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Luke Morganstern, left, executive chef at Orfila Vineyards' Oceanside tasting room, and assistant manager Katharine Briggs. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Luke Morganstern, left, executive chef at Orfila Vineyards' Oceanside tasting room, and assistant manager Katharine Briggs. Photo by Rico Cassoni
ColumnsFood & WineTaste of Wine

California Wine Festival celebrates 20 years with Park Hyatt Aviara launch

The 20th California Wine Festival, led by Executive Director Emily Kaufmann, kicked off June 23 and 24 at Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad.

The festival includes events in Carlsbad, Santa Barbara, Huntington Beach, and Dana Point. The Sunset Rare & Reserve Tasting on Friday featured a champagne reception followed by an evening of sampling hard-to-find trophy and library wines.

On Saturday, the wine tasting unfolded at the sun-splashed Heron Lawn of the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort. The vibrant tent village showcased over 100 California wines from 30 wineries, 20 restaurants, 11 craft breweries, and 16 artisan craft vendors. A live band provided a rhythmic backdrop to this sensory extravaganza, where wine and food took center stage.

The 2023 event continued the successes of previous events and perhaps was the best CA festival that Kaufmann has executed to date. I could write pages about the event, but when I look through my notes and pictures, several wineries and food purveyors rise to the top.

(Left to right) Siri Holmes, Cuvaisan's Assistant Manager of Events and PR , and server Melissa Almeraz pouring wine at Cuvaison booth. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Siri Holmes, left, Cuvaison’s assistant manager of events and PR, and server Melissa Almeraz pouring wine at the California Wine Festival in Carlsbad. Photo by Rico Cassoni

Napa Valley’s Hall Winery truly impressed guests with its exceptional wines. Lisa Covey, Hall’s PR director, poured three remarkable 100% cabernet sauvignons. The 2018 Eighteen Seventy-Three, a 91-93 point Robert Parker Wine Advocate award winner, showcased a deep garnet color, a complex nose of ripe blackberry and plum, and a palate featuring dark fruit, cocoa, and baking spice, all complemented by well-structured tannins and acidity.

The 2018 Ellie’s had an earthy profile with blackberry and olive aromas, while the palate displayed blackberry, olive, cassis, and violet undertones, culminating in a long, smooth finish. The 2017 Jack’s Masterpiece, a true masterpiece with a 96-point score from Owen Bargreen, utilized fruit from various Napa Valley vineyards, from Atlas Peak to St. Helena.

Jack’s boasted a delightful baking spice nose, dark, opaque purple color, and a palate combining flavors of black cherry, pepper, and clove with a robust tannin structure. The mountain fruit components added body and ripeness. Learn more at

Guests enjoying the 2023 CA Wine Festival at Carlsbad’s Park Hyatt Aviara Resort. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Guests enjoying the California Wine Festival at Carlsbad’s Park Hyatt Aviara Resort. Photo by Rico Cassoni

Karen Clarke, Goldschmidt Winery’s Wine Club manager, presented a lineup of four cab sauvs crafted by owner and winemaker Nick Goldschmidt, joined by his daughters Hilary and Katherine, who also produce their own labels.

Clarke started with the 2019 Forefathers, sourced from a rare 3-acre east-facing parcel in Alexander Valley that avoids excessive afternoon heat. She also poured the 2019 Embankment, boasting deep color and blackberry notes on the nose and palate, along with blueberry, plum, and subtle hints of chocolate.

The third pour was the 2018 Yoeman, showcasing two different clones with variations in size, acidity, and flavor. This diversification produced a noted “grip,” according to Nick Goldschmidt. Finally, the 2019 Oakville Game Ranch was poured, featuring red clay and volcanic soil for excellent drainage, resulting in smaller berries with concentrated flavors.

The wine displayed a black cherry and black currant nose with floral undertones, and the palate offered intense dark fruit flavors and vibrant acidity. For more information, visit

Hall Winery’s Director of Public Relations, Lisa Covey, pouring three terrific CabernetSauvignons. Photo by Rico Casson
Lisa Covey, Hall Winery’s PR director, pouring three terrific cabernet sauvignons. Photo by Rico Cassoni

Siri Holmes, Cuvaison’s assistant manager of events and PR, poured exceptional wines from its Napa Valley estate vineyards, featuring cool climate varietals, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and pinot noir. At the Riboli booth, Adrian Rubio, sponsorship & events coordinator, served the delightful San Simeon label. Winemaker Marty Spate’s creations, like the San Simeon Cab Sauv and Petite Sirah, offer remarkable value.

The dynamic booth award goes to Doffo Winery in Temecula. Founder Marcelo Doffo, an Argentine immigrant and motorcycle enthusiast, has passed his passion to the next generation. His children, Damian, Brigitte, and Samantha, now handle daily operations. Celebrating 25 years, Doffo Winery is a must-visit for Taste of Wine and Food.

Culinary highlights at the festival included Luke Morganstern, executive chef of Orfila Vineyards Oceanside Tasting Room & Kitchen, serving his acclaimed sliders, paired with 2022 Sauvignon Blanc-Vogelzang and 2019 Pinot Noir-Sonoma County served by Assistant Manager Katharine Briggs.

A delightful surprise was Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. The restaurant’s chicken benefits from a proprietary Tennessee hot-and-spicy wet batter recipe created by the owners, which Espinoza said few have access to.

Once battered, the chicken is deep fried in peanut oil, creating a crunchy exterior with super juicy and tender meat. Mynor Espinoza, catering and event coordinator, mentioned that they have explored opening a San Diego location, but Covid paused their explorations. For our Orange County readers, I am envious. This was my first experience with Gus’s, and it was the best chicken I have ever had!

Get more information for upcoming California Wine Festival location events at

— Story by Rico Cassoni

Rico Cassoni is the executive producer for Taste of Wine and Food. Founder/Advisor Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Frank and Rico are two of the leading reviewers on the web. View their columns at Reach them at [email protected].

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