Wine lovers can help St. Augustine’s school

St. Augustine’s hosts wine tasting and silent auction, Friday at 7 p.m., to raise money for the school.

By:Stephanie Brown
   Wine lovers will get a chance to indulge their palates Friday at the St. Augustine of Canterbury R.C. School.
   Sponsored by the school’s Fundraising Committee for the Home School Association, the school will hold a wine tasting and silent auction at 7 p.m. The event is a fundraiser that has already been a huge success, exceeding the committee’s goal of $3,000, according to committee Chairwoman Deanna Hess.
   "I was away on vacation and when I came back, I had 43 messages from people who had seen the flier and wanted to buy tickets," said Ms. Hess. "I mean, we were only expecting a total of 50 people and now were up to 150."
   Wine will be provided by Glendale Liquors in Kendall Park, and entrees by Mad City Grill and Café. The price is a $25 in advance, and $30 at the door.
   Committee Chairwomen Cindy Napolitiano and Ms. Hess will play hostesses to the elegant event, planning to entertain as well as raise money.
   "It’s a different idea for a school," said Ms. Napolitiano. "We needed some grown up time."
   Glendale Liquor has organized eight wine wholesalers to participate in the tasting. Each wholesaler is expected to bring about 10 bottles, usually of different varieties and three of each kind, according to store manager Bart Deschaepmeester. Altogether, 80 to 100 bottles will be supplied.
   "For $25, it’s definitely worth it," said Mr. Deschaepmeester. "Most wine tastings go as high as $100 to $150."
   But that doesn’t mean guests will be sipping on second rate wines. Top notch wines, such as a Opus One 2002 and a Chateau Saint Jean Cinq Cepages that cost over $100 per bottle will be offered, said Mr. Deschaepmeester.
   "It’s kind of a way for the wholesalers to thank us for giving them business and also to get people to taste their products," he said. "And it’s something we can do to give back to the community."
   In addition, the Mad City Cafe and Grill in North Brunswick has agreed to bring some of its "crazy, casual cuisine" to the mix. Owner and chef Bruno Pascale is planning to serve entrees, such as his macadamian chicken in a papaya and mango reduction.
   "I just try to help out as much as I can if it’s going to benefit the local community," he said.
   The silent auction will feature prizes from local businesses and range from a one-week vacation in Florida to a gym membership.
   Ms. Hess praised the generosity of the local merchants, adding that it was not getting donations that proved to be the most difficult of tasks as she had expected, but rather finding people to contact each merchant and ask for the donations.
   "I was a little wary at first, but the toughest part was getting people to hit the pavement."
   All the legwork seems to have paid off. Ms. Hess counted donations from at least 15 restaurants up and down Route 1 and Route 27, several sporting venues from New Jersey and New York, and many more.
   The Tuscany-themed evening will most likely be held next year, but probably not as close to the holiday season, according to Ms. Hess.
   "The biggest obstacle in all this was that initially people were so into the holidays," she said. "If we did this during another time of year, it would have been better."
   Still, the Friday event is sure to be a success, and has already achieved another one of its goals — bringing local people together for a good cause.
   "We wanted to include the public as well as the parish," said Ms. Napolitiano. "And really, to build a sense of community."
   Call Ms. Hess at (732) 642-2051 to purchase tickets in advance. Otherwise, tickets can be purchased at the door for $30.