An evening of excess — in food, wine, and fun!

KMA’s new executive director, Steven Matijcio, with his wife, Anita Hollmann-Matijcio, left, and Natalie Dowling, a KMA board member.

As usual, the annual L’Amour du Vin fundraiser at the Knoxville Museum of Art was over the top this past Saturday. In the food, wine, fun — and noise level — departments.

I guess that’s to be expected. “L’Amour du Vin” is French for “the love of wine,” after all. And everyone in attendance seemed to want to live up to the motto!

The event, in its 21st year, has raised more than $8 million since KMA’s former development director Susan Hyde and some colleagues came up with the concept. The museum hasn’t released its ultimate fundraising results this year, but the “Fund a Cause” section of the auction alone raised $100,000 on Saturday.

That’s the part of most charity auctions when folks who’ve already paid handsomely to attend the event — in this case the lowest price for two tickets was $2,500 — are asked to hold up their paddles and donate even more! Hey, it sure seemed to work!

The featured chef this year was Mitsunobu Nagae, the executive chef and part owner of l’abeille a 48-seat French restaurant at 423 Greenwich Street in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood. It has earned a Michelin One Star designation. Here’s a great story about it.

Featured vintner was Jae Chun of DANA Estates in Rutherford, California.

Featured artist this year was Knoxville’s own John Woodrow Kelley, featured here in a Blue Streak post about the L’Amour du Vin’s Artist’s Lunch, which was held last month.

As always, kitchen staff from Blackberry Farm backed up Chef Nagae with the food prep and Blackberry staff helped with wine service, which was overseen by Blackberry’s sommelier and senior vice president of food and beverage, Andy Chabot.

There were 200 lots of wine and other culinary experiences offered during the silent auction/wine-tasting reception at the start of the evening followed by 32 live auction items which were sold throughout the dinner service. Truly a unique evening in Knoxville.

Lexus of Knoxville was title sponsor of L’Amour du Vin. The dealership celebrated by decorating several show vehicles with the signature flowers of the event.

Featured artist John Kelley posing with his 1987 painting “Prometheus I” which greeted guests as they entered the festivities.

Lexus made its support known in the glasses used for the wine tasting, as well! Smart.

Mingling, tasting and bidding filled the first hour!

Steve, left, and Steven Brewington.

From left, Mollie Turner, John Trotter, Laura and Brett Moye.

Sharon Laing, left, with Richard and Bette Bryan.

Two of the owners of the l’abeille restaurant, Rahul Saito, left, and Howard Chang. “L’abeille” means “the bee” in French. The chef’s name, Mitsunobu, comes from the word “honey,” in Japanese.

The dapperly attired Rob Heller was co-chair of L’Amour du Vin, along with his wife, June. This is the third year they’ve taken on those roles.

The passed appetizers were delicious. Clockwise from top: Sunburst trout roe and chips with lime creme fraiche; duck confit toast with pickled kumquat; and beets and creamy celery root on turmeric oat crackers.

Stefanie Hess with Mitchell Moseley, left, and Dino Cartwright, who emceed the live auction.

From left, June Heller, Johnnie Creel, and Moody Altamimi.

Bear Stephenson, left, was auctioneer for the live portion of the sales. With him are Sheryl Linck and Garry Conklin.

A few of the 200 silent auction lots! A LOT of wine was sold!

Kelly and Dana Headden.

Karen and Reinhold Mann.

Jim Brown and Susan Seymour.

From left, Anita Hollmann-Matijcio, Rahul Saito, Howard Chang, and Steven Matijcio.

Tiffany and Scott Gardner.

Jackie Wilson and Dino Cartwright.

Howard Chang, left, and Rob Heller.

These flowers were reflective of the John Kelley art that would be auctioned.

Here is the “Magnolia Triptych” series, which would be sold a little later in the evening.

Dinner was served in a tent in the June and Rob Heller Garden. The lighting was weird at first, but, thankfully, by the time the food was served, it was changed so that the food looked a LOT better than it would have in this light.

