California Dreamin': The 2013 Big Sur Food and Wine Festival

Gateway to Big Sur
Scenes from the 2012 Gateway to Big Sur event (Photo: M. Hall)

In just a few short weeks the Big Sur Food and Wine Festival kicks off. Since its inception five years ago, the Big Sur Food and Wine Festival has raised over $100,000 for the Big Sur Community. It is a winning combination of epicurean delights and great wine benefiting a good cause.. The festival was founded in 2009 by Big Sur resident Toby-Rowland Jones. The festival is unique in that it gives a substantial portion of its proceeds to support local nonprofits that benefit health, safety, education and the arts in Big Sur. Delicious wines, gourmet food and the beautiful scenery of Big Sur make this event one of the best wine events not only in California, but in the United States. This year the festival will kick off on the evening of Nov 7th with a special event called the Gateway to Big Sur at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands Hotel. What can guests expect at this year's gala? I talked to David Lambert, Director of Sales and Marketing at Hyatt Carmel Highlands, to get the inside track. "This year we boast 21 chefs and restaurants plus 43 wineries," notes Mr. Lambert. "The setting is unmatched, the friendships and camaraderie of the assembled talent is contagious. This year we have very established stars as well as up and coming chefs that you will be hearing about for years to come." Some of the West Coast's best Chef come together for this evening. Chefs like Cy Yontz will be there. Mr. Yontz takes time away from his own restaurant to support the festival. "I participate in the Gateway to Big Sur event for Big Sur Food and Wine because Rio Grill strongly supports our local community. This will be my fourth year and every year it gets better, " notes Chef Cy Yontz of Rio Grill. "It's an event held in one of the most beautiful areas in the world and it showcases the best chef's and wineries in California." For the price of a flat rate ticket, attendees can enjoy some of California's best wines and dishes from some of California's best Chefs. Tasting highlights from last year's event included lavender cookies from Ben Spungin of Marinus Restaurant at Bernardus of Carmel Valley, delicious cheese from the Carmel Cheese Shop, foie gras torchon with caramelized banana and beet gastrique from Brandon Miller of Mundaka (pictured above), anti-pasta from Jason Balestrieri of Cantinetta Luca, local seafood (abalone) prepared by the Hyatt Chefs and delicious local California/Carmel/Monterey wines (Bernadus, Melville, Hahn Estates, The Hitching Post and Talbott to name just a few.) But the Gateway to Big Sur event is only the kick-off to the festival's activities. With 22 events over 4 days, there's plenty going on along the rugged Big Sur coast. A variety of wine dinners, wine auctions and even hikes are offered. The grand finale of the festival is Sunday's Grand Tasting where guests can savor delicious fare and a wide variety of wines. Following are some of my favorite events on the festival schedule:

Pinot Walkabout
Scenes from the 2012 Pinot Walkabout event (Photo: M. Hall)
  • The Pinot Walkabout- Presented by Lexus, Fri Nov 8, 12-3pm. This event offers a small and intimate stroll around the Post Ranch Inn's small but glorious kitchen garden with 30 top Pinot producers. We tried some exquisite Pinot Noirs at this event last year including Melville, Hahn Estate , Roederer Estate, Hirsch Vineyards, Testarossa, Fink Family, Otter Cove, Ghostwriter, and Talbott. Just make sure to bring some crackers as there is plenty of wine served. Last year we got to sample some incredible Point Reyes Blue Cheese from Marin County along with the delicious wines. This year's event will feature Chef John Cox of the Post Ranch Inn.
  • The Wine & Swine dinner at the Henry Miller library Fri Nov 8, 6pm This informal and fun dinner features delicious dishes prepared by five chefs, using hogs from the 100% sustainable farms of Niman Ranch. Dishes are matched to the wines of ten to fifteen wineries. I expect this event to be a sell-out again this year.
  • The Hiking With Stemware tour Rancho Rico, Fri Nov 8, 11am-3:30pm SOLD-OUT already, but may be possible to wait-list. This wine tour takes guests on to magical and very private private properties for guided hikes with lunch included. For those who do not wish to be so "exertive", the Magical Mystery Tours will be luxury shuttles ferrying people to other private and exclusive, well-hidden homes here along the coast, with wine and tapas at each stop.
  • Lexus Grand Public Tasting at Post Ranch Inn, Sun Nov 10, 12-3pm This is a frugal foodie and wine lover's dream. For the flat rate price of 85.00, you get to spend your Sunday afternoon tasting great food (the Haute Enchilda, Lucienne, Jerry Regester's C Restaurant & Hungry Girl Kitchen) and wine to your heart's content. Unlike many festivals I have been too, the quality of the food here was superb. Wines featured at last year's Grand Public Tasting included: Carpe Diem, The Hitching Post, McIntyre, Hahn Estates, Hearst, and more.

Whether you're a nature lover, a wine connoisseur or a gourmet, the Big Sur Food and Wine Festival has much to offer. The gorgeous Big Sur locations are the perfect backdrop for this delicious event. The festival is what California Dreamin' is all about, a celebration of the free spirit and nature's unspoiled beauty.


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