Vines are leafing out, a sure sign that wine festivals are in full swing. Here are a trio of wine events happening early April, two on the same weekend. One extravagant, the other more down home.
It is the ninth year for Shade Hotel's Ultimate Wine Festival in Manhattan Beach, to be held Sunday afternoon, April 6. For this year, the organizers have lined up more than 50 wineries for the festivities, including Opus One, Ceja Vineyards, Flowers, PlumpJack, Silver Oak, Grgich Hills, Trefethen and Trinchero. If any of those number among your all-time favorite wineries, you might want to pony up $125 for the admission to the tasting, which includes passed hors d'oeuvres. Limited to 350 guests, the event can sell out quickly. For more information or to buy tickets, call (310) 546-4995, or visit www.shadehotel.com.
The seventh annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine event kicks off April 10 up north and goes through the weekend. If you're headed that way, you can take in the efforts of 100 chefs and 250 winemakers. This one is usually a sellout given the lure of that incredible landscape and the quality of the presenters. The weekend is stuffed with cooking demonstrations, wine seminars and wine luncheons and dinners.
This year our own Ricardo Zarate (Picca) and Nancy Silverton (the Mozza group) are on the roster, along with SF's Traci Des Jardins and Hubert Keller and chefs from around the country, including Paul Bartolotta, Dean Fearing, Masaharu Morimoto and Jonathan Waxman. Wine buffs may be thrilled to meet wine critic Antonio Galloni or Frédéric Engerer of Château Latour.
Highlights of the food and wine event include a tribute to the late Charlie Trotter cooked by Paul Bartolotta, David LeFevre (M.B. Post) and Todd English. And some of L.A.'s chefs will cook "Dinner with the Stars of Los Angeles." That would be Michael Voltaggio (Ink), Jon Shook (Animal), Ori Menashe (Bestia), Rory Herrmann and Walter Manzke (République). They've got some terrific wine events scheduled such as a tasting of five decades of Mayacamas or a tasting in celebration of Vega Sicilia Único's 150th anniversary.
To purchase tickets to the Seventh Annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine, or for more information on ticket packages, visit www.pbfw.com or call 1-866-907-FOOD (3663). Ticket prices range from $100 for a single event pass to $4,750 for a VIP four-day pass, which gives you access to all events and private after-hour parties with the chefs and winemakers.
The Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend runs April 10 to 13 too, so you'll have to choose. This one is a much more egalitarian (and affordable) affair that includes education seminars and winemaker dinners, but also vineyard walks, a golf tournament and a farm-to-table picnic. Held at River View Park in Buellton, the full schedule can be seen here.
When the organizers say wine education seminar, they're not fooling around. The Santa Barbara Vintners Wine Education Seminar Series runs 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It's actually four different sessions on subjects such as comparing wines from Santa Barbara's five diverse AVAs, tasting three consecutive vintages from two different winemakers to assess whether vintage matters, or tasting Pinot Noir from grapes sourced from the famed Bien Nacido vineyard and six different winemakers ($250).
Vineyard hikes on Friday, April 11, sound like fun. They're two hours long, and include wine. Sign up to hike at Purisima Mountain Vineyards, Buttonwood Farm, Baehner-Fournier Vineyards, Hilliard Bruce Vineyards or Refugio Ranch Vineyards ($80). Or how about Zaca Mesa's popular "Hike with Your Dog and Vineyard Picnic with Our Winemaker ($40)?"
Saturday's Grand Tasting runs from 1 to 4 p.m. With more than 100 winemakers pouring ($95). In addition, throughout the weekend many of the local wineries will be holding open houses, with most charging a modest fee for tasting. And if you want to sign up for just one dinner, make it Longoria Wines winemaker dinner at The Ballard Inn ($125 per person, not including tax and tip). But then again, the Brander Vineyard is doing an Argentine BBQ and tasting Saturday afternoon for just $20.
For more information and to purchase tickets, go to Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend.