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Big Sur Food & Wine Festival, November 1-4

Photos by Moss Media

A Celebration of Delicious Delights

PAcificEdgeWhat better way to welcome November than with a celebration of Monterey County’s rock star chefs and vintners, held in the epicenter of culinary innovation?

Undoubtedly, when people think of Monterey, Carmel and Big Sur, they think of the prolific beauty and bounty of both land and sea that make this place like no other on earth. Fittingly the 4th annual Big Sur Food & Wine Festival kicks off at the spectacularly set Carmel Highlands Inn on Thursday, November 1st, with Gateway to Big Sur, an extravaganza featuring the area’s top chefs and winemakers, from 6 to 9pm.

With 18 chefs and 37 wineries, this promises to be one of the year’s classiest parties, and certainly the drop-dead gorgeous view of the Pacific coastline, kissed by the sunset glow, could not be more dramatic. Attendees are encouraged to don cocktail attire and put on the glitz, because this is the scene to be seen.

The Hyatt Carmel Highlands will be transformed into a magical nirvana for the palate, where you’ll dine on the culinary creations of:

  • Adam Nichol – Grand Hyatt San Francisco
  • Brandon Miller – Mundaka, Carmel
  • Cal Stamenov & Ben Spungin – Bernardus, Carmel Valley
  • Cy Yontz – Rio Grill, Carmel
  • Domingo Santamaria – Deetjen’s, Big Sur
  • Frank Ostini – Hitching Post, Buellton
  • Greg Lizza – Nepenthe, Big Sur
  • Greg Lopez – Urbane and Hyatt Hotel Seattle
  • Jason Balestrieri – Cantinetta Luca, Carmel
  • Jerry Regester – C Restaurant at Monterey Intercontinental
  • John Cox – Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur
  • Kent Torrey – Cheese Shop of Carmel
  • Mark Ayers – Cannery Row Brewing Company, Monterey
  • Matt Bolton – Hyatt Carmel Highlands
  • Phil Wojtocwiecz – Big Sur Bakery
  • Phillip Burrus – Esalen Institute, Big Sur
  • Timothy Hrusa – Treebones Resort, Big Sur

And, you’ll be wined by a storied collection of vintners, including local legends Boekenoogen Vineyards, Calera, Galante, McIntyre, Miura, Pelerin, Pisoni, ROAR and Talbott, along with esteemed guests from other regions, including Champagne Delamotte, Chanin, Chappellet, Cold Heaven, Copain, Corison, Duckhorn, Fiddlehead, Hirsch, Justin, Kristi Lynn, Martines Wines, Melville, Paul Lato, Peay, Perception, Pride, Ramey, Roederer, Scarpetta, Sheldon, Siduri, Spottswoode and Wind Gap.  

Parking at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands is very limited. There is a shuttle that meets at the Crossroads shopping center between the Rio Grill and Starbucks: The shuttle to Big Sur will be free for attendees of Gateway to Big Sur at the Highlands on Thursday, Nov. 1. The shuttle will be $12 per one-way ride for the rest of the weekend. See www.bigsurfoodandwine.com to view the schedule and to make reservations for the shuttle.

Seminars and More

BigSurFWThere’s lots more than cocktail-attired partying to Big Sur Food & Wine. Many lessons are waiting to be learned, beginning with the Calera Pinot Noir Retrospective at 4pm at the Highlands on Thursday, a wonderful way to warm up your palate for the evening’s festivities. Winemaker and proprietor Josh Jensen—one of the most celebrated and quirky vintners in the business—will present four of his favorite vintages from his magical property in the Hollister hills. Few ever have the patience or the opportunity to cellar these majestic wines until they are truly ready for prime time. Tickets $35.

Friday morning brings Pinot and Their Muse to the Big Sur State Park Conference Center, 10am to noon. Emmanuel Kemiji, MS, of Miura Wines, moderates a panel of Pinot makers, including Josh Jensen, Martine Saunier, Burt Williams (Williams-Selyem), Gavin Chanin, Paul Lato and Andy Peay, all of whom will reveal their own personal muse that inspires them to make amazing wines. Tickets $50.

Friday afternoon from 12:30 to 3pm there is the Pinot Walkabout at the Post Ranch Inn Gardens. Here is a chance to drink in some fresh saltwater air while swirling, sniffing and sipping some fine Pinots from some of the world’s best vineyards for growing Pinot. These happen to be right in our back yard, from Arroyo Seco to the Santa Lucia Highlands, to the neighboring Carmel Valley Highlands. Enjoy wines from 30 producers along with cheeses from Point Reyes Farmstead and the Schoch Family, as well as the Big Sur Taphouse. Check out the beautiful kitchen garden of the Post Ranch Inn that provides their Sierra Mar restaurant with produce. Tickets $48.

HighlandsViewFriday evening don’t miss the Wine and Swine “carve off” at the Henry Miller Library, where Chef Brian Overhauser goes hacksaw to hacksaw and knife to knife against Jim Burch of Del Monte Meat Company, the event’s sponsor. They’ll literally go whole hog, as they compete in the piglet dressing and food prep contest that will have everyone’s rapt attention, until they delve into the wonderful dishes pulled from that succulent porker. The piglet will be auctioned off as a benefit for the Culinary Scholarship Fund.

You’ll enjoy a plethora of porcine delectables prepared by five chefs, using hogs from the 100% sustainable farms of Niman Ranch, all matched with wines from local wineries. Tickets $90.

