When an invite to the Emmys appears in your inbox, you clear your calendar.
My quick trip to Los Angeles for the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, held at the Microsoft Theater on Monday, September 17, was personally a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Professionally, I was curious to see which stars were stealth and which were unabashed in their love for wine.
Television and the streaming platforms like Amazon and Netflix are experiencing a heyday. All are attracting the most relevant producing, directing and acting talent today by offering a kind of creative freedom not typically found in the feature film world.
This year, the awards ceremony itself focused on topics like diversity, gender equality and politics. There were feel-good moments from veteran television stars like Betty White (who, at 96, can still nail a bawdy joke), the awestruck, first-time winner Henry Winkler and RuPaul, as well as emotional winning speeches from Emmy newbies like Thandie Newton, Rachel Brosnahan and Darren Criss. There was even a surprise engagement between winning director Glenn Weiss and girlfriend Jan Svendsen, the latter remaining admirably composed while having an impromptu life moment in front of 10 million people.
Wine enjoyed a starring role during the awards ceremony as well as at the glittering Governors Ball, held for the first time at the indoor/outdoor L.A. LIVE’s Event Deck. In the lobby of my hotel, the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE, mere steps away from the evening’s festivities, Napa Valley’s Sterling Vineyards, the official still wine of Emmy season, offered pours for a packed lobby of selfie-snapping attendees. Guests could choose from Sterling’s 2016 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 2016 Napa Valley Chardonnay and the soon-to-be-released 2015 Platinum Cabernet Sauvignon.
For the first time ever, participants of the awards show were given access to wine, beer and cocktails in the main lobby of the Microsoft Theater. During every commercial break, a stampede of attendees made a beeline for the bar, proving that access to libations as part of the festivities was a good move.
The celebratory atmosphere carried to the Governors Ball, a fantastical rooftop wonderland with endless creative food stations from Chef Joachim Splichal and Patina Catering, a massive revolving, two-tiered stage with a live band belting out tunes, and bustling bars at every turn serving Sterling alongside Italian bubbly from the Emmys’ official sparkling wine, Ferrari Trento. Ferrari’s offerings included their Brut, Rosé, 2012 Perlé and 2005 Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore. Ketel One was also on hand with vodka cocktails to help fuel the festivities.
Beyond the top-tier food, wine and entertainment, the Governors Ball definitely delivered on celebrities. Lots of them. I’m not typically starstruck, but being within earshot of Jimmy Kimmel, Millie Bobby Brown, Keri Russell, Wanda Sykes and John Oliver within the first 15 minutes was a somewhat surreal experience and lots of fun. While I kept my serious star stalking to a minimum, I did ask Oliver for a photo, which he cheerfully agreed to—though rescuing him from an aggressive woman shoving her business card in his face likely helped my cause.
Sterling’s lock down on the Winners Circle, where attendees picked up their actual engraved Emmys, was an ideal spot for people watching. With a winners-only bar located steps from the statuette pick up, the winery was the first stop for stars celebrating victory. Pouring the yet-to-be-released 2015 Sterling Iridium Cabernet, the winery gifted each winner an engraved bottle of the wine, which winemaker Lauren Kopit was on hand to discuss.
Here, my first celeb encounter was a big thumbs-up. Emmy winner Henry Winkler, who won for his role on HBO’s Barry, rushed over to our group, graciously shook our hands and expressed his surprise and gratitude on winning an award he had waited so long to receive. His next stop was the Sterling bar, where he was sincerely excited about his engraved bottle and hung out for a while chatting with fellow winners. From his early days as “the Fonz” to his stiletto-wearing Coach Klein stint in The Waterboy, Winkler is a versatile comedian who also happens to be a really lovely person. And he loves wine, another plus.
Also making a pit stop to say hello, grab their wine and pose for pics: RuPaul, Jeff Daniels, Regina King, Bill Hader, Tiffany Haddish and the newly engaged Weiss and Svendsen. Rachel Brosnahan floated up to the bar in a striking red, off-the-shoulder Oscar de la Renta dress and had a glass of wine in her hand in short order, taking the kind of blissful, long draw on Iridium that made me think yep, she’s been hankering for a glass of wine all night. Her plucky, award-winning character Miriam “Midge” Maisel seemed a match for Brosnahan’s confident but bubbly energy.
Other highlights: being congratulated by a passer-by for an Emmy I didn’t win (huh?) while getting a makeup touch-up at the L’Oréal station, the addictive, prepared-on-the-spot Caesar salad from Nick and Stef’s that had even calorie-phobic starlets inhaling food, and wearing glamorous shoes that didn’t permanently hobble me. To see more behind-the-scenes highlights, check out my story on the Wine Enthusiast Instagram account.
To the Emmys winners, cheers! See you next year!