On April 20, 2013 at high noon, the 4th Annual California Wine Festival opened its gates to the early bird crowd who indulged in an extra hour of wine and food tasting. The extra hour was definitely worth the extra bucks to leisurely make your way through the different booths to find your favorite wines and taste all of the different food purveyors from local restaurants to specialty artisan food products.
Let’s take a tour of some of this year’s collection:
Rubio’s served up their Grilled Regal Springs Tilapia Taco topped with creamy chipotle sauce, salsa fresco, and Serrano slaw. The serving of tilapia was quite generous and succulent. Blackened would have been preferable to add a little more flavor to the fish as tilapia is a very bland fish and needs just a little punch of spices to bring out more flavor. But for a wine fest, tacos are a great way to prep the stomach for the alcohol ahead.
Celeste Carducci-Ahnfeldt and Bruce Ahnfeldt own Ahnfeldt Wines in Napa, CA. Bruce starting growing grapes in Napa Valley in the mid-1980’s and sold his grapes to wineries. In 2000, Bruce launched Ahnfeldt wines. Then, in 2005, the newlywed couple also married their experience with wine and hospitality to their McClelland-Priest Bed and Breakfast Inn and Uncorked at Oxbow. The 2011 Carducci Pinot Grigio is from the Cold Creek vineyard in the Carneros region of Sonoma County. The wine is 100% Pinot Grigio and was fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks. Tasting notes: smooth, yet slightly acidic, with hints of citrus and hint of minerality (you can taste the earth that the grapes were grown in).
Chelas Mexican Grill in Laguna Niguel, CA serves up fresh Mexican food by using fresh produce, making fresh tortillas to order, toasting chiles for salsas, mixing handmade guacamole, and grating fresh cheese. They served up La Calle, authentic corn tortilla street tacos filled with chicken or rib-eye steak and topped with onion and cilantro. The chicken could be seasoned a bit with some salt and maybe lime juice, but top it with some of their fresh salsa and you’re good to go. The ribeye was cooked a little too much for my liking. It would have been better medium rare, but the flavor was spot on. The fresh guacamole was amazing and will liven anything from the tacos to the tortilla chips. I would definitely visit Chelas to try their Chile Verde Carnitas Nachos!
Claiborne & Churchill Vintners was founded in 1983 by Claiborne Thompson and Fredericka Churchill. Located in San Luis Obispo, CA, they produce 10,000 cases of wine a year. Among their wine selection, the 2010 Cuvee Elizabeth Dry Rose is 70% Pinot Noir, 15% Riesling, and 15% Gewurztraminer. Tasting notes: beautiful rose color; clean, crisp; slightly sweet with mild acidity.
Grace and I won the 2011 Gourmet Product Awards Gold Award for their seasonal preserves and Turshi collections in the Unique Delicious Foods category. If you have ever seen or tasted these beautiful, artisan made foods, you’ll agree. The Fruit & Nut Press is a lovely piece of artwork, whether you’re looking at the whole press itself with the different fruits with their colors and shapes or after it’s sliced. The cross-section looks like a beautiful terrine. The flavors and textures are a feast for the taste buds as well. It’s all natural and wonderful anytime of day. They showcased a new item called Choco Berry Press which contains almonds, apples, white chocolate, coconut, raspberries, and strawberries. The flavor combination is fantastic! The sweetness is just right and everything from the nuts to the fruit works well together.
What is wine without cheese? Cabot is a co-op owned by farm families in New York and New England. The cheese is a beautiful creamy color and not artificially colored. Their cheeses are wonderful when paired with wines; each flavor of cheese brings out different aspects of wine. Experiment and find your magical combination of flavors. But beware, chilies can be acerbated by wine and cause them be spicier than they really are. I would pair a non-chili pepper flavored cheese with your wine. The Cabot sharp cheddar cheeses paired the best with different types of wines from white to red.
And what is good with cheese? A great slice of bread from Sadie Rose Baking Company. My favorites this year are the Cranberry, Orange, & Walnut Baguette (works great with just butter), Multigrain Baguette (great with cheese and salami) and Pretzel Bread. I love pretzel bread! If I see it on the menu paired with a burger, sandwich, or hot dog, it’s all I want! Sadie Rose makes awesome pretzel bread with a beautiful glaze and chewy interior.
thinkThin Bars makes you feel better about what you’re eating. Many of their flavors remind you of candy bars without all of the guilt. They had a great set up this year so you could try all of their flavors from their protein and crunch bar lines. There plenty of people there to answer questions and tell you more about the products.
Azucar Bakery introduced their “Vino Cake”. The cakes are moist, flavorful, and light. Each cake is made with fresh ingredients consisting of exotic blends of wines, moist grapes, and aromatic vanilla bean sugar. The Petit Four Vino Cakes would be great for a wine party.
The Point Restaurant & Bar served up some friendly smiles with a side of buffalo wings and pork ribs. The restaurant menu is a cross between pub grub and rustic Italian fare. The flat iron steak with bleu cheese butter sounds amazing!
Mahé in Dana Point served up some of their selection of sushi rolls. With names like Jackie Chan and Red Dragon, how could you not try them? The only thing they need to work on is the rice. Sushi rice should be sticky and stay together as you bite into it. The rice was a little on the dry side causing crumbling of the sushi pieces. Other than that, great flavor combinations!
The Melting Pot served up their famous melted chocolate with strawberries, rice crispies, and brownie bites. If you think that sounds good, make a reservation to try everything fondue from cheese, entrees, and, of course, more chocolate. Spinach and Artichoke Cheese Fondue, French Quarter entrée with the Bourguignonne cooking style, and S’mores Chocolate Fondue are to die for!
Kerrygold has been making “grass to gold” with pure Irish butter. The butter is creamy, slightly salted, and has a great mouth-feel. Not overly fatty and just luscious goodness. It is slabbed, not spread, on bread. This would make an amazing base for a compound butter. The cheeses are also wonderful and bursting with flavor.
Wilson Creek Winery in Temecula, CA showcased their Champagne line. Read about Wilson Creek’s Almond Champagne. Orange Mimosa uses the Almond Champagne as a base with natural orange flavors added. It’s refreshing and citrusy, almost like the cocktail but more refined. Peach Bellini uses the Almond Champagne as a base with natural peach flavors added. This would be great for a spring/summer wedding toast – very light and crisp, tasting like ripe picked peaches. They have a great on-site restaurant, The Creekside Grille, where you pair their wines with delightful food in an al fresco setting.
UPSTREAM provided the musical entertainment and background music. UPSTREAM are great entertainers playing Reggae and Soca music. They encompassed the relaxed atmosphere of the event and kept you either tapping your toes or swaying to the music.
If this sounds good to you, make plans to attend next year’s event. Every year, it gets bigger and better!
For more information:
California Wine Festival