A French ambassador of holiday spirits -- by way of California -- visited historic Ellicott City at noon Thursday, arriving by helicopter at the public parking lot behind the old post office.
Actually, the visitor wasn't a person -- but did receive a fanfare reception deserving of a foreign dignitary and was escorted around town by horse-drawn carriage on this particularly sunny day.
The celebration marked the arrival of the first bottles of 1990 Nouveau Beaujolais wine to restaurants in Ellicott City. Inspired by successful wine festivals in Paris, London, Tokyo and Rome, the event was sponsored by the Ellicott City Business Association.
Proceeds from the sale of the wine will benefit the Linwood Children's Center for autistic students.
"Here's to Ellicott City's first annual festival," said Barry Gibson, vice president of the business group.
Dozens of spectators raised their glasses and joined Gibson and chef Fernand Tersiguel of Tersiguel's Restaurant in a toast.
How did the Beaujolais measure up?
"It's very good for a new wine. Full of body," said Susan Keilholtz of Clarksville, a self-proclaimed wine connoisseur and employee of Great Panes, a shop specializing in stained glass and decorative windows.
"I think it tastes great," said Ree O'Connor, general manager of P. J.'s of Ellicott City.