Harbor Style — January 2011
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Punta Gorda Wine & Jazz Festival
Nanci Theoret

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that wine appears first in the name of the annual Punta Gorda Wine & Jazz Festival. And local distributors are uncorking their best vintages for lucky attendees to sniff, swirl and sip. Big Crush Distributors and Terry Seitz Inc. will showcase the crème de la crème of boutique wineries from California and South Africa, respectively, during the sixth annual festival on February 19 in Laishley Park.

“This is one of the best shows in town,” said Linda Bragaw, director of business development for Boca Grande-based Terry Seitz. “It’s a full day of eating, drinking and listening to great music. What more could you want?”

Her company has exclusive U.S. representation for more than a half-dozen South African boutique vineyards, considered among the most prestigious in the country. “We’re small but mighty,” Bragaw said. “We distribute throughout Florida and eight states. There is a lot of wine out there. There's a lot of bad wine and a lot of exceptional wine. We’re on the upper level of exceptional.”

Terry Seitz is also providing vintages for the VIP tent, and not to be missed, Bragaw said, is the shiraz from Avontuur, a South African winery know for its “beautiful, high-end wine” and bottle labels depicting its champion Thoroughbreds.

She expects to pour a variety of reds and whites, including chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc blends, single varietal merlots and cabernets, and a pinotage, South Africa’s signature varietal.

Born of a hurricane and a community’s resolve to stage a dramatic comeback, the Punta Gorda Wine & Jazz Festival was launched in 2006 by the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce. “We wanted to show how quickly Punta Gorda recovered from Hurricane Charley, that in a little more than a year we were open for business,” said Chamber President John Wright. “We wanted to showcase Punta Gorda as a destination for a classy event, to show people the city was again attracting tourism, residential and commercial development.”

The festival, one of the must-attend events of the season, has grown exponentially. It was moved to Laishley Park three years ago to accommodate larger crowds, which this year are expected to top 1,500 — 400 more than the 2010 event and three times the attendance of the inaugural festival.

“Our VIP tickets always sell out long before February,” Wright said. “The festival attracts jazz lovers from Naples to Sarasota and Tampa. Year after year I see the same names — people from Minnesota, Michigan and New Hampshire — reserving their tickets in advance. People come to Punta Gorda specifically for the festival.”

In addition to afternoon-long wine tastings, tickets, priced from $80 to $130 plus tax, also entitle holders to sample their way through Punta Gorda’s growing restaurant scene, tasting signature dishes offered by 25 local restaurants. Attendees also receive a souvenir glass.

“The festival is successful because it’s always fresh. There isn’t a formula,” Wright said. “We’ve always had three acts, but in the past, most groups were local bands. Now it’s all jazz.”

Past headliners have included Spyro Gyra (2006), Ramsey Lewis (2007), the Rippingtons (2008) and Mindi Abair (2009), who returned last year as an opening act to Peter White and takes the stage again this year. This year's headliner David Benoit, Wright said, “came to us. He wanted to perform here.”

The festival’s biggest challenge isn’t recruiting the 40 volunteers needed to pull it off. Nor is there an issue of dealing with egos or diva-esque performers. They’re all pretty down to earth. The biggest obstacle without fail, Wright said, “is the torment of bringing a Steinway onto the stage. We lease a piano, and it’s used outside where it’s exposed to the elements.”

The festival’s impact lingers long after the last encore of the night. Visitors stay in area hotels, dine at area restaurants and shop at area stores. It also serves as a worthy introduction to Punta Gorda. Charlotte Regional Medical Center used the festival as a successful recruiting tool, hosting at least one physician who later joined the staff, said CPA and 2010 festival chair Ron Olsen.

“It’s a standout event for our community,” he said. “Our audience comes from all over.”

Festival Headliner & Jazz Icon

David Benoit

Jazz performers may just well be the impromptu masters of music. Five-time Grammy nominated composer and pianist David Benoit is no exception. When asked about the songs he’ll be performing as the headlining act of the Punta Gorda Wine & Jazz Festival, the California native wasn’t ready to commit.

“We never put the set list in stone,” Benoit said during a telephone interview in early December, just days before the 90th birthday of one of his biggest inspirations, jazz legend Dave Brubeck. “It depends on the mood of the audience. Do they want to party? Do they want to take a trip down memory lane or do they want new, fresh songs?”

A 30-year jazz veteran, Benoit would rather read the audience and give them exactly what they want. Even thousands of miles away, over a phone line, he is the epitome of cool, calm and collected — exactly what you’d expect from a musician who’s been heralded as the heir to the Peanuts musical empire. A lifelong fan of original Peanuts composer Vince Guaraldi, Benoit has been involved in several important Charlie Brown projects: “Here’s To You, Charlie Brown: 50 Great Years” and “40 Years: A Charlie Brown Christmas.” He also appears onscreen in the Clint Eastwood-produced documentary celebrating Brubeck, perhaps the most telling testimony to Benoit’s coolness factor.

