7th Time is the Charm: Pebble Beach Food and Wine Redefines Luxury

It's time to uncork another insiders-look, into the world of high-end Food and Wine, an article written by regular guest contributor; Ilona Thompson She's the Editor in Chief for Palate Exposure, a self-described believer in the Sustainability of Critical Thinking and Personal Responsibility. She is also a regular contributor to the Brenner Brief.

The Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival ("PBFW") titled "7th Time Down the Line," to commemorate its seventh year, is a four day feast for the senses; a cornucopia of food and wine that borders on obscene opulence. It seduces patrons with a never-ending array of events; showcasing food and wines that are captivating, awe-inspiring and just plain fun. Set in a breathtaking community of Pebble Beach, it is the epitome of hedonism brought to the attendees by 250 acclaimed wineries and 125 chefs. Dozens of top notch sommeliers from around the country oversee the meticulously choreographed wine service during lunches, dinners and seminars. A number of expert mixologists and beer purveyors are available should your palate require an impeccable cocktail or a refreshing craft beer.

One of its distinguishing characteristics is that there is truly something for everyone:

  • Fun-filled food demos with colorful TV Chef personalities
  • Wine and food pairing lunches and dinners
  • Walk around wine and food tastings, with offerings presented by vintners and Chefs
  • Once-in-a-lifetime seminars: Featuring extremely rare wines, supplied and presented by the legendary producers themselves, moderated by industry luminaries
  • Decadent, inspired meals prepared by world-class Chefs enjoyed in a glorious setting

For the price of a wine and food pairing dinner at a nice restaurant, you can pal around with the likes of Michael Symon, Robert Irvine and Guy Fieri while they serve you an unforgettable multi-course meal. Oenophiles will enjoy exclusive seminars and uber-luxurious tastings. Brilliant chefs, sommeliers and winemakers host an exhilarating weekend jam-packed with cooking demonstrations, chef's tastings, wine seminars, gala dinners, and over-the-top after-parties.

Nearly 8000 discerning guests flock from all over the world to enjoy this extravaganza. In it's seventh wildly successful year, with the events selling out in record time, PBFW has earned a reputation as the ultimate wine and food event for a very good reason. To quote Phil, from Groundhog Day, "One can have a perfect experience, it just takes a really long time to create it." Pulling off this ultimate food and wine fantasy requires a gargantuan behind the scenes effort. To sum up four days of sensory overload into a few paragraphs is a near impossible task, but I’ll do my best.

Highlights and Notable Vitals:

1. Lexus Grand Tastings: For a bargain $225 price of admission; this event presented a myriad of tasting opportunities from rockstar wineries such as Archery Summit, Bedrock Wine Co, Beringer, Black Kite Cellars, Blackbird Vineyards, Brand, Capture, Carlisle, Caymus, Chamisal, Chappellet, Cliff Lede, Davis Family Vyds, Duckhorn, Dumol, Fel, Flowers, Gandona, Gary Farrell, Hall, Hestan, Joseph Phelps, Jonata, Kistler, Kosta Browne, Ladera, Pahlmeyer, Paradigm, Pisoni, Quintessa, Realm, Silver Oak, Scribe, Turley and lots more.

2. The Champagne from elusive, boutique, and exclusive producers was flowing freely. Champagne houses that were pouring included Champagne Billecart-Salmon, Delamotte, Henriot, Lanson, Louis Roederer, Nicolas Feuillatte, Perrier-Jouet and Champagne Salon.
3. Notable wine personalities: The list included a host of Master Sommeliers; who were conducting guided tastings, seminars, a variety of demonstrations as well as attending as guests:
  • Tony Abou-Ganim Mixologist
  • Gillian Balance MS Treasury Wine Estates
  • Didier Depond Champagne Salon President
  • Paul Draper Ridge Vineyards
  • Fintan Du Fresne Chamisal Vyds
  • Frederic Engerer Chateau Latour
  • Andy Ericssson Mayacamas Vyds (former Screaming Eagle winemaker)
  • Antonio Galloni Vinous Media
  • Ray Isle Food and Wine magazine
  • Paul Lato Lato Wines
  • Jordan Mackay SF Magazine
  • Archie McLaren, Central Coast Wine Classic
  • Puri Mancebo Bodegas Vegas Sicilia
  • Chris Mazepink Archery Summit
  • Roland Micu MS Rose. Rabbit. Lie
  • DLynn Proctor Penfolds
  • Michael Silacci Opus One
  • Larry Stone MS Huneeus Vintners
  • Morgan Twain-Peterson Bedrock Wine Co
  • Bryan Talley Talley Vyds
  • Laura Werlin Cheese Essentials
4. Marquee wine seminars that supplied once-in-a-lifetime tasting opportunities were:
  • 2010 Burgundy; An Exploration of the Great Terroirs of the Cote D'Or
Moderated by by Antonio Galloni, Vinous founder (former lead critic of Wine Advocate) and Larry Stone, MS with wines from Domaine Dujac, Mugnier, Rousseau, Louis Jadot, Comte Armand, Marquis d'Angerville, Robert Chevillon, and Domaine de la Vougeraie was a feast for the Burgundy-phile senses.
  • Opus One Seminar
Moderated by Michael Silacci, winemaker, it offered the admirers of this iconic brand not only to taste but also to blend their own version Of Opus One.
  • 2008 Barolo: Modern day Classics Barolo
Featured Barolos from Elio Grasso, Roberto Voerzio, Bartolo Mascarello, Giuseppe Rinaldi, G.D.Vajra, Elvio Cogno, Luciano Sandrone and Vietti. A study in Italian greatness with great insights by Antonio Galloni, with some wines provided from his personal cellar!
  • Chateau Latour - A Historic Tasting
Wines/Vintages poured were Pauillac 2009, Les Forts 2006/00/10, Chateau Latour 1990/96/00/01/03. Moderated by Frederic Engerer, it was truly once in a lifetime opportunity to taste the grand First Growth in a side by side format.

