One could not have asked for a better day for Laguna Beach Uncorked International Wine and Food Fest as the weather was beautiful, the location at the Festival of the Arts Grounds was perfect, the food superb and the wine excellent.
Kudos go to the organizers of this event. Laguna Beach Uncorked is up at the top on my list of food and wine tastings. What impressed me was everyone felt wined and dined. In addition the placement of the wine vendors and the food stations were paired appropriately. I really developed a sense of the outstanding restaurants in Laguna and the types of wines to accompany each distinct cuisine.
The event began with a seminar by Michael Jordan, Master Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator. The theme of the seminar was Terrior and Human Beings. There is a fine balance between a human, the hands and Terrior, the land. The environment and soils effects the vines including the grapes themselves and the hands effect the production of the wine.
Four distinct areas and wineries were represented by speakers at this seminar; France, Domaine Prieur Brunet, Oregon, Purple Hands Wines, New Zealand, Peregrine, and Chili, Cono Sur. The wineries were sustainable keeping true to the environment. The most interesting story came from Max Erlwein, who is the winemaker at Cono Sur. To be environmentally safe and keeping caterpillar like bugs off the vines, Cono Sur paints garlic and oil on cardboard that is place against the vines. This keeps the bug off the vines. The winery than employs geese to eat the bugs. If one visits this winery you will find geese roaming the vineyards. The winery also uses bicycles for the employees to get around. Thus the geese and bicycles are fixtures of the winery.
Cody Wright, the owner/winemaker of Purple Hands described how sedimentary soil enhances the grapes with blue fruit and blue notes while volcanic soil give the fruit a red tone and red notes. Cody says, “ Terrior is the Taste of a place”. This quote was a prevalent theme throughout the festival.
By far my favorite wines of the festival were three wines from Argentina. The 2011 TintoNegro Malbec, Mendoza, a rich drinkable smooth full bodied Malbec. Equally good was the 2010 Ernest Catena Tahuan Malbec, Uco Valley. I was also impressed with Ernest Catena Tahuan Cabernet Sauvignon. This too was very well balanced and drinkable. These wines also were an excellent value as they ranged between $12.00 and $16.00.
Recently I have become fascinated with the Iberian varietals and wines and I found most of those at Laguna Uncorked worth a mention. Starting with Spain, the 2009 Urban Ribera, Tinta del Pais, Ribera del Duero was a bold Tempranillo. Tinta del Pais is the local synonym for Tempranillo. Warre’s Porto represented Portugal with 2010 Altano Douro, full-bodied red blend from the Douro Valley. Warre’s also featured a wonderful rich 2001 LBV Bottle aged Porto, Douro Valley, Portugal and Miles 10 year Maimsay, Madeira. Another Spanish wine that caught my eye was the 2011 Nisia Old Vine Verdejo. This fuller body white wine with hints of grapefruit is fermented in stainless steel and than aged 4 -6 months in Oak barrels.
Moving to California one cannot go wrong with Ridge Vineyards. There is a consistency to Ridge’s Wine. The wines definitely can be held for a long time including the 2006 Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains. I also sampled the 2008 Ponzo Zinfandel, Russian River Valley and the 2009 Lytton Estate Petite Sirah, Sonoma, which were both smooth and well balanced.
Foley Wines featured a 2010 Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills which my favorite of this varietal at the event. It tend to like a more full bodied Pinot and Foley’s was just that.
I was also impressed with several of the wines from Townley Wines, a boutique winery that purchases grapes from various vineyards across California. The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, The Shizzle, Napa Valley was the stand out of Townley’s wines.
Other wines worth mentioning were the Etude Pinot Gris, Carneros with hints of tropical fruits, balanced acidity and minerality, Nickel and Nickel 2009 State Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville and the smooth 2009 Chamisal Vineyards “Califa” Pinot Noir, Edna Valley emphasizing 3 clones.
The selection of cuisine from Laguna Beach was diverse yet very tasty. My favorite was the French lentils with Grilled Diver Scallop, a tasty and savory dish from Nirvana Grill. Nirvana Grill also served what I considered the best dessert at the event. I am biased because it was one of the few that my allergies would allow me to sample, as it was gluten free. It was the Cashew Almond-salted Carmel Pie. This was a rich luscious heavenly scrumptous dessert.
Some other delectably appetizing food at Laguna Beach Uncorked were:
K’ya Bistro Bar served a rich Lobster Meatball with Truffle Risotto, a perfect choice for lobster lovers.
Tabu Grill with their deliciously tender Passion Fruit Soy-braised Short Rib with Asian Slaw & Roasted Pineapple, Barbecue Sauce and Crispy Shallots.
Watermarc served Steak Tartare on Lavosh topped with Asiago cheese and Pickled Quail Egg.
230 Forest Avenue’s Charred Prosciutto Shrimp was a very popular dish with the crowd.
Tommy Bahama Laguna Beach refreshed us with Grilled Steak Salad with tamarind vinaigrette of sweet soy chile marinade.
Splashes Restaurant at the Surf and Sand Resort dished up Braised Short Rib Crostini with creamy horseradish.
Mozambique Steakhouse & Coastal Lounge tantalized us with Peri Peri Chicken Pops Basmati Rice & Mango Salsa.
From the land that the grapes grow to the hand that make the wines one could say all aspects wines bring people together. This is true of Laguna Beach Uncorked. The wines brought people together to taste the wines of the world and the food of Laguna Beach in an idyllic setting.
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