Benoit’s body of work, a growing list of recordings that now number more than 30, includes his 2010 release “Earthglow,” an 11-track album that mixes eclectic global influences a la “Botswana Bossa Nova” and “Will’s Chill” with more traditional Benoit styles his fans have come to expect.

He has an ongoing role as conductor for the Asia America Symphony Orchestra and has led orchestras and symphonies in Los Angeles, London, Nuremberg, San Francisco, Atlanta, San Antonio and San Jose. Benoit also scored the 1995 Eastwood-produced “The Stars Fell on Henrietta” and “The Christmas Tree,” a 1996 film produced by Sally Field.

Call him conductor or composer, but Benoit considers himself first and foremost a “piano player by heart. I perform jazz that’s listenable, fun, melodic and has a beat. I like to approach jazz from a place people can understand.”

Benoit is also charming — and funny, teasing that maybe he’ll strip down and jump into the Punta Gorda audience. Okay, so he’s not that impromptu. But he is looking forward to his first Punta Gorda appearance and an audience that will dictate the afternoon’s mood.

“The audience will shout out requests in the freedom of the minute,” he said. “That’s fine, too.”

The crowd, Benoit said, can also likely expect tributes. To Brubeck, of course. He might also jump onto the Michael Jackson tribute bandwagon — or off the stage sans clothes. “I loved Michael Jackson's music and did record one of his songs a few years ago,” he said.

“'Thriller’ has such a big influence on me."

The Punta Gorda audience, he finally revealed, can also expect “a lot of different things. We’ll focus on new material from the new record, do some Bossa Nova-driven material and give the band a chance to stretch out. We’ll probably do older songs like 'Kei’s Song' and 'Linus and Lucy.' "

An impromptu collaboration with saxophonist Mindi Abair isn’t out of the question either. “It is quite possible,” he confessed. “Mindi and I are good friends, and we do share the same drummer…

“I promise I won’t let anyone down. I promise a fun afternoon of music. Everyone will have a good time.”

Mindi Abair

Returns Home

Mindi Abair isn’t your stereotypical jazz musician. This blond bombshell not only has the looks and figure of a supermodel, she’s also managed to distinguish herself in the typically male-dominated genre. Abair is, after all, the female saxophonist and singer who was once told she’d have to decide between instrument or vocals. Be thankful she didn’t listen.

Today, St. Petersburg native Abair, who also plays keyboard, is credited with leading jazz in a new direction with her evolution to music that blurs genres. “I’ve learned I wanted to play like Tina Turner or Bruce Springsteen, a mix of jazz, pop, soul and rock,” she said.

Abair and her band were invited to headline the 2009 festival and have been returning since. “Mindi has an international following and really connects with the audience,” said John Wright, president of the Punta Gorda Chamber and festival organizer. “She’s a real crowd pleaser.”

“If you haven’t seen our band, we’re kind of the rockers of the jazz world,” Abair said. “We’re not your father’s jazz band. We’re not sitting on the floor playing. We’re really engaged and will get you on your feet. If we don’t, we haven’t done our job.”

It’s this energy and enthusiasm that attendees can expect when Abair takes the stage, the second of three acts to perform. “We really feed off the energy of the people we play to,” she said. “We want you to dance and sing and maybe even spill a bit of wine. This is your concert.”

Abair gets her musical inclinations naturally. Her father, a saxophonist, was a member of The Entertainers; her grandmother was an opera singer. In school — both high school and at the Berklee College of Music — she was involved in every band and choral ensemble. “When you play sax any length of time, you have to get into jazz. You have no choice,” she joked.

Abair has toured with a number of notable performers, including Josh Groban, John Tesch, Duran Duran and the Backstreet Boys, and has recorded several acclaimed albums. Her latest is “In Hi-Fi Stereo.”

She also considers herself a hometown girl. Until recently, Abair and husband Jason Steel, who she married on Sanibel Island in 2005, owned a home in Punta Gorda. The couple spends as much time as they can in southwest Florida, visiting family that extends from Fort Myers to Port Charlotte.

“It’s an unwritten rule in my husband’s family that you have to either have a house in or retire to Florida,” she said.

Abair looks forward to her annual appearances in Punta Gorda. “During interviews, everyone asks about my favorite place to play. I’ve been lucky to play great destinations from Dubai to Catalina, but I’ve got to say there’s nothing like coming home,” she said. “Punta Gorda is a second home to me. There’s just something about Florida and the people who live there.

“People there want the same things as me: They want to go out on a boat, motor around, have lunch on a nearby island and lay in the sand. I love the lifestyle, and there’s nowhere else on earth that feels like it.

