We can’t think of anything better than drinking wine for a good cause, so what a treat it is to have Leigh Walsh and Dina Woodruff, co-chairs of the annual High Museum Wine Auction, join us as today’s FACES of Atlanta. Leigh and Dina have been working on this event, in some capacity, for years and hope 2016’s event, taking place March 30 through April 2, brings in the most amount of money to date — helping the High Museum’s exhibition and education plan. Get to know these fabulous ladies and what they do beyond their philanthropic work!
You and your husband, Tim, are longtime supporters of the High Museum Wine Auction. How would you describe the event for someone new to Atlanta or who has never attended before?
The High Museum Wine Auction is, hands down, the best party in Atlanta! It is a great way to kick off the spring season with wine, food and friends. The event is packed full of seminars on wine, educational luncheons and intimate, in-home dinners where you have the opportunity to get to know vintners and sommeliers. The event culminates on Saturday “under the tents” for a wine tasting and live auction. Over 100 wineries are represented and more than 1,000 guests pack the tents to raise funds for the leading art museum in the southeastern United States.
What’s the difference between supporting the event from years past to now serving as co-chair and leading the charge for the Wine Auction? How does it feel?
I have always been proud to say that I supported the High Museum via the Wine Auction — what a great museum! Now that I’m in the co-chair role, I see firsthand the impact my past years’ support has provided to the museum. The educational initiatives are incredible. Did you know that this past year over 33,000 students visited the High through Art Access, a program that offers free admission for students of Title I schools?
You are the mother of three children, two at Pace Academy and one at the University of Georgia. What’s the toughest part about raising three young adults? Are you breathlessly awaiting the end of the teenage years?
I am fortunate — Tim and I have three wonderful children! The teenage years at our house have been fairly easy. The hardest part of raising young adults is knowing when to treat them as an adult and when to manage them as a teenager. Always a challenge for me, but fortunately my children are patient!
What might people be surprised to learn about you?
I am a very shy person. I tell friends that, and they say, “What?!'” But, seriously, I really don’t like being the center of attention.
What’s the best vacation you’ve taken in the last five years and why?
Grand Cayman last Christmas break. The weather was great, the beaches are beautiful, and the restaurants and wine lists are excellent! But the best part was spending a week with my children. Life is so busy in Atlanta, so having the opportunity to just chat with them is priceless.
You have been active with the High Museum Wine Auction in some capacity almost since the fundraiser’s inception 24 years ago. Why do you continue to stay involved? What has been your favorite role working with the Wine Auction?
It puts a smile on my face to answer this! I have loved meeting and celebrating such a fun event with so many incredible people. Dick and Marg Denny, Woodie Wisebram … these are the ones who started it all, including the volunteers, the chefs and winemakers, and all in between. It’s a great event with such a positive vibe! Everyone enjoys the Wine Auction.
You are the owner of Peridot Buckhead and Peridot West. What is the hardest part about being a business owner/entrepreneur in Atlanta? What’s the best part?
Being in two places at one time is the hardest part! I adore working with our amazing Peridot family. We are a team and look out for each other, and I couldn’t do it without them. Our customers come from local and regional all the way to nationwide. We treasure the positive input we get from our clients and how much fun they have when they shop.
Have you noticed any surprising trends making a reappearance this spring? Based on what you carry at Peridot Buckhead and Peridot West, what are some gift ideas you recommend this spring/summer — for graduations? Weddings?
Black and white with a pop of color is trending — I bet paint stores have never sold so many shades of white! I just returned from a trip to Morocco and got lots of inspiration there. In regards to gift ideas, for graduation, go with personalized and functional pieces; weddings, get fun, entertaining pieces (like pottery, serving ware, personalized drinkware) — it’s all about sharing time together!
In addition to your work with the High Museum Wine Auction, your son is a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Why do you believe an education in the arts is so important?
Seeing my son find his passion with art has been so inspiring — the amount of creativity in our children is a treat to see. Growing up, we had art in school every day, which gives children a way to express themselves and expand their minds. I love that the High Museum gives so many a chance to see and experience the arts. It helps all understand and use their imaginations, which is part of every business and relationship.
To both, share your answers!
The High Museum Wine Auction is the No. 1 charity wine auction benefiting the arts, generating more than $23 million over the last 23 years. What do you hope people get out of this year’s event?
D: Of course, Leigh and I would LOVE to beat all records (including my own from 2001), but we really want all involved to come away with the fun and good they have done by supporting our awesome High Museum and its education programs. Having fun while giving back is a pretty good feeling!
L: My hope is that they get a better understanding of how the money they spend at the auction benefits our community by educating children and adults in the arts.
Can you describe your ties to Atlanta?
L: I moved to Atlanta when I was 4. My husband was born at Piedmont Hospital. We both graduated from Pace Academy and our three children attended school at Pace. Yes, we were high school sweethearts! I love the neighborhoods in Atlanta — the beautiful homes and parks.
D: Originally growing up in Columbus, GA, my family always came up to the big city to shop for our school clothes. It was a treat to drive down the tree-lined streets and see all the beautiful homes. Atlanta is a “big small town” — people take care of each other, support endeavors and are there when you need them. Plus, the shopping and restaurants are fabulous! I’ve lived in Atlanta for almost 30 years (yikes) so I feel like a local. Buckhead is where I live and have had a home-and-gift store for over 27 years.
Where is your favorite place in Atlanta to enjoy a glass of wine?
D: I’d have to say my porch by the outside fire. It’s been great learning from my friends who are winemakers and supporting their wines. H & F Bottle Shop and Sherlock’s Wine Merchants are my favorites to purchase wine from.
Sharing wine with friends and family makes the wine taste even better! I’ve collected big format wines from High Wine Auction and open them up for family dinners, girls’ nights, Peridot parties and small dinner parties — everyone signs them. I bet I have 30 bottles saved!
L: What a hard question! Atlanta is blessed with so many great parks, restaurants and venues. The wine list at Cibo e Beve on Roswell Road is great — they have the most expansive wine-by-the-glass list I know of. If the weather is nice, I love sitting in the Adirondack chairs by the river at Canoe (not a bad venue to enjoy a splash of wine)!
If you could have the perfect food and wine pairing in Atlanta, where would it be and why?
L: In my opinion, Steven Satterfield is the best! So it would be at Miller Union. Everything he cooks is delicious, the atmosphere is relaxed and they have a great wine list … the trifecta!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
L: It’s OK to make a mistake. It’s better to try and not succeed than not to try at all. I have a tendency to hold back and not try things for risk of failure. As I’ve aged, I’ve realized that it is no big deal to mess up, so go for it!
What are three things you cannot live without excluding friends, family and faith?
D: A good bottle of wine, laughter and a good night’s sleep!
L: Is it bad to say wine and tennis?!
We raise our glasses, in the spirit of the High Museum Wine Auction, to thank Leigh Walsh and Dina Woodruff for opening up about their lives, their involvement with this great cause and why getting involved in your community, in any capacity, is always a good thing. Cheers!
And we toast the fabulous work of CatMax Photography for today’s wonderful images.