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Friday
Feb122010

GV Cellars, Tom Hanks, and a nameless hero

GV Cellars was pouring their Sangiovese and Cabernet at a benefit for Solano College Theatre, and if that wasn’t enough to make me shell out $100, Tom Hanks was there. The event would have cost more than twice as much over the hill in Napa, so I guess I was bargain shopping.

The dinner was catered by Elaine Bell. The seared fillet mignon was done perfectly and individual chocolate decadence cake was something between a chocolate mousse and an oversized truffle.  After a week of eating “girl food” with my daughter the richness was welcome shock to my system.

GV Cellars, nine miles southeast of Napa is the only vineyard in the Solano County Green Valley AVA. I tasted the Sangiovese and Cab.  The Sangiovese was good in a young sort of

way with a fizzy feel on the finish. The Cab was delicious, well balanced and a bargain at under $26. Amazing what a difference a hill can make, whether you’re stalking Tom Hanks or looking for a decent wine.  y I didn't taste (they weren't pouring) their Lapis Luna but I send marketing kudos for a great name and lable.

Hanks looked lean in a good way and spoke eloquently about the importance of supporting the arts wherever you find them. He told us about how fortunate he felt to get an education at a junior college and later at Sac State. Being a good actor does not necessarily make one a good speaker, but Tom Hanks is both. I vowed to get myself over to Toastmasters and maybe some Alexander Technique training ( if anyone even does that anymore). 

George Maguire, another excellent speaker and a Solano College acting instructor, introduced Hanks, with whom he had become friends when they were at the Great Lakes Theatre Festival. I admire George for his almost singleminded passion for acting and students. But I really admired George that evening when he made the night for a young man sitting at our table who had hoped to give a box of candy (a la Forest Gump) to Hanks.

I believe that everyone has a story so I am ashamed that I dismissed as "just another old man"  the gentleman slowly making his way, cane in hand,  to the table next to ours.  He was decked out in a dress Air Force jacket which should have given me a clue.  It wasn't long before Hanks was introducing him to a standing ovation. "Just an old man" was a WWII Air Force hero who lied about his age to join the Michigan Air National Guard when he was 15 and went on to fly his first combat mission one week after the Normandy invasions. He flew a total 31 bombardment missions in a B17, the Flying Fortress that was "easy pickin's" for German antiaircraft guns.

He never lost a man or engine in combat. 

According to Hanks, on one mission, "A German 88 mm shell pierced the bottom of his ship's fusilage, came up through the cockpit behind the pilot's seat, blew out the top and exploded above the B17.  A close call. This is extraordinary because during this war the aggregate rate of casualaties in the Air Force at that time was 50 percent. One out of every two planes went down over Europe. "  

He earned the rank of captain when he was 22. Hanks said, "Now could any of us who have not done such a thing imagine ourselves as a captain of a Flying Fortress at the age of twenty-two?"  On Monday, February 8 he turned 89.  Hanks again: "How bout that!  Let's all give it up for a man who has done extraordinary things both then, and I would say, as recently as getting out of bed yesterday." 

That man's name is Corrine. Or Corine. I'm sorry I didn't catch his whole name. My trusty iphone was recording but the applause was too loud. In the end I was merely a wine drinker and not a journalist that evening. 

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Reader Comments (1)

Carolyn West alerted me to an error in this post. She is an owner of Rock Creek Vineyards, which is a small artisan winery and vineyard in Green Valley. Can't wait to give it a try. The setting, "4 miles back in Green Valley" sounds lovely.

March 17, 2010 | Registered Commenteram

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