If you need me next weekend, I’ll be at the Newport Dunes Resort, wine in one hand, cucumber sandwich in the other, celebrating the 2017 Pacific Wine & Food Classic. The cucumber sandwich will be refreshing—just the right blend of crunchy vegetable and soft bread with a hint of dill somewhere between—and the wine, magnificent. It’ll be a chilled Chardonnay, with notes of pineapple, pear and citrus. As guests sip Pinots and dip crudités, plumes of salty mist will tumble off the water, painting the breeze brackish and summertime cool. The wind will be unhurried, and so too will I, moving from one to the next of more than 100 food, wine and cocktail stations, knowing I can’t try everything, hoping to find a way I can.
At least that’s how I imagine the weekend will go.
Dreams or reality, the Pacific Food & Wine Classic, brought to life by Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits and Fisher & Paykel, will definitely be a weekend extravaganza not soon forgotten. (Pssst, get your tickets for the Aug. 19-20 foodie and wine fête here, use promo code “bogo” and you can buy one ticket, get the next one free.)
Beyond the 100+ vendors serving and pouring the good stuff, local celebrity chefs will demo on the Fisher & Paykel/DCS Cooking Stage, a show hosted all weekend by Food Network’s Simon Majumdar. And while I will most certainly be watching with glued eyeballs to see what my favorite Cutthroat Kitchen judge has to say (and also what these O.C. chefs are cooking up), I can’t lie to you. I’m really in it for the wine. Here’s a rundown of the juice I’ll be sipping …
We Believe Wines
This relatively new brand is as reputable as it is charitable. With a 91-point-rated Pinot Noir sourced from the Russian River Valley, a 92-point rated Chardonnay bottled from the same region and a brand-new Sonoma County Cabernet that just took first place at the Taste of Huntington Beach, you’ve got to believe in the quality of what’s inside their patriotic bottle. As an added bonus, you’re drinking up to do good; eight dollars from every case of We Believe sold goes directly to the Green Beret Foundation and the SEAL Legacy Foundation, supporting our country’s fallen and wounded heroes.
From one American wine to the next, The Federalist is all about honoring our nation’s Founding Fathers and their unwavering love of wine. (It was Thomas Jefferson who uttered in 1816, “Wine … a necessity of life with me.”)Their flagship pour is the Visionary Zinfandel, a lively acidic, bright-berried ode to Alexander Hamilton. In another liquid elegy to Hamilton, the brand just released its Bourbon Barrel-Aged Zinfandel from Mendocino County, CA. The wine is aged in real bourbon barrels for six months, which is a tip of the cork to Hamilton, who met his demise at the end of a smoking barrel in the most famous duel in American history.
The Keaton by Diane Keaton
There’s not much information to be found about Diane Keaton’s wine, and that’s exactly why I want to taste it. In a 2015 interview with PEOPLE, the Annie Hall icon said her wine is meant to be enjoyed over ice, which is how she’s enjoyed it since the ‘70s when she’s sit on her balcony overlooking the summer glop of NYC, iced wine to keep her cool. The wine is a collab with Bruce Hunter at Shaw-Ross International Importers and Winemaker Bob Pepi, and a matching portion of the proceeds from every bottle goes to brain research at the Lou Ruvo Center in Las Vegas. (Brain diseases affected both of Keaton’s parents.) “Grab a low ball glass, fill with lots of ice, pour until all the ice is covered with the robust red wine, then enjoy,” Keaton told PEOPLE. “It’s not fancy,” she explained. “But neither am I.”
FARM Napa Valley by John Anthony
The story of Farm Napa Valley stars, however unromantically with dirt. John Truchard, a farmer in the area, realized he had his hands on some of the best soil in all the land. He began producing wine from several of the small, hand-farmed lots and the rest is a grape tale to tell (and drink). Every FARM Napa Valley wine is produced from these tiny lots and the finesse and nuances of his wines are tastes your tongue must behold.
Stave & Steel
These wines start out with American oak bourbon barrels that are toasted, charred and soaked to the core in Kentucky bourbon. What results is a flavor fusion that lingers long after your final sip. The wine is elegant, unexpected and indulgent. Here’s hoping Stave & Steel brings the Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in bourbon barrels for four months, which results in a complex, deeply flavorful wine with bold fruit flavors and a smooth, caramelly finish. (And yes, I’m aware “caramelly” isn’t a word but you can get away with writing things like that when you’re talking about a bourbon barrel-aged wine.)