  • Vega Sicilia Unico - 150 Year Anniversary
Moderated by Vega Sicilia's own Puri Mancebo and featuring Unico wines from 1975, 1989, 1994, 1998, 2000 and Valbuena from 1998/00/03/04/05. Clear takeaway is an extraordinary QPR these elusive wines represent, and what an impressive showing, especially given their size and girth. Age Worthiness galore.
  • The Singular Majesty of Champagne Salon
Moderated by Didier Depond and Antonio Galloni, featuring Delamotte Blanc de Blanc NV/2004 and Salon 1970/1983/1988/1995/97/99/2002, some out of Magnums, flown directly from Didier's cellar, this could only be described as "wow" - this event alone was worth showing up for an entire weekend for.
5. Marquee Lunches and Dinners: The Founder's Dinner, Grand Finale Dinner, A Tribute to a Legend - Charlie Trotter.  A Taste of Italy featured Top Cheftestant Antonia Lofaso, who brought eggplant straight from her grandma's garden for her playful version of eggplant parmigana, made with caciocavalo cheese. Forage to Feast: Lexus Chef's Table Lunch (with Michael Symon and Joseph Lenn), The 4 Martini Lunch (with Ben Spungin of CLM, Michael Hung of Faith and Flower LA, Wesley Hoiton of Rose. Rabbit. Lie and Abby Burk of Restaurant 1833.) were as tasty as they were playful and whimsical.
6. Exclusive After-parties: It is at the lounge where you get to rub elbows with celebrities, nosh on stunning small plates by Hubert Keller (Fleur de Lis), sip cocktails and dance till 2 am to the tunes of local celebrity DJ.

7. Noteworthy for "Foodies: Food Network star Robert Irvine poured copious amounts of wine, while snapping photos and chatting with awestruck fans. He then strolled over to the station manned by the ever cool and wildly funny Guy Fieri to sample his Macaroni Cheese Burger (which caused patrons to stand in the longest line in the tent.) Guy Fieri and Robert Irvine also joined forces for "Dinner in the Kitchen" the night before that guests described as the "most fun they've ever had at dinner"

8. Heard:
  • Guy Fieri's choice of profession other than his own was a bullfighter; Robert Irvine's - firefighter.
  • Robert Irvine asked the military servicemen in the audience to stand up during dinner and offered  them a well deserved round of applause.
  • Rochelle Trotter's moving tribute to her late husband, the legendary Charlie Trotter, didn't leave a dry eye in the room.

9.  Favorite celebrity bite from a Chef:
  • Aubergine's Executive Chef Justin Cogley (one of Food & Wine magazine's Best New Chefs) brought his signature seafood dish, "Dungeness Crab Paired with Seaweed Vinegar and Beach Succulents."
  • Andrew Zimmerman said it was his favorite bite of the event.
  • Ilona's favorite bite: "Bacon and Pork Belly Jam. Slow Poached Egg" + "Portuguese Seafood Soup" by Kim Canteenwalla of Honey Salt in Las Vegas. Sublime.

Speaking of favorite meals, what would you choose for your last one?  

10.  Favorite quote from a Celebrity Chef:
  • "Get up every day and try to be the best person that you can be, and help people in any way that you can" - Robert Irvine

Celebrity portrait photographer, Melanie Dunea, asked the world's most prominent chefs exactly that. Her book "My Last Supper:50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals" served as the inspiration for a whimsical dinner titled "My Last Supper: The Next Course" at which five renowned Chefs presented their "last meal" course, paired with sublime wines.

The idea of PBFW was conceived seven years ago by serial entrepreneurs David Alan Bernahl, II and Robert Weakley, who co-founded Coastal Luxury Management. After taking the luxury food and wine world by storm in the form of Pebble Beach Food and Wine event they have gone on to create the Los Angeles Food & Wine festival; in addition to opening several popular, upscale restaurants.

The wine program would have been impossible without the tireless efforts of executive wine director extraordinaire, Lara Sailer Long, who astoundingly managed to secure the likes of Chateau Latour, Vega Sicilia and Champagne Salon among many other phenomenal wineries. My wine geek heart and palate are forever grateful.

In a word, PBFW 2014 was magnificent. All weekend long I heard "wow"  "amazing" "ultimate" and the like from guests. I've been privileged to attend a lot of fantastic wine and food events. This event was one that took it to whole new level, both in terms of content and experiential experience.

Feel Free to Comment Below: You can also catch our wine-writer-at-large on twitter @PalateXposure where she is currently soaking up fun and flavor of exploring Paso Robles.


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