World class festival experience returns once again to Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival (NBWFF) during the weekend of Sept. 29-Oct. 2nd. Now in its 3rd year, NBWFF raises the bar on wine and food festivals and has always been one of the best to attend within Southern California in terms of Quality and Experience. With an extensive lineup of A PLUS restaurants such as The Winery, Vaca, Pelican Grill, Mastro’s, Watertable, and Montage, your hunger for fine dining will be taken of. But to the point of this article, the Wines here are truly the showcase of NBWFF. After all, it is called Newport Beach Wine & Food and not Newport Beach Food and Wine right?
And this event is not your typical run-of-the-mill food & wine event found for your #SundayFunday. No……This is the one of the most classy and relaxing event where wine-goers chill in over-sized plush sofas and sipping on $200+ wines, having a great time with new friends. Like last year, the venue was held at the greens of Newport Beach Civic Center where numerous gatherings occur for local community events.
Upon entrance, the head-turning sleek Aston Martin Vanquish graced us with its elegance. And just like the Aston Martin you don’t see every day, the NBWFF has so many chefs / events/ dishes you typically don’t see in one place. Internationally known chefs Rick Bayless, Hubert Keller, Nancy Silverton, and Rick Moonen were on hand for special intimate events around town prior to the grand tasting. Bravo TV’s Top Chef alums such as Mei Lin, Shirley Chung, Brian Malarkey, Brian Huskey, and CJ Jacobson graced us with Cooking Demos and Top Chef Home Challenge. Lastly, numerous local and talented chefs brought their best dishes to represent their restaurants. Can you say Foie Gras Panna Cotta or Beet Stained Scallop Crudo?
I had the opportunity to attend the Grand Tasting from both Saturday and Sunday. While other more intimate events were offered prior to the grand tastings (Opening night with Rick Moonen at Ritz Prime Seafood, Private Luncheon with Nancy Silverton at Pizzeria Mozza, French Dinner & Conversation with Hubert Keller), this was the best way to enjoy a little of everything the Best OC restaurants has to offer and pair it with outstanding wines. It’s like visting twenty restaurants in one day all within walking distance of each other.
We were graced with six Master Sommeliers during this event (Michael Jordan, Peter Neptune, Christopher Miller, Sur Lucero, Thomas Price, and Steven Poe). Very rare would you be able to see this many Master Sommeliers in one place and we were fortunate to have them in one place. During Sunday’s panel, these Master Sommeliers sat together and we were educated about the Santa Maria appellation and it’s cool climate are ideal to grow versatile grapes such as Pinot Noir. The region known for low nutrient soil with the wind carried by the pacific, makes cool and flavorful grapes.
Personally, I think I would’ve flunked if this was an actual academic class. I didn’t listen in enough to tell you every nuance each wine offered. However, I could tell you my personal favorite out of the bunch was a velvety and fruity Clone 4 Pinot Noir from Cambria. Lots of berry on the nose and spice on the tongue. Sure enough, it was also many of other attendant’s favorites as Master Sommelier Steven Poe walked around and showed everyone the bottle.
Of course, the best part about this festival for me personally is learning and trying new wines. Wines that I’ve never tried at any other festival nor any restaurants. Wines that exemplifies top of the class. Wines that has been served to dignitaries and state governments. Wines that bears the Brand such as Duckhorn, Patel, J Wilkes, Nellcôte, SilverOaks, and the famous 100 points Hundred Acre are no slouch to the drinking enthusiasts. Even if you missed the opening dinner at Ritz Prime Seafood with Chef Rick Moonen, you still had an opportunity to sip on the 100% Cabernet from Napa from boutique winery Nellcote called 500 Chevaux. Good luck trying this wine anywhere else, as a growing waiting list is continuously growing and the winery is not open to the public according to its website.
Boutique Napa Valley Patel Winery was among my favorite last year. We got to know Patel’s proprietor Raj pretty well by now and he had brought a 2013 Malbec. It wasn’t just any Malbec, a 100% Malbec stored in French Oak resulting in some very intense indescribable dark fruit flavor. An incredible new tasting experience and of course, only found at NBWFF.
If you happen to stumble upon J Wilkes booth, their wines has been served to Dignitaries in Washington D.C. at the State Department and (the White House Guest House) the Blair House according to their website and the their winemaker Wes Hagen. (In some ways, I felt slightly more important after drinking this wine.)
According to Master Sommelier Michael Jordan, “85 different wineries were on hand having over 200 different wines”. The wait for each winery was minimal and this made trying everything you want more realistic, though probably not close to 20o varietals.
Many other wineries were on hand to quench the thirst of festival goers with empty Riedel glasses. Of course, there were lots of delectable bites throughout as well from some of the top Orange County restaurants. Mastro’s brought their A game with their Steak and Lobster Mash. Thanks Chef Eddie Albarran and his team for having my favorite of the festival. Sushi Roku of Newport made fresh to order poke hand rolls, which is quite delicious whether you’re slightly inebriated or the DD for the day.
If you’re not a wine drinker (I’m sorry but you were probably the designated driver), there was Stella Artois, Beer from Goose Island. Crystal Geyser Juice Squeeze, Real Alkaline Water, and Hubert’s Lemonade. From the observation many of these drinks were left towards the end of the afternoon, one can predict from deductive reasoning an abundance of wines were consumed.
But if you like your drinks a tad stronger, Duke Kentucky Bourbon (Duke Highballs and Duke Mules were made) , Hornitos Tequila, and Courvosier (Passion Fruit / Cognac and Courvoisier VSOP /Limon Jarritos was served) were also offering their handcrafted cocktails. You don’t need to ask me twice, I’ve had each and every one of them and they were all delicious. Thank goodness for the Uber dropoff /pickup zone right out front.
For a glimpse of what you missed at the 2016 NBWFF Festival, please click on the video below. (Music Credit: DW3 Band). It was a fabulous time as always and can’t wait what’s in store for 2017. If you miss NBWFF this year, make sure you follow them on on their website and secure your ticket when it becomes available as tickets are likely to be sold out, especially the popular ones.
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Still dreaming about this past weekend's Grand Tasting at Newport Beach @newbe_fest with 90+ Point Wines, Master Sommeliers, Great Friends, Top Chefs from all over US, Delicious Food from Top OC Restaurants and Smooth Music from DW3 Band. This is why this festival remains one of my top favorites! #NBWFF #NEWBEFEST #winefestival #foodfestival #NewportBeach #Grandtasting #TopChef