It's been said that you need two things to succeed in poker: steady nerves and a sober constitution. That's certainly a glorious notion, but what happens when the poker game is held on the grounds of a winery? Or even worse, what if the players are vineyard owners who each shows up with a bottle of his very own wine under his arm? Well, the short answer is that the card game moves very slowly. The wine, however, disappears before the chips even hit the table.
The setting for this, the most unsober of card games, was the Quixote Winery in Napa Valley. It took almost three months for host and proprietor Carl Doumani to organize the event. "With schedules like the regulars have, you start making the calls around October, and you're lucky to have a game set by January. Once a year is really all we can hope for these days." The "regulars" Doumani was referring to include a veritable who's who of California wine: Francis Ford Coppola, Bill Harlan and Pat Kuleto. The tradition is that every year each regular can invite a new player. This time they were joined by Ron Santella, who runs a hedge fund, and a local tomato farmer, Dean "Dino" Cortopassi.
No one knows for sure, but the players speculated that this was the 10th such gathering. The stakes, $5 ante, were low considering the group's communal net worth, but like most poker games played outside Las Vegas, the true purpose wasn't winning money but enjoying the company.