Le Tour de Vin 1


“Blend liberally with the flavors of some of the finest wines in the world, finish with the camaraderie of Norman’s three Rotary clubs, and top with the urgency of a good cause, and you have one of our city’s most innovative, festive, and sought-after events: Le Tour de Vin.”

This is the basis of Le Tour de Vin’s 2018 Grant Request for Capital Project Funding.

The original idea for Le Tour de Vin is the brain child of Craig Stephens, and was started by Cross Timbers Club and the Red Cross in 2003. The first year’s events were held at Belmar Golf Club, and raised about $18,000 with the support of 30 volunteers.

Past events have benefited various local nonprofits, including the Mary Abbott House and the Thunderbird Clubhouse, Food and Shelter Inc., Center For Children and Families Inc., and ILSY (Bridges).

The event now requires nearly as many volunteers as the first year had in total attendance, said Joe Gil, executive director of Le Tour de Vin, who added that, on average, it now takes about 250 volunteers to work the entire event. Several of the attendees have participated in many, if not all, of the previous years’ events. To date, Le Tour de Vin has raised $1,101,800, net.

Now in its 15th year, Le Tour de Vin is described as “a celebration of wine, food and generosity by Norman’s Rotary Clubs” and a “powerful collaboration of the Cross Timbers, Sooner, and Norman Rotary clubs,” with funds this year going to The Studio of The Sooner Theatre.

Rotary’s goal is to “bring together dedicated individuals to exchange ideas, build relationships and take action.” Together, Rotary clubs, Rotary International, and The Rotary Foundation work to make lasting improvements in its communities and around the world.

Gil shares that the Norman Rotary clubs give back to the community in numerous ways, including donating the funds to build three cottages in the Food and Shelter Inc.’s new campus on East Main Street.

Le Tour de Vin is planned over three days in different Norman locations.

The event kicks off with “Artist et le Vin” (Painting and Wine) at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 1, at the Assistance League building, 809 Wall St. For the third year, this event will feature local artist Adam Jones, owner of Paint N’ Cheers. Attendance has increased each year, and is expected to top 70 this year.

Friday features a “Wine and Dine” at The Studio of The Sooner Theatre, 110 E Main St., beginning at 6:30 p.m. The entertainment will feature children’s performances that were made possible thanks to last year’s Le Tour de Vin. The evening will also feature a piano performance and food provided by Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse in Bricktown.

The main event is planned for Saturday evening at the Marriott Conference Center at NCED (National Center for Employee Development), 2801 E. State Hwy 9, starting at 6:30. Eight to 10 local restaurants will be offering food samples. Restaurants signed on thus far include Hollie’s Flatiron Steakhouse, Panda Express, Ray’s Smokehouse BBQ, Mazzio’s Italian Eatery, and Sweet Basil. The flow is expected to be more efficient this year, with restaurant and wine booths alternating, allowing participants even more access to the wide selection of food and wine. Harumph, a jazz and blues band, will make their third appearance.

The first auction of the evening, the silent auction, is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. Bids are placed by smartphone or ipad, so the bidder isn’t required to keep up with a paper bid sheet. Each bidder will be notified if their bid is surpassed, and asked if they would like to increase their bid. The silent auction will consist of approximately 30-50 items, ranging from artwork to restaurant packages.

The second auction that evening is the live auction, beginning at 8:30 p.m. Gil says this is often the big money-maker, featuring 20-25 items ranging from trips like an African Safari to a one-week stay in a  Crested Butte, Colorado, condo, to artwork by local artist Tim Kenney. Sooner football memorabilia are always big-ticket items.

People have a variety of ways in which to get involved, from sponsorships to volunteering, as well as simply attending and participating in the auction.

Sticking to theme, sponsorship levels have been named after various types of wine. Investment opportunities range from the “Champagne” level, for $10,000, down to “Chablis” at $350.

Also, each club competes against one another in creating a basket for the live auction; the club whose basket raises the most money wins the competition.