserts.
So much for all those nautical terms they taught you in sailing class, mate. On this boat, starboard was still starboard, but as one crew member explained to a confused group of tasters, "No, no, no. Port is upstairs . Desserts are downstairs. . . . "And one guest said to another: "I'll bet if you went around and tasted every one of these, you could learn an awful lot about wine."
"Yes, but you wouldn't be able to remember any of it."
The event organizers thought of that: Each guest packet included an admonition to "please be conscientious" with alcohol, and an offer of a taxi ride home, if necessary.