March 8, 2008
On His Night, He's Atypically Quiet

Toasted at the outset as "a man for all seasons," Sacramento grocer Darrell Corti showed he also could be a man of surprisingly few words as he capped his hour in the Napa Valley spotlight last night.

As the evening's first inductee in this year's class of wine-industry luminaries to be enshrined in the Vintners Hall of Fame, Corti walked to the dais, said he was told he wouldn't have to say anything and wouldn't, gave a hearty "thank you very much" and returned to his table.

Just before that, Corti listened to Dr. Tim Ryan, president of the Culinary Institute of America, praise him for his contributions to the deveopment of the California wine trade since joining his family's Corti Brothers grocery store in Sacramento in 1964.

"Darrell Corti has been a catalyst in the re-evaluation and renaissance of zinfandel, a leader in advocating wider use of Italian varieties of grapes in California, and has been integral to the rediscovery of the Sierra foothills as a fine wine growing region," said Ryan.

"Corti is an internationally sought after member of wine and olive oil tasting panels and has mentored a generation of seminal food and wine professionals with his impeccable taste and articulate discourse," he added.

Ryan also called Corti "often controversial," but not on this night.

Some 180 persons, more than 50 of them from Sacramento, attended the ceremonies at the CIA's Greystone campus in St. Helena.

Aside from the Sacramentans, several prominent players on the state's culinary scene interrupted Corti throughout the dinner to congratulate him and reminisce, including Bay Area radio personality Narsai David, Los Angeles wine merchant Steve Wallace (born on the same day as Corti, April 3, 1942), and Paul Draper, longtime winemaker at Ridge Vineyards of Cupertino.

Draper also was one of the night's inductees, along with the late John Daniel Jr., a progressive Napa Valley winemaker for three decades immediately after the repeal of Prohibition; the late brothers Ernest and Julio Gallo, whose E.&J. Gallo Winery of Modesto is one of the world's larger wine producers; Miljenko "Mike" Grgich, a Napa Valley winemaker for 50 years; the late Louis P. Martini, a Napa Valley winemaker saluted for his several innovative contributions to the industry; and the late Carl Heinrich Wente, a pioneering vintner in the Livermore Valley.

While the usually loquacious Corti had little to say Friday night, he showed his characteristic graciousness in bringing to the dinner several magnums of a pinot noir made at his direction as a tribute to his late sister Illa.

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