ST. HELENA — The clinking of wine glasses is not exceptional in the Napa Valley. Residents and tourists do it routinely.
But the noise made Sunday by wine glasses clinking at Charles Krug Winery was special. Participants set a new Guinness World Record for the “longest relay wine toast.”
Almost 500 locals and visitors — 487, to be exact — gathered at Charles Krug on Sunday and lined up in a strictly organized, snake-patterned “clinking arena.” Participants, who were supervised by line captains, practiced the process of clinking to the right, sipping, and then clinking to the left.
“I feel honored to be a part of a Guinness World Record, and we couldn’t have a better day for it,” said participant No. 128, Alan Galbraith from St. Helena.
After several practice runs, it was time to start the Napa Valley Wine Wave with participant No. 1, St. Helena Mayor Del Britton. While sipping wine in a group is mostly about fun, the crowd took the process very seriously, as did Guinness World Record adjudicator Johanna Hessling.
This was Hessling’s first visit to the Napa Valley. “I travel within the Americas,” she said. “The valley is absolutely beautiful and the people are wonderful. It’s the first time I’ve been here, and it won’t be the last one.”
Hessling, who flew from New York to oversee the event, carefully counted the number of participants and made sure each clink-and-sip was done correctly.
When participant No. 322 sipped, the previous record of 321 set by Guangzhou, China, in November 2011 was officially defeated. At approximately 2:30 p.m., after less than an hour, the last clink-and-sip was completed and a new world record of 487 people was set.
“It’s great to have the record back where it belongs,” said Charles Krug owner Peter Mondavi Jr., who was participant No. 101. “I think the record belongs in a wine-growing region, and what a better place to break it than in St. Helena’s first winery?”
Like many other participants, Mondavi was not worried that the city of Guangzhou, or any other, would try to challenge the record.
“If the record is broken, we’ll definitely step up to the plate and break it again,” he promised.
The Napa Valley Wine Wave was organized by the St. Helena Kiwanis Club, which partnered with the St. Helena Chamber of Commerce, Cheers! St. Helena, and the wineries of Appellation St. Helena to bring the title to the valley while raising money for scholarships.
Each participant paid $100, with proceeds going to the Vaughn Herdell Memorial Scholarship program, the St. Helena Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneurial Scholarship Program, and scholarships for students to attend the Culinary Institute of America.
Once the record was set, each of the 487 participants received a medal to commemorate the event.
“The Napa Valley Wine Wave became the wine country tsunami,” said Lowell Smith, a Kiwanis Club member and former St. Helena mayor, who was participant No. 3.
Smith was the one who originally contacted Guinness, but for him it was about more than winning the record.
“It was a feel-good day,” he said, “and this is one of the unique things in the Napa Valley. We bond in ways that are fun.”