July 30, 2011 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

ToutSuite Social Club

“Meet and Mingle with Brandmakers” — sound familiar? Well, all you diehard Noble Rot fans, it should. The events we’ve been hosting for the last two years (we turned two in July!) have been all about connecting you the people with winemakers, brand ambassadors, mixologists, chefs, musicians and artists, on and on.  And now, a group that is making some noise off Main Street in downtown St. Helena (Napa Valley) officially launched on Bastille Day an absolutely wonderful, interactive platform that helps connect “Brandmakers” to… you the people. It’s called ToutSuite Social Club and it’s an international dinner party that comes to your living room. It looks like this:

Serious setup. Photo by Ashley Teplin.

Explaining the rules. Photo by Ashley Teplin.

Tech Integration at Its Finest: The technological aspect of the ToutSuite SC is impressive. Multiple professional HD cameras focus in on a round-table discussion, from various angles, streaming live to an online platform, which allows not only for global viewing, but also for interaction. A live real-time Twitter stream lets users ask questions and the on-camera guests will respond! Interaction is made possible across video platofrms as well when guests at one ToutSocial can engage in conversation through TV monitors that display streaming video from another ToutSocial – talk about reshaping the event world! Simultaneous events can happen across vast landscapes with guests live-interacting… possibilities seem endless.

Host Didier Loustau comments (quietly) as the winemakers taste wine. Photo by Ashley Teplin.

I attended this past Thursday night’s (July 26, 2011) event where a blind tasting (“Syrah, Tasting in the Dark”) was observed by Co-Founder Didier Loustau. Didier was just off-camera, playing the part of “announcer” much in the same way announcers coach us through football games and soccer matches. As the guest winemakers Mike Hirby, Jeff Smith and Paul Hoffman tasted, sniffed and exuded the pensive wine taster(s), Didier’s sideline (or side-show, really) announcing was lighthearted and at times truly hysterical – he boasted a respectful irreverence, if ever there was such a thing (“and there is, because it’s my forte,” says Jonny Cigar.)

“He seems to be drinking a bit too much,” or “Someone should tell them it’s wine,” are not direct quotes, but shall serve as examples of the kind of banter you can expect.

And the food: At the conclusion of the tastings, the cameras continue to roll, and guests are invited to join, taste wine, mingle and then eat. There’s always a guest Chef, and this week’s was Nick Heinrich of Crooked Porch Bar B Que. Hailing from Alabama, Nick prepared some of the best: BBQ Brisket, succotash, Italian bread salad and… GRITS… that I have ever had. I mean ever. The grits were flown in from Alabama. I said, flown in. He flew in Grits. They were perfect. I had three helpings of all the dishes. Folks were commenting but Nick was thrilled. “If people don’t waddle away, I haven’t done my job.” Well, I waddled. And it wasn’t from the wine. A master Grits n’ BBQ chef, no question.

Chef Nick Heirich ladles on his Crooked Porch Bar-B-Que sauce. Photo by Ashley Teplin.

ToutSuite is the brainchild of Didier Loustau and Susan Quinn. Be on the lookout for more ToutSuite action, and who knows, perhaps a Noble Rot integrated ToutSocial event in the near-future…!

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