The $1000 Birthday Dinner

The birthday girl accused me of using her birthday as an excuse to attend the Winemaker’s Dinner at a winery about an hour, hour and a half’s drive away. The vineyard hosts a Winemaker’s Dinner every couple of months or so. There are only seats for 40 people and the dinners book very quickly.

When the kids turn thirteen, they no longer get birthday parties; they get special dinners out with just Mom and Dad at the restaurant of their choice, sans siblings. The birthday girl originally requested Russian as her restaurant of choice. But Mom and Dad were just at a Russian restaurant for Dad’s birthday dinner with another couple, mainly because we wanted to try the flight of vodkas – nine four-ounce glasses of different vodkas of your choice from all over the world. So when the email arrived in my inbox about the May Winemaker’s Dinner, my fingers frantically dialed the reservation number to procure our seats.

Heading out three hours before the reception hour gave us a chance to explore the mountain back roads. One narrow curvy road led past a turnoff towards an estate sale at a farm. With time to kill before the first glass of wine was poured and the first hors d’œuvre was passed, we turned up the winding path to discover an herb farm with a note of the front door saying to “Come on in”. Which we did.

My mother was a voracious antique collector. Her motto was that if you saw it and liked it, you should buy it because you would end up regretting not getting it. That lesson sunk in. And is sinking in for the third generation as well. The cargo area of the SUV was loaded down with a late 1800’s American chestnut drop-leaf table, an early Twentieth Century French walnut and rose-colored marble-topped square washstand, and a hickory custom-made tabletop that was designed for cutting fabric. It has an ingenious movable piece that makes a straightedge to cut the fabric evenly.

Top off the evening with a five-course meal with wine pairings for each course and a discussion of the wines during the meal followed by a Q&A time with the chef afterwards. Birthday girl got plenty of practice driving out and plenty of private attention and conversation with the ‘rents. Treat ‘em like young adults and they rise to the occasion. And surprise you with their interests and conversation topics. Worth every last cent!


  1. Sounds like a priceless experience for both parent and child!

  2. Very cool tradition! We get to choose our dinner, but the whole family goes..Sounds like Eldest has her head on straight.. She's a peach!

  3. Now that's MY kind of outing!!