Premier San Diego Wine & Food Festival Nov. 12-16

The fifth annual San Diego Bay Wine & food Festival touches down Nov. 12 through Nov. 16, serving up more than 160 wine and spirit purveyors with more than 800 wines, 6o of San Diego’s Top Chefs, a Big Bottle Auction, cooking and wine tasting classes and a $50,000 Chef of the Fest Competition. It’s the largest food and wine festival in Southern California.
Wednesday Nov. 12 the fun starts with Wine Rave 2008 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the W Hotel. Twenty-five of the edgiest wine and spirits on the market today get things going while wine and foodie fans frolic and dance the night away.
Thursday Nov. 13, The San Diego Wine and Culinary Center is the location for four seminars ranging from wine appreciation and feng-shui cooking to arousing the senses with Chocolate and Vino. The learning and tasting continues on Friday Nov. 14 highlighted by the Celebrity Chef Luncheon and Big Bottle Auction from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina. Top winemakers and chefs will sit together with visitors over a gourmet lunch in a one-of-a-kind event, capped by big bottle and other in-demand items in a spirited auction.
Later that day, more seminars at the wine and culinary center include a Rhone Varietal panel, a Surf, Turf and Cocktails get together with “Sam the Cooking Guy” and a Master Sommelier Blind Tasting competition.
Top Chef All Stars and Ted Allen Food & Wine Ambassador seminars are scheduled at Macy’s School of Cooking. Friday evening is the Reserve and New Release Tasting from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on the Hornblower Yacht where you can meet celebrity food and wine authority Ted Allen.
The Saturday Grand Tasting is my personal favorite: a waterside pastoral setting at Embarcadero Park North with a choice of more than 800 wines with cuisine from more than 60 chefs stations, from noon to 4 p.m. The theme is “lip smacking, glass clinking, celebrity watching, swishing, swirling, mouth watering kind of fun!” The five-day extravaganza is capped off with a Champagne Tasting Brunch on the Hornblower yacht Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Choose each event or purchase them all in an unlimited package. For schedule details and tickets access www.worldofwineevents.com or call (619) 342-7337. Don’t miss it … The San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival Nov. 12 through Nov. 16, the one the L.A. Times called one of their “favorite events of the year.”
Wine with cheese – a natural
I have to admit, my knowledge and taste for cheese was limited to Kraft cheddar and that stinky stuff my mother would grate on to our nightly bowl of pasta (Pecorino Romano if you’re wondering). As I developed a palate for fine wine, my choices for cheese got more demanding. Other Americans are doing the same. The latest annual statistics show we are eating about 32.5 pounds of cheese per capita, up from 27.3 10 years ago. And we’re trading up to quality.
Every time I go into an artisan themed specialty cheese shop, I see things I have never tasted before and I wonder what kind of wine they would go with. Now that we have many more whole and organic food markets, the selections seem infinite.
Italian cheeses have always been a favorite with Americans, led by provolone and mozzarella. This came about due to the popularity of pasta and pizza. Current popular cheeses include parmigiano and lots of offshoots like Reggiano, Grana Padano and Pecorino Romano. These are hard cheeses, full of flavor and ready to take on any red wine, even the richness of Port. Italian soft cheeses in addition to provolone and mozzarella include Asiago, Taleggio, Ricotta, Gorgonzola and Stracchino.
That cheddar I mentioned earlier can come in some luscious styles, not just the bland Kraft American we grew up with. Its tell-tale tang is most evident in English cheddar from cow’s milk, which has a fine texture if aged about two years.
The best are “bandaged” (wrapped and bound) during aging. It goes best with a Ruby Red Port, but I’ve been happy with a lovely cabernet as well.
Local Wine Bytes
— The Art of Food & Wine Palm Desert is a four-day celebration at various points of interest in the desert Nov. 6 through Nov. 9. The Marriott Desert Springs Resort has a lot of the fun with Friday night decadent desserts and sumptuous wines and champagnes. The Grand Tastings on Saturday and Sunday are there also with wine and delicious foods prepared by the best chefs in town. Tickets and other info available at www.artoffoodandwine.com, or by calling (866) 968-2783.
— Pinot Noir tastings from Burgundy, Oregon, Russian River Sonoma, New Zealand and elsewhere are featured at Bacchus Wine Market, downtown San Diego Nov. 7 from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Fee is $20 per person. Call (619) 236-0005.
— Tuscany Restaurant in Carlsbad brings you a winemakers dinner on Nov. 8 starting at 6:30 p.m. Featured wines are from the Umbria area of Italy, home of the Sagrantino varietal. The cost is $75 each. Call (760) 929-8111 for details.
— Wine Vault and Bistro has a Lafite Rothschild seven-course wine dinner starting at 5 p.m. Nov. 9. A Lafite specialist will by on hand to host. The cost is $65 per person. RSVP at (619) 295-3939.
— Firefly in Encinitas has a busy schedule of three wine dinners in November: Nov. 12 with Bonterra Winery, Nov. 13 with Testarossa and Nov. 14 featuring one of the leading Paso Robles wineries, Ecluse. All come with a wonderful menu. Cost for each is $75. Call in an RSVP for each at (760) 635-1066.
— The Westgate Hotel downtown San Diego has an Inspiration Vineyards Wine Dinner on Nov. 12 with a 6 p.m. reception start. This is a small production with lovely wine from Sonoma. The cost is $89 each. Call (619) 557-3655 for details.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. His columns can be viewed at www.tasteofwinetv.com. He is one of the top five wine commentators on the Web. Reach him at mangiompc@aol.com.

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