Alex Borstein, Emmy Award winner for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, with Matteo Lunelli, CEO & President of Ferrari Trento
Alex Borstein, Emmy Award winner for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, with Matteo Lunelli, CEO & President of Ferrari Trento / Photo by Matt Harbicht

This year, I received the ultimate birthday present: an invitation to attend the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards on behalf of Wine Enthusiast. The entire experience was nothing short of spectacular.

One ultimate bridge connected me to the sea of celebrities with whom I rubbed elbows throughout the weekend: a love of wine, of which there was plenty during the weekend-long Emmys extravaganza.

It all kicked off with an exclusive party at a Beverly Hills estate on Saturday night hosted by the Italian sparkling wine brand, Ferrari Trento, the official sparkling wine sponsor of the Emmys and a company long committed to celebrating the intersection of wine and culture.

Converted into the “Ferrari Trento Villa,” our stunning private retreat overlooking the twinkling Los Angeles views below offered everything you’d expect from a glamorous and wine-fueled Italian party, from beautifully turned-out guests, passed  hors d’oeuvres including prosciutto-wrapped escargot ­and tuna tartar, and Ferrari’s full portfolio of bubbly, which included the exclusive Giulio Ferrari 2007 Riserva del Fondatore.

Performers on the multi-tiered musical stage at the Governors Ball
Performers on the multi-tiered musical stage at the Governors Ball / Photo by Matt Harbicht

The main Emmys events on Sunday, September 22, started with a pre-party launch event in the hotel’s lobby with Ferrari where guests enjoyed a Balthazar of Ferrari’s 2012 Brut Blanc de Blancs Millesime.

Then, it was on to the red carpet, which led to the awards held in the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles. On the carpet amid giant Emmy statues and flashing press cameras, television’s top celebrities posed for photos and gave interviews, including actress Mandy Moore and This Is Us costars Chrissy Metz and Sterling K. Brown, who offered up selfies with fans on the sidelines.

The towering Gwendoline Christie, nominated for her portrayal of Brienne of Tarth on Game of Thrones, also whisked through the crowd, but not before my fandom overcame me and I told her she was fabulous.

Inside the theater, the awards show followed in the footsteps of the Oscars, relying not on a host, but presenters who spent much of their time on stage debating the decision.

Toast-worthy moments included Phoebe Waller-Bridge all three times she graced the stage to accept an award for Fleabag, the cast of Game of Thrones reuniting to present together, and many passionate, politically charged acceptance speeches tying the television industry to issues in the greater world at large.

This included Michelle Williams’ comments about the need for equal pay for women, performance star RuPaul’s urge for people to vote, and actor Billy Porter—who became the first openly gay black man to win for lead actor in a drama series—delivering a moving recitation from the works of author James Baldwin. Porter also wore the most talked-about accessory of the evening: a huge, bedazzled hat.

Guests of the Governors Ball enjoyed large-format Ferrari wines from a Vcanter pouring device
Guests of the Governors Ball enjoyed large-format Ferrari wines from a Vcanter pouring device / Photo by Matt Harbicht

Attendees quenched their thirst during commercial breaks in the theater lobby with for-purchase wine and beer, though the real eating and drinking excitement was to come.

Following the ceremony, the fun carried over to the incredible Governors Ball, the official Emmys after-party at L.A. Live Event Deck, where nearly 4,000 participants ate, drank and mingled in a magical setting ringed by the Los Angeles’ urban skyline.

My first dilemma on entering the space was whether to focus on the abounding celebrities or the exquisite decorations. A cascade of color shimmered throughout the expansive event environment that perfectly evoked the Brilliance in Motion theme, with live bands and musicians performing tunes from a multi-tiered stage inspiring attendees to dance.

My next crucial decision was what to eat and drink, because the event was a haven for any gastronome and wine lover. The eclectic tasting menu, created by renowned chef Joachim Splichal and his Patina Catering, featured bottomless plates of fare like fresh yellowtail sashimi and “street corn” ravioli. Throughout the ballroom, there were also multiple tasting stations where stars flocked for hand-carved beef tenderloin and Beyond Meat burgers.

Ketel One Vodka powered the party with tasty cocktails, and Sterling Vineyards provided still wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon throughout the event.

But no good party’s complete without bubbles. Cue Ferrari Trento, who supplied winners with flutes full of Ferrari Brut and Ferrari Rosé all night long by servers sprinkled throughout the space. There was also an official Ferrari bar, where guests even got a chance to try their own hand at pouring large-format bottles of Ferrari from a Vcanter.

With my own glass of sparkling in hand, I wandered around the star-studded party in awe. I rubbed shoulders with the likes of Alex Borstein, Viola Davis and Bill Hader, who I accidentally bumped into, but luckily didn’t spill any wine on!

Other highlights included quick chats with Ken Jeong and Kevin Pollak; and sharing a toast with renowned soccer star Alessandro Del Piero and Italian actress Elisabetta Canalis, who gushed about her love of wine, particularly her father’s homemade selection.

I also spotted Jharrel Jerome, the first Afro-Latino and Dominican actor to win an acting Emmy for his performance in the Netflix limited series When They See Us, and who toted his shiny new trophy with pride. I couldn’t resist congratulating him. He was thankful and even suggested we take a photo together, which his mom snapped.

But perhaps the most exciting part of the evening was my encounter with the inimitable Patricia Arquette. I broke the ice by confessing to her that I’d been a fan since her days in David Lynch’s Lost Highway. We chatted briefly about her powerful role in The Act, for which she won an Emmy, and even took a photo together.

All in all it was a fantastic evening with so many cheers-worthy and once-in-a-lifetime moments. I may not have blown out birthday candles, but I had my Emmy cake and ate it, too! Until next year!

To see all the behind-the-scenes photos of the Emmy Awards, check out the highlight reel on W.E.’s Instagram.