These days, or should we say nights, there’s always an After Party, so hang out at the Henry Miller Library for some late night sipping and story swapping after Wine and Swine.  

There are still seats available for the Winemaker Dinner at The Big Sur Bakery, featuring Chappellet Winery at 7pm. For more information or to register for the dinner, contact the Big Sur Bakery at 831.667.0520.

Seats also remain for the 7:30pm Winemaker Dinner at Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn featuring the Laird Family Estate Vineyard as well. Second generation winemaker Rebecca Laird of Laird Family Estate Vineyards will preside over a cozy meal in the Deetjens Family and Fireplace rooms, where Laird wines will be paired with an inspired 5-course meal created by Chef Domingo Santamaria. Tickets $175, call 831.667.2377.

Saturday Events

Saturday begins with a 10-11:30am seminar on Napa Family Wines at the Big Sur State Park Conference Center. Long before the rise of the cult cabs, Napa was a small valley inhabited by working families. Learn the stories and explore the wines of Chappellet, Continuum and Spottswoode during a panel discussion moderated by Peter Granoff, MS, owner of the Ferry Plaza and Oxbow Wine Merchant. Tickets $30.

Event-Mystery-Tour-Pour-MMCJoin grower Gary Franscioni at 11:30am for an overview and introspective on the Sierra Mar Vineyard at the Henry Miller Library. Gary planted his mother’s property, high in the hills of the Santa Lucia Highlands, in 2007. Destined to become one of Monterey’s greatest vineyards, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah and Viognier are growing at 1000 feet above the Salinas Valley. Come taste the wines of ROAR, Siduri, August West, Bernardus, Pelerin and Novy from this stunning new vineyard. Tickets $30.

From 2-5pm, the Grand Public Tasting takes place at the Post Ranch Inn, with 50 wineries and 15 chefs. Sponsored by Lexus and the Post Ranch Inn, the Grand Public Tasting will be held under the Big Top adjacent to the pond at the world famous Post Ranch Inn. Chefs include Leslie Durso from New York, preparing purely vegetarian dishes, Frank Ostini of the famed Hitching Post in Buellton, Brian Overhauser of Hahn Estates, John Cox of the Post Ranch, Brandon Jones of Lokal in Carmel Valley and many more. This event is Sold Out.

From 6:30pm onwards enjoy a special Paulée-style dinner Dinner with Friends at the Henry Miller Library, along with the manouche jazz of Beso Negro, outstanding food and unique and fun wines from various cellars and collections. You’re invited to bring something you wish to share. And, naturally, there’s an After Party.  Tickets $155.

Also on Saturday night, the Winemaker Dinner & Hot Springs at Esalen featuring Idle Cellars takes place. Twenty-four lucky guests will enjoy an unforgettable evening in one of the most beautiful spots on the planet. Winemakers Ari Heavner and Ben Larks of Idle Cellars will pour their wines, paired with a five-course dinner, prepared by Chef Phillip Burrus. Dinner is at 7, but arrive at 5pm for a walk through the garden, and a soak in the hot springs! Tickets $175.

A second Winemaker Dinner at The Big Sur Bakery featuring Peay Winery

HighlandsViewSouthContact the Big Sur Bakery at 831.667.0520. From 9:30 onwards, a second After Party! Takes place at the Henry Miller Library. Dance the night away to the talents of Beso Negro and BiG SuRCuS,  who will literally light up the night!  Then DJ Hanif’s musical mixology of eclectic world beats will resonate under the cathedral of the redwoods at the Henry Miller Library for your dancing pleasure. Firestone Walker Brewing Company sponsors. Tickets $20.

On Sunday November 4th a Winemaker Dinner at Treebones Resort features Vina Robles Vineyards. Treebone’s executive Chef Tim Hrusa will present a six-course meal paired with wines from one of Paso Robles’ premium vineyards, Vina Robles. Reception starts at 6:30, dinner seating at 7:15.  Purchase tickets by calling Treebones at 877.424.4787 weekdays. Tickets $99, including tax and gratuity.

What’s It All About?

The drive and vision of organizer Toby Rowland-Jones is behind the Big Sur Food & Wine Festival, along with his dedicated team of like-minded lovers of all things Big Sur, Carmel and Monterey. The festival supports local non-profits in the sectors of health, safety, education and the arts. A portion of ticket sales from the Gateway Event on November 1st goes to support: 

  • Apple Pie School
  • Big Sur Charter School
  • Big Sur Health Center
  • Big Sur Natural History Association
  • Big Sur Scholarship Recipient
  • Captain Cooper School
  • Gazebo School at Esalen Institute
  • Pacific Valley School
  • The Henry Miller Library

The festival also gives scholarships to talented Big Sur residents in wine and/or culinary education. In the last three years, the Big Sur Food & Wine Festival raised over $65,000 for the Big Sur community. 

The 2012 Big Sur Food and Wine Festival takes place November 1-4 throughout the coast of Big Sur and is sponsored by Hyatt Carmel Highlands, Hyatt Hotels, Mercedes-Benz of Monterey, Post Ranch Inn, J& L Wines, and Farmer Family Fund, among others.

For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.bigsurfoodandwine.org

About the author

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Laura Ness is a longtime wine journalist, columnist and judge who contributes regularly to Edible Monterey Bay, Spirited, WineOh.Tv, Los Gatos Magazine and Wine Industry Network, and a variety of consumer publications. Her passion is telling stories about the intriguing characters who inhabit the fascinating world of wine and food.