When the staff at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. began planning its 2008 Events and Entertainment Calendar, it was suggested that with wine dinners growing so popular, why not take the idea outside, once the weather got nice?
And so it was that Merion’s "Sundowner Dinner" concept was conceived, to hold an intimate wine dinner at dusk on the club’s storied course (which will be the site of the U.S. Open in 2013). Plans were made to set up tables near Merion’s 17th tee, overlooking a unique feature of the course known as "the Quarry."
"The original plan was to keep it to about 20 people or so," says Clive Smith, Merion’s Director of Food & Beverage. "But when we mentioned it at our first wine dinner in January while talking about other plans for 2008, excitement snowballed. Soon, we had 40 members signed up."
It was decided that the first Sundowner would feature South African wines, to take advantage of Smith’s special knowledge of those vintages (he is a native of that country).
Planned "not as a money maker, but as a memorable dinner," Smith says, the price was set at $50 per person. The menu was planned and prepared by Executive Chef Jerry Schreck and his staff. As guests arrived, they were offered (along with passed hors d’oeuvres) a glass of Pearly Bay Celebration Sparkling, a semi-sweet sparkling wine from the Cape Winelands.
During dinner, two different South African wines from the Warwick Estate Winery were served: a 2006 Sauvignon Blanc and a 2003 blend called Three Cape Ladies.
While the weather cooperated splendidly, pulling off the event still had its challenges, Smith says—most prominently, setting up the dinner without disrupting play on the golf course, and then breaking it down in the fading light.
Still, the Sundowner was hailed as an unqualified success—and another was quickly scheduled for July, with the 28 people on the first waitlist contacted to get a head start on filling up the next of what is sure to become a regular, but still-always-special feature of Merion’s events calendar.