On Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013 the California Grape & Gourmet held at Cal Expo completed its 18th year of hosting the remarkable tasting line-up of California State Fair award winning wines. With over 2,600 entries in the fair competition, the variety of wines and state regions were well represented and made for a celebration event offering tastings from over 200 wineries.
The annual event is one of the "largest showcases of award winning wines" to be found and is typically eagerly awaited by wine lovers as well as wine and restaurant industry representatives. Approximately 800 people attended the event as they strolled through the cool Cal Expo building and sampled their favorite varieties and made new friends.
Gourmet bites and full plates were also offered by a variety of local award winning restaurants, cheese and other food specialists including Thir13en, Tuli Bistro, Mulvaney's B&L, Fat Cat Scones, Rumiano Cheese Company, Cupcake Cravings, Anatolian Table Restaurant and Ovations. The entrance also featured welcome tables with commemorative wine glasses and bread for palette cleansing.
The attendees consisted of a broad range of wine enthusiasts and finding an unsmiling face was a challenging task not worth an attempt. For the most part, the crowd consisted of the middle aged and seniors like the indubitably charming Frank and Barbara Shine enjoying their evening of food and wine.
If all the above was not enough, beer was also in the house. The State Fair also had a Craft Brew competition and Brewer's Festival earlier in the month. Some of those award winners were serving some refreshing, frothy brew including Hangar 24 Craft Brewery's Vinaceous brew made with red wine grapes. Delightful it was despite its uncommon beer ingredient and most fitting for the G&G evening. The old Ale is brewed with red wine grapes from Temecula, CA and aged on French Oak. And the extra bit of tasting didn't stop there since Cold House Vodka was also in the house serving up samples of their premium flavored vodka such as Lemonade, Peach, Cake Batter and Mocha.
The layout of the booths was arranged by region so that upon entering the door a whole series of Lake County Wines drew in the crowds. From there, Lodi, Amador County, Sonoma, Napa, Santa Rosa and myriad other vineyards, cities and regions were represented with the best. By the evening end, which ran from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., nearly all the take home wines available for sale were gone. Platters were near empty, thousands of bottles uncorked, toes tired, and bellies full of deliciousness.
Grape & Gourmet proceeds benefit the scholarship program of the Friends of the Fair. "Each year, the Friends of the California State Fair Scholarship Program helps California’s most promising students achieve their goals and realize their dreams. Scholarships ranging from $250 to $5,000 are awarded to college students and graduating high school seniors who exhibit academic excellence, leadership potential, civic accomplishments and a strong sense of personal commitment to continuing education."
Please see the accompanying slideshow for images of the 2013 Grape & Gourmet celebration with wine, people, labels, food, and fun.