Jay Leno Kicks Off Concours d'Elegance Weekend at THR-Hosted Alfa Romeo Bash at Carmel Winery

Jay Leno Alfa Romero - Getty - H
Photo by Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for The Hollywood Reporter

Jay Leno’s longtime love of cars in all makes and models, matched with an expert knowledge of the industry, is so well known that when he says he always sees something new when he comes to Pebble Beach’s annual classic car show, Concours d’Elegance, it’s almost hard to believe. But believe it: “I’m interested in everything this weekend, because every time you come here, you see something you’ve never seen before — and that’s what makes it fun," he said.

Speaking of a good time, that’s what the beloved comedian and legendary late-night TV host was having Friday night in Carmel, Calif., at the one-year-old Folktale Winery, where he hosted a sunset-drenched cocktail reception with The Hollywood Reporter and Alfa Romeo as a kickoff to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance weekend. And the Italian automaker helped Leno check off that box by introducing the 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia, the latest model in the brand’s anticipated relaunch.

“I’m a big Alfa Romeo fan,” Leno gushed to THR when asked about the personal introduction he received from the company’s CEO Reid Bigland to the Giulia, one of an impressive collection of Alfa Romeo models from the past to the present displayed on the winery grounds. “It’s a return to Alfa’s roots. It’s a real sports car but with four seats, and it’s rear-wheel drive. It’s a totally modern car — and fast. That’s the fun. It’s quite impressive.” 

The night provided a lot to look up to, from the cars and the crowd (150 strong) to the winery (California Travel Association’s Winery of the Year) and the weekend. And, of course, Leno. “I don’t think there’s a greater car enthusiast in the world than Jay Leno,” Bigland noted of his suit-clad co-host, who arrived with his wife Mavis. “He adds a lot of ambiance and he’s incredibly knowledgeable about not only the history of Alfa Romeo but cars in general.” 

Leno is described as a Monterey insider who has been coming to the area since the mid-1980s, a fact confirmed by Mavis. “We’ve been coming here for so long,” she told THR. “Long before Jay had the show. We stayed in motels but it’s always just spectacular. I’m not particularly a car person but you see the whole history of America and Europe when you look at these cars. It’s amazing to see cars from the ‘20s and ‘30s, especially if you like art-deco. Oh my god, they’re so beautiful.” 

Though the ultraluxury auto show Concours itself dates back to the 1950s, it has blossomed in recent years to include events and showcases put together by other luxury categories. “It’s not just cars anymore,” Leno explained. “It’s watches and art work. Most car shows are just guys in greasy jeans walking around, whereas this is a whole intellectual version of a car show. It’s more interesting for the spouses, male or female, if they aren’t car people. There are more things to see than just staring at car parts.” 

Bigland — joined at the party by Richard Cox, director of Alfa Romeo North America and head of Alfa Romeo and Maserati global product planning, and Rick Deneau, head of NAFTA product communications — admitted that it was nice to see guests staring at his company’s latest offerings, which also includes the 4C

“This is a great event for the return of Alfa Romeo to the North American marketplace," he said. "Alfa Romeo is truly the heart and soul of the automotive industry and here at Pebble Beach and Monterey, arguably the most famous classic car show in the world, it’s a great opportunity for us to show a 105-year history of Alfa Romeo with our new products, the Alfa Romeo 4C and the Giulia, which will be in the marketplace in the next few weeks.”

A trio of lucky guests will be among the first to drive the new Giulia after winning a drawing at the event. Leno teamed with Bigland to pull three names for respective weekend getaways at posh destinations including Parker Palm Springs, Montage Laguna Beach and Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. At the resorts, the guests will have the opportunity to test out the Giulia

Coldwell Banker’s Joyce Rey, named by THR as one of the Top 25 Realtors in Los Angeles in 2015, has been making the trek up north for several years, and the test drives are one of the draws she said keeps so many enthusiasts coming back. “You have the opportunity to drive many of these latest cars, and you can see the concepts that the major car manufacturers have for the future,” she said, before adding that the ancillary events including races at Laguna Seca, auctions and the Quail Gathering can make for a packed weekend. “There’s so much going on that you can hardly rest. Every single moment is interesting.” 

Especially if you’re seeing something new, like Leno.

Head of Maserati North America Tom Shanley (left), Director of Alfa Romeo North America Richard Cox, Chrysler Head of Product and Brand PR Communications Rick Deneau and guest pose for a photo at Folktale Winery in Carmel, Calif., on Aug. 19, 2016. (Photo by Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for The Hollywood Reporter)

Vintage Alfa Romeos set the mood at Folktale Winery in Carmel, Calif., on Aug. 19, 2016. (Photo by Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for The Hollywood Reporter)

Prize giveaway winners pose with Jay Leno and Alfa Romeo CEO Reid Bigland at Folktale Winery in Carmel, Calif., on Aug. 19, 2016. (Photo by Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for The Hollywood Reporter)

Alfa Romeo Giulia at Folktale Winery in Carmel, Calif., on Aug. 19, 2016. (Photo by Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for The Hollywood Reporter)