“It’s been great to watch the festival grow each year,” she said. “It gets more and more fun, bigger and better. It’s been a beautiful thing to watch this little city of Punta Gorda come into its own after the hurricane. I went through Hurricane Charley with my family. I love seeing something as joyous and perfect as the wine and jazz festival, cool restaurants and shops coming to the city I love.”

Introducing The Acorn Ranch All-Stars 2011

A word of caution: Don’t get too committed to the Acorn Ranch All-Stars 2011.

The jazz ensemble performing at the Wine & Jazz Festival and during the VIP reception the night before isn’t likely to reappear in exactly the same format, with the same stellar musicians. This is an annual collaboration of local performers; a band always in flux, evident by continued changes to the line-up just months before the festival.

That’s the beauty of the All-Stars project, the brainchild of Brian and Mary Presley, who handpicked the musicians for the inaugural quintet, named after the couple’s Charlotte County ranch. “There’s a lot of jazz talent in Southwest Florida,” Brian said. “This allows us to bring in talent each year under the Acorn Ranch banner. The All-Stars will always be different.”

Presley, an investment advisor whose Presley Advisory sponsors the All-Stars, certainly knows his way around the local jazz scene. As the former chairman of the Naples Jazz Society, he produced six annual concerts, and was a member of the original finance committee for Memphis in May, a month-long jazz festival.

“Memphis in May started with a $50,000 budget,” he said. “Now it’s $20 million and is the largest municipal festival in the country. I really think our festival could evolve into a two- or three-day event. David Benoit is a world-class musician. He’s doing the London Palladium and Punta Gorda. People fly in for the festival; we have a very good audience. It’s one of the reasons Mindi Abair keeps coming back.”

This year’s All-Stars quintet includes Naples keyboardist Stu Shelton; drummer and vocalist Patricia Dean from Venice; Orlando trumpeter John DePaola; Gerald Augustin, a tenor saxophonist from Fort Myers; and Scott Smith, a bass guitarist from Naples.

“I wanted people who have good musicality, musicians who can go on the fly and feed off each other,” Presley said. “Stu, for instance, is just an incredible pianist. You think you’re listening to the best guy who graduated from Julliard. And a couple of these musicians can sing. Patricia Dean is a second-generation jazz performer. She has four albums, one with Stu, which is amazing.”

It’s a magical combination Presley believes will give festival-goers a treat in February, with many yet to come. “It’s really exciting to get this level of musicians playing together for the first time,” he said. “They like to play in the open air because they can really blow it out. Part of the magic of jazz is its spontaneity. I can’t wait to get them on the stage.”

Gregory Gebauer, M.D., M.S. Advanced Orthopedic Center 1641 Tamiami Trail, Ste. 1 Port Charlotte (941) 629-6262 www.advancedorthopediccenter.com

I love being able to help people...It’s very rewarding to narrow down and pin-point the problem and be able to give my patients relief.

When Advanced Orthopedic Center welcomed Gregory Gebauer, M.D., M.S., to the practice, Charlotte County gained some tremendous surgical talent. Gebauer was looking for a nice place in Florida to settle with his family, and the area was a great fit. “Everyone has been incredibly nice and welcoming,” said Gebauer, who has fully embraced the community.

Gebauer is a fellowship-trained orthopedic spine surgeon who specializes in operative and non-operative treatment of spinal disorders and has special interests in minimally invasive procedures, cervical myelopathy, degenerative scoliosis, lumbar stenosis and the aging spine.

To hear Gebauer explain how he got into orthopedics is one of kismet as he actually began his studies to pursue an engineering degree. “I was working on a research project, went to observe a surgical procedure and fell in love,” he said.

Encouraged by Amy, his future wife whom he met during his undergraduate studies, he switched gears to follow his heart into orthopedics. “I love being able to help people,” he said, “especially when it comes to complex spine problems. It’s very rewarding to narrow down and pin-point the problem and be able to give my patients relief.”

After receiving his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Lafayette College in Easton, Penn., Gebauer earned a Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N. J. He then received his Doctor of Medicine from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, where He was elected to the Alpha-Omega-Alpha Honor Medical Society and the Gold Humanism Society and received the Roy V. Lorenco Dean’s Award.

Gebauer continued his orthopedic surgical training at the world-renowned Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Md. While in Baltimore, he served on the orthopedic team caring for the Baltimore Orioles and completed a trauma rotation at the Adam Crowley Shock- Trauma Center. Gebauer completed his training with a combined orthopedic and neurosurgical spine fellowship at the prestigious Rothman Institute at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Penn.

Gebauer is a member of various professional organizations, including the North American Spine Society and the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons. In addition to his clinical work, he has authored multiple book chapters and research papers on topics such as osteoporotic compression fractures, minimally invasive spine surgery, spinal tumors and spine trauma. Gebauer maintains an active interest in teaching and furthering the knowledge base in the field of spine-related surgical treatment.

When he is not at work, Gebauer enjoys spending time with his wife and three children. He enjoys swimming, baseball and golf. “Eventually I am sure I will learn to fish,” he laughed. At this time his focus is fixed on the spine. “The field is changing and evolving. New technology and treatments are exciting,” he said.

Spine patients are fortunate to have his sights set on southwest Florida.

Antoine Dakouny, M.D., P.A. 3400 Tamiami Trail, Ste. 104 Port Charlotte 15121 Tamiami Trail North Port (941) 624-4507 www.antoinedakouny.com

I love my patients. I respect them, and, after all, I owe them all my success in the present and the future.

When it comes to his medical practice, Dr. Antoine Dakouny’s philosophy is that every single patient should be treated just as if he were treating his own family members. It all starts by understanding the team approach to medical care, and patients are part of that team. With Dakouny’s proper guidance, every patient receives the attention they need.

He applies advanced and complete medical care in an old fashioned way, spending time with his patients, listening to their problems and coming up with a plan of action that meets their individual needs. Dakouny sees patients in his office and in any of Charlotte County’s hospitals should they require hospitalization, thus providing continuity of care and avoiding unnecessary diagnostic tests or blood work.

Dakouny strives to establish the best relationship with his patients. “I love my patients,” he said. “I respect them, and, after all, I owe them all my success in the present and the future.”

Providing quality care is Dakouny’s top priority. Cutting down on unnecessary expenses for his patients is a must in his practice. As such, he orders only the necessary diagnostic tests. Additionally, he believes in the fact that every patient has the right not to only ask questions, but to get answers, too.

Preventive medicine is also an important aspect of Dakouny’s practice, and in some cases, he believes in the Holistic approach in conjunction with traditional medicine. He strives to coordinate care among all other physicians involved in his patients’ care and is experienced in coordinating patient care with multiple subspecialists at major research centers like the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Moffitt Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School.

Dakouny believes the less the medications the better when it comes to his patients’ wellbeing. Medicines are chemicals and have side effects. He always considers possible interactions between the medications his patients are taking and avoids prescribing them unless absolutely necessary.

In addition to being board certified in internal medicine, Dakouny has advanced training in wound care and hyperbaric medicine.

“As a physician and a potential patient, I want to make sure that every patient feels special and gets the care he or she deserves. No one is just a ‘number’ when visiting my office,” he said.

Dakouny practices in Port Charlotte and North Port.

Kirschner Chiropractic and Wellness Centre
Doctors Daniel and Jamie Kirschner are making wellness a lifestyle.

Daniel Kirschner, D.C. , C.C.S.P. Jamie Finley Kirschner, D.C. Kirschner Chiropractic and Wellness Centre 12687 SW CR 769 (Kings Highway), Ste. 3A Lake Suzy (941) 766-7110 www.kirschnerwellness.com

Kirschner Chiropractic and Wellness Centre has grown into the premier facility in the area for natural and alternative therapies.

Kirschner Chiropractic and Wellness Centre is your local destination to balance body and mind. Doctors Daniel and Jamie Kirschner have created an environment with a focus on wellness and healing, offering a menu of services that reads like any luxury spa resort. Over the years, their vision has grown into the premier facility in the area for natural and alternative therapies, designed to improve your form and function.

After developing a thriving chiropractic practice in Arcadia, the Kirschners sought to expand their services and reach in the community by offering more than the “typical clinical experience.” Enhancing the patient results with personalized nutritional programs, luxurious massage options, weight loss protocols, aesthetics, laser body-contouring and bio-identical hormone therapies make this doctors office unique. Their intention to offer the finest wellness care at one location has been achieved in their grand facility.

At the heart of the Wellness Centre is their passion for chiropractic. The technique the Kirschners use to accomplish this is revolutionary. The use of low-level lasers, precise adjusting instruments, myofascial work, neurological- and brain-based therapies are all a part of their repertoire. The Kirschners are passionate about their quest to add balance and function to the life of their patients.

If chiropractic is the heart of the Wellness Centre, their ancillary services must be the soul. Offering pharmaceutical grade nutrition is a great way to start anyone on the path to better health, but those that require a comprehensive evaluation for metabolic issues will also find answers. Highly trained and experienced therapists can deliver deep tissue, hot stone or even bamboo massage to work out trigger points and tight muscles. Detoxification and weight loss are also highly sought after treatments offered to patients.

Once you start feeling better, looking better will be the natural progression with their aesthetic and body enhancements. Customized facials, luxurious Obagi skin care lines and Zerona, non-invasive laser body contouring, bring a full spectrum of opportunities.

The Kirschner’s implementation of modern alternative therapies combined with cosmetic and anti-aging protocols achieves their vision of “making wellness a lifestyle.”