See? Isn’t that better?

Alan Carmichael and Emily Miller when the weird light was still on!

Marga Hayes McBride, center, stopped by our table to chat with Stephen and Wokie Massaquoi-Wicks. He is the KMA’s curator.

Whitfield Bailey stopped by to chat with Steven and Anita Hollomann-Matijcio.

From left, Steve, Mary Ellen, Allie and Steven Brewington.

Here’s the fantastic dinner. Top left: duck fat rolls with gift-wrapped butter pats; top right: Spanish tuna tartare with smoked egg yolk and caviar served with a 2021 Vaso Sauvignon Blanc; bottom left: heritage chicken and seasonal mushroom “vol-au-vent” with yuzu kosho pepper sauce served with a 2013 Vaso reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; bottom center: American Wagyu beef filet with coffee, salsify and chestnuts served with a 2021 Vaso proprietary red AND a 2019 Vaso Cabernet Sauvignon; and, bottom right: matcha ice cream with vanilla mousseline and a Bretagne sable served with a 2013 Onda Cabernet Sauvignon. Wow.

Stacey Karlovic, left, with June and Rob Heller. Stacey was the high bidder ($18K) for the John Kelley artwork! The Hellers were the high bidders ($25K) for a dinner for 20 in New York at l’abeille — and a stay at the owners’ New York City home!

Penny Lynch and Kimbro Maguire.

Taylor Wortham, chair of the KMA board of trustees, making welcoming remarks.

Vintner Jae Chun of DANA Estates discussed the wines we had at dinner. The name of the winery, he said, means “spirit of generosity.” In that spirit, the second wine we were served, he said, “is not for sale — just for gifts!” When drinking the final wine, he commented, “I hope you learn the meaning! If not, keep drinking!”

Melissa White, center, with Terry and Regina Turner. Melissa and her husband, Doug, own Lexus of Knoxville.

From left, Chef Mitsunobu Nagae of l’abeille, owner Rahul Saito, emcee Dino Cartwright, and auctioneer Bear Stephenson.

Kathy Gauci had to restrain her husband, Louis, during the auction! Ha! He’s the incoming board chair of KMA.

Brittany and Whitfield Bailey discussing whether to raise their bid!

From left, Alison Perry, Stacey Karlovic, and Janie Leahy after Karlovic placed the winning bid on the artwork.

Marga and Jay McBride.

From left, Louis and Kathy Gauci with Steven and Anita Hollmann-Matijcio.

Bob and Carole Martin.

Kudos to our friend Jerry Kruze of The Pour Guys, who facilitated food service!

From left, on the way out: Terry and Regina Turner, Carrie and Jim Decatur, Helen Hardy, Amy Moore, Scott Morrow, and John Moore.


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6 Responses to An evening of excess — in food, wine, and fun!

  1. Monique Anderson, on March 5th, 2024 at 4:29 pm said:

    Looks like a great time!!

  2. Cynthia Moxley, on March 5th, 2024 at 4:37 pm said:

    Monique: It was! (But it might have been too much fun to do more than once a year!)

  3. Alan Carmichael, on March 5th, 2024 at 9:09 pm said:

    Great time! Dino wins another best dress award.

  4. Cynthia Moxley, on March 5th, 2024 at 10:44 pm said:

    Alan: Of course he does!!

  5. John Woodrow Kelley, on March 7th, 2024 at 10:18 am said:

    I’m very honored to have been the guest artist for this year’s L’Amour du Vin fundraiser! I’m delighted that Stacey Karlovic was the triumphant bidder for my paintings, looking forward to their visiting my Knoxville studio. Many people asked about my Greek mythology painting in the permanent collection of the KMA, Prometheus I, which I was happy to see hanging in the museum entrance hall!

  6. Cynthia Moxley, on March 7th, 2024 at 2:05 pm said:

    John: You are so generous to have donated those beautiful magnolia paintings — on top of everything else you do for Knoxville and the KMA. It was fun sitting with you during this fun-filled evening!

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