Tis the season when the wine events start to fill the calendar. For those who plan ahead (and you'll need to if you're thinking of anything other than a day trip), here are a couple of prize events coming up before the end of the month:
Relais & Chateaux celebrates its 60th anniversary with a lavish GourmetFest 2014 at Carmel-by-the-Sea from March 27 to March 30. It's sort of a French-California get-together with wine producers from both wine regions pouring their best and chefs from Relais & Chateaux properties here and in Europe doing the cooking. Throughout the four-day blowout, chef demonstrations, a wild mushroom hunt and a caviar tasting are scheduled, along with lunches, dinners and, of course, wine tastings.
Chefs participating include William Bradley of Addison in Del Mar, Michael Tusk of Quince in San Francisco, Michael White of Marea in New York, Jason Franey of Canlis in Seattle, Christopher Kostow of the Restaurant at Meadowood, Justin Cogley of Aubergine at L'Auberge Carmel, Jean Michel Lorain of La Cote Saint Jacques in Burgundy, Barbara Lynch of Menton in Boston, Patrick O'Connell of the Inn at Little Washington, Gaetano Trovato of Arnolfo Ristorante in Tuscany and our own Joachim Splichal of Patina. That's quite a lineup.
The wines are pretty fabulous too, including Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Maison Drouhin, Château Cheval Blanc, Domaine de Chevalier and Dom Pérignon from France. Calera Wine, Domaine de la Cote, Chapellet, Lieu Dit, Pahlmeyer, Mt. Eden, Pisoni Vineyards and Tablas Creek are just some of the wineries on the California team. I don't have space to mention everybody, but suffice it to say: Participants will drink very well.
Go to GourmetFest 2014 for a schedule of events and tickets. Just so you know: The big Grand Chef ticket package runs $1,291.50 and includes a welcome party, a couple of high-end wine tastings, Grand Cru Bordeaux dinner, Grand Chef dinner and more, while the Wine Lover's Package (Gold) runs $2,898 per person (wonder if you get a gold crown with that) and includes even more "amazing wine events." There's a ticket package for almost every budget, if $711 (where do they come up with these odd numbers?) seems affordable for a welcome party, a couple of tasting events and a seafood grill. Or you can just pay $225 for the welcome party and work the room.
"The 2nd Annual Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure," returns to Solvang's Veterans Memorial Hall March 29 and 30. An offshoot of the original Garagiste Festival held in Paso Robles in November, this one ferrets out cutting-edge, small-scale wine producers from the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara County. This year's event stretches over two days, with 28 wineries showcased each day. A new event has just been added on March 28: a Pizza Pairing Party at Cecco Ristorante with 11 wineries pouring, dinner and wine, $39 per person.
Tickets for the Grand Tasting on either day are $50 each. However Saturday's event is already sold out. Tickets are available for Sunday, though. Saturday's $100 VIP pass ($90 on Sunday) gains you admission to that morning's seminar, a box lunch, and early access to the tasting. Two-day Tasting Passes are sold out, but Weekend All-Access Passes are still available at $175.
Let the fun begin.