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Tickets just went on sale so—seriously—don't wait.
The festival floor is blast, and while you get to taste a wide range of wines there, its not the ideal place for a deep dive on a given grape or region. For that, you’re going to want to hit one of the seminars, where you get to take seat and be guided through a subject in great detail either by the winemakers or wine experts or, often, both. The secret is that they’re usually a smoking deal given the calibre of the wine that’s being poured. Here are three that you’ll see me at, and why.
Thursday Feb 28, 5:15-6:45, $65Why it’s Great: When your traipsing (you do traipse, right?) on the festival floor you’re quite rightly trying to hit the big guns first—the $$$ Napa Cabs, the Brunellos etc. You’re generally not seeking out the Ribolla Giallas. But you should, and this seminar rounds up 11 wines ranging from truly obscure (Feteasca Neagra for Transylvania) to the almost common (Culmina’s Gruner Veltliner or Garzon’s Tannat). These are the varieties that sommeliers love so getting to have a working knowledge of them will really make you look like a rockstar next time you go out. And you might just come across a niche grape that really speaks to you.
Thursday Feb 28, 5:15-6:45, $80Why it’s Great: Ok, so these two are at the same time so you’re going to have to choose. This seminar is a survey of the current state of California’s most iconic winery: Robert Mondavi. And no, they’re not pouring Woodbridge. And frankly turning your nose up at Mondavi only shows you don’t know jack about wine. More importantly this seminar probably represent the best value in terms of price of admission vs. cost of wines being poured. Most of the wines being poured are over $40 and they close with the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve from the To Kalon vineyard—the most famous and expensive land in the New World (and a bottle will set you back a cool $160). if this was any other winemaker this seminar would be $120.
Friday March 1, 5:15-6:45, $80Why it’s Great: You’re going to this not necessarily for the wines—though they’re great examples of Rhone varietals from throughout the world—but because the moderator is Jon Bonné, probably the best wine writer on the planet right now (and he’ll be ably assisted by local luminary Mark Shipway). Bonné is the expert on the New California (the name of his first book), but for the last few years he’s been living partly in France for his next project. Expect his insights to be equal parts witty and insightful and the only small proviso is that there’s only one Okanagan wine on the list—it would be nice to wow our visitor with some of our on point Syrahs that are getting very close in quality to Northern Rhone versions that cost double or triple.