Comments & Curiosities: So many wines, so little time at the Balboa Bay Club

Are you a foodie? I am.

Fine wine, great food, I think about them all the time. Cannot be trusted around either of them. It's pathetic. I have no control. My willpower is powerless, every time I get on a digital scale, the little window says, "One at a time, please."

But nevermind that. The only thing that matters is Friday. If you're a foodie, that is the day that you win the lottery, you're 18 again and the IRS calls and says, "Nevermind. Your return is fine; we had the wrong name."

Why? Because the eighth annual Newport Beach Wine Festival at the Balboa Bay Club & Resort is back — bigger, bolder and better than ever, from Friday to May 29.

Is there another wine fest like it anywhere in the universe? I can't speak for anything outside this solar system, but if there is, I am not aware of it. Every year, when Memorial Day is nigh, which means close, wine lovers and foodies are jumping up and down like a Yorkie who just downed two Red Bulls and a double espresso, waiting to see what the club president and epicurean maestro, Henry Schielein, and his food and beverage master, Dieter Hissin, have conjured up for their annual wine and food rager.

In one weekend, you will meet and hear from some of the most celebrated winemakers, chefs and master sommeliers in the world, and experience wines and foods that I could try to describe but it wouldn't do any good.

We should get started. So many wines, so little time.

It all begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday with a celebration of the regional wines and foods along the rivers of Europe: the Danube, the Rhine, the Rhone and the Rio Grande. Just kidding. I made the last one up. The Rio Grande isn't in Europe.

It all happens on the club's lawn and beach, with live music, under the stars, al fresco, or as we say in The Bronx, outside. Executive Chef Josef Lageder starts things off with a bang, with an authentic paella prepared in a pan that is large enough to hold most of the seafood between here and Barcelona or be used as a radio telescope for NASA when the paella is gone, which doesn't take long.

You'll sample the marquee wines from each region, along with homemade pasta, a dizzying array of domestic and imported cheeses and desserts, which we will never speak of again, topped off with a Ketel One martini bar. Party hearty, Marty, but pace yourself; we've only just begun.

On Saturday, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. , it's the Lobster and Wine Luncheon in the Bay Club Grill, with a roster of guest chefs strutting their stuff, and wine pairings orchestrated by master sommeliers Ron Mumford and Ira Harmon. The Men in White include Club Executive Chef Lageder and chef Krisztian Karkus, along with chefs Frederic Castan, from the St. Regis, and Pierre Albaladejo of Park Hyatt

Aviara. Any wannabe chefs out there who want to compete with that crew? Bring it. You will never use the words "lobster" and "wine" again without a little tear in your eye.

At 3:30 p.m., it's the Pinot Noir Challenge, with West Coast Pinot and Burgundy Pinot going toe-to-toe in the ultimate enological smackdown, and at 5 p.m., it's the Classic Cocktails and Mixology Seminar, with master mixer David Nepove.

It's an interactive session where you'll learn the tricks of the trade and try your hand at mixing and, when it's all done, you still won't know how much of what goes in a martini. Wait, do you know why it's called a martini?

No one knows for sure. There are about 600 theories, but the two leading contenders are that it started as a drink called the "Martinez" at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco in the 1800s, or that it was created by a bartender named Martini at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York in 1911. But the important thing is, who cares?

Saturday, at 7 p.m., is the Grand Tasting Gala, which is exceedingly grand and a full-on tasting frenzy, with over 60 wineries from around the world puttin' on the ritz, and the Estate, and the Reserve, with a devilishly large selection of seafood, meats, artisan cheeses and the desserts that I told you we were never supposed to speak of again.

Assuming you make it to Sunday, which is possible, I guess, the day starts with a traditional European Breakfast Buffet from the very civilized hours of 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., then barbecue and Big Red Wines on the bayfront lawn, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., with microbrew beers, live music and perfect weather, I think.

The closing act is Cigars, Cognacs, Spirits from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the Duke's Place terrace, with live music, cigars hand-rolled before your eyes, cheeses, desserts (don't think about them), plus every libation you have ever heard of and a few you haven't.

There you have it. I have no more to tell you.

But then, what else could you possibly need to know? Wine, food, the Balboa Bay Club & Resort — it's a natural.

Foodies of the world, this is your time. If you crave details, call the club at (949) 630-4146, or go to Remember, all things in moderation, except for next weekend at the BBC.

Go, enjoy, treat yourself. You deserve it. Seriously.

I gotta go.

PETER BUFFA is a former Costa Mesa mayor. His column runs Sundays. He may be reached at

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