M a r i a n  M c K n i g h t  C o n w a y

Marian and Gary's vineyard has proved to be one of the world’s most renowned vineyards, and certainly among the most studied. The label on the wine says it all: “the most mineral and nutrient rich wine in the world.”  When they relocate the organic version of Garden of Eden it will be on this land. Marian stays involved with promotion and marketing and day-to-day operations and tends the mineral-rich, sustainable vineyards and the organic gardens.

Founded as a not-for-profit, the Conway's “Fighting for the Arts” awards art and music scholarships to young people. They have had recent fundraisers with Harvard Business School, Cleveland Art Institute, Wolftrap, and Spartanburg, SC Childrens Shelter to name just a few. Fighting for the Arts has awarded 65 full scholarships to San Luis Obispo Art Center, San Luis Obispo, CA.

One of the cultural events in which Marian and Gary were the featured attraction took place at the Akron Art Museum's spectacular Wine X III: A Weekend Celebration of Wine. 400 guests mingled in the stunning three-story glass and steel lobby of the architectural masterpiece, to taste the estate wines of Carmody McKnight and join Gary in two separate Q's & A's in the adjoining auditorium.

The Museum event underscores the Conway's dedication to advancing the message of revitalizing art and music in our schools -- a commitment needed now more than ever. Carmody McKnight's contribution to this world-class event was a jeroboam of world-class Cadenza with a painted label on canvas by Gary Carmody Conway. A special tasting for six at the Carmody McKnight straw-bale winery was also contributed, with the winners to be presented with a double magnum of Carmody McKnight Cabernet at the winery. The double magnum will also be adorned with an original label on canvas by Gary. Several hundred thousand dollars were raised for museum programs including special activites for children. Marian told the gathering that "Wine X III and the new museum stand as a tribute to the extraordinary vision and notable spirit of the Akron community and a model for all communities."

Daughter Kathleen Conway, president of Carmody McKnight, lives at the vineyard and raises horses, alpacas, exotic sheep, and most of the animals on Noah’s Ark! She uses her UCLA psychology major to organize benefits for animal rescue, hurricane victims, restoring a 160 year old rural schoolhouse, and for many other needy, community organizations and at the same time planting a garden to aid low income families. Her KATHLEEN sparkling wine and unique dessert wines are consistent gold medal winners.

Marian with Roman and Blake in front of the Metropolitan Museum in Washington, D.C.

Son, Gareth Conway, executive producer for Voice of America in Washington, DC, and formerly with PBS and National Geographic, lives in Bethesda, MD with his prominent attorney wife and executive with FCC, Melissa, and sons, four-year old Blake, and six-year old Roman.

After graduating with degrees in art and political science from University of CA, Santa Barbara and serving an apprenticeship at CBS News in Los Angeles, Gareth moved to Washington, D.C. as a producer for World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. A talented photographer, architect and designer, he has renovated several homes in the DC-MD area and is presently launching his own estate-derived label and wine.

Marian at a recent event at the vineyard

Before planting the vineyard in 1986 Marian lived in Los Angeles. For 18 years she served as a volunteer in her children’s classrooms while working with charities that primarily benefited children. She is one of the founding members of Amie Karen Cancer Center for Children at Cedar-Sinai.

Marian made many guest appearances on network television shows as well as countless commercials. She has been sought out by major firms as public relations director and spokesperson. She has represented such companies as Revlon, Evan-Picone, Philco, General Foods, and even the military as a Director with V.H. Monette and Co., Manufacturer's Representative to the Armed Forces. She has also been involved with state and congressional agencies.

Carmody McKnight is a combination of Marian's maiden name and Gary's birth name (as an actor it was changed to Conway, another family name). The story of the award-winning vineyard and winery situated in one of the most beautiful areas of the Central Coast of California has now entered near legendary status.

Marian has still managed to be active in television and theater as well as being a guest speaker at special functions. She is also a favorite judge at Miss America State Pageants including the National Pageant in Atlantic City.  Each year Marian and 5 other former Miss A’s rendezvous at a selected location. They appeared together in Steven Sondheim’s Follies.

She has teamed with her husband in several motion pictures, acting in the capacity of co-producer and producer, most recently with the film, Woman's Story. She has committed her time and energies in connection with the premiere screenings of this film to bring financial support as well as new awareness to the significance of art and music in our education.

Marian's love and knowledge of fine wines as well as years of involvement with her husband and family in developing their outstanding vineyard and winery, has only increased her reputation as a gourmet cook. In the last scene in Vineyards & Vintages, a TV series pilot that Marian participated in as well as produced, Marian jogs through part of her glorious vineyard. This is definitely not "method acting" as Marian is an avid runner who has competed in marathons and has won in her age category in the majority of the many races she has entered. She carried the Olympic torch in the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. She still runs-walks 2 to 4 miles six days a week and swims daily, weather permitting.

Marian McKnight Conway, Miss South Carolina and Miss America from Manning, South Carolina.

Marian represents Carmody McKnight Estate Wines in special events and fundraisers around the country. Carmody McKnight is a renowned, family-farmed, estate, sustainable vineyard, winery, and Tuscan olive oil producer.

There has always been interest in the derivation of the name Carmody McKnight. When Gary and Marian Conway made their decision about what to call their new winery and wine they wanted to include the birth names reflecting their heritage. As an artisan and estate winery, the name would have to be the personal signature of their lives. Carmody was Gary's birth name and McKnight was Marian's maiden name. The McKnight heritage reveals a natural endowment of profound quality, beauty, perfection, and intelligence (we like to think qualities characteristic of the wine!).

When the newspapers celebrated Marian McKnight capturing the Miss America prize when Miss America was the number one program on TV and one of the country's biggest events, entire issues -- in some cases every single article in every section -- were devoted to Marian. “A Dream Future Can Be Hers, For She's Cinderella Now;" "Southland Cinderella-Princess;" "Lively, lovable and brilliant tomboy;" "A breathtaking beauty whose eyes deepen from sky blue to violet;" “Marian walked on stage (during the talent competition imitating Marilyn Monroe) and walked off with the week's biggest ovation;" "As the 5,000th flashbulb exploded in her face a man poured 5,000 silver dollars at her feet, only a fraction of the fortune which is to be hers."

Other articles: "Marian is a radiantly beautiful, blue-eyed blond with a perfect figure;" "The Gods smiled on lovely Marian, for in addition to endowing her with an unusual beauty of face and figure, as well as beauty of character and spirit, they also blessed her with a keen mind." Marian's accomplishments were legendary: first in the State Intellectual Achievement; South Carolina Literary Magazine published one of her short stories; editor of her school paper; head of the staff of her high school year book; Scribe of the Block "M" Club, an honorary club for writers; treasurer of the Beta Club, an honorary scholastic organization; representative to Girls State; chief cheerleader; Miss Hi Miss Award; chosen senior class prophet; member of the student council and Manning High School Chorus.

Marian won countless beauty contests from Queen Iris; Tournament Queen; Tobacco Festival Queen; Farmers Queen; Miss Sigma Chi Fraternity; Miss Coker; Miss almost everything.

Valedictorian and straight-A student in High School and College, Marian received an unprecedented four scholarships for her academic achievements. Marian McKnight is a belle of the South and was raised in a single working-mother household with three children but rich in boundless character, love and the spirit of achievement.

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Bebe Shoppe, Lynda Mead, Jean Pierre (Chef), Jean Bartel, Marian McKnight Conway, Lee Meriwether

visiting Costa Rica

 

When eight former Miss Americas were cast in Steven Sondheim’s musical, “Follies,” no one  could  have forseen that thirty one years later these women would still be “playing” together.

James Hatcher, founder of Town and Gown Theater in Birmingham, Alabama, had produced the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic Cityin 1960 forming close relationships with some of the returning title holders. Subsequently he was frequently in Los Angelesinterviewing actors for his theater productions, and always rendezvousing with Marian Conway, Lee Meriwether, and Jean Bartel. At one of these meetings he revealed that his dream was to direct  these three former Miss Americas in a show, and called in a couple of weeks with the suggestion of  “Follies” which would require five additional Miss Americas!

Marian, Lee, and Jean were joined by Bebe Shoppe, Marian Bergeron, Evelyn Ay, Lynda Meade, and Barbara Walker in Birminghamin April 1978 for an unforgettable month that forged indelible friendships. Before parting they agreed to a plan that they would get together every year after that in a different city anywhere in the world. And they have!

Jimmy always joined the group and occasionally husbands were allowed. One year on a river cruise in France, husbands were not invited but Gary Conway showed up anyway!

Every year has hundreds of phone calls, letters, and emails among these friends discussing schedules and trip details.  Each reunion is laughter, family pictures, theater, music, tours, food, WINE, shopping, and reminiscing. There is sadness and loving memory of Jimmy, Evelyn, Barbara, and Marian Bergeron.

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

inner circle ~ to join is joy

Where is this wondrous land? You will discover it. . .
North of Los Angeles, South of San Francisco... and East of Eden
11240 Chimney Rock Road, Paso Robles, C A 93446