Living the Good Life 6

Newport Beach Wine Festival returns better than ever.

Area residents always eagerly anticipate the Annual Newport Beach Wine Festival, hosted by the Balboa Bay Resort, and this year is no exception. In the 12th year of the event, the resort has retained the festival’s tried and true events, and stepped it up in other areas.

“Along with the recent renovations to our beautiful resort, we are very excited to introduce some modern twists and fun experiences during this year’s annual weekend of exceptional wine and food,” says Balboa Bay Resort’s General Manager Sam El-Rabaa.

Indeed, the resort has recently undergone a multi-million dollar renovation to offer an overhaul of its restaurants with brand new menus and a sparkling new lobby. Bringing Executive Chef Vincent Lesage on board with his extensive culinary background was the perfect touch.

The three-day food and wine festival, always held on Memorial Day weekend, is set for Friday, May 22, through Sunday, May 24. It begins with a “Meet the Maker” reception followed by a winemaker dinner on Friday, this year featuring only one winery, Jordan Vineyard & Winery. In the past, the opening night reception and dinner featured a multitude of wines, many French.

“We wanted to feature a wine that was iconic and local, not wines with limited accessibility, as in the past,” says BBR’s Marketing Manager Kevin Gasparro.

Maggie Kruse, Jordan’s assistant winemaker, will be featured in the “Meet the Maker” reception held on the Commodore Patio, while the Jordan Reserve Winemaker Reception and Dinner will follow with a five-course dinner and wine pairings from the highly rated Alexander Valley/Sonoma County winery. This year’s gourmet extravaganza will be held in BBR’s newly-renovated Waterline restaurant.

Saturday, May 23, is packed with three events, beginning with a “Cooking with Wine” Trinitas Cellars Cooking Class and Wine Pairing in the Bay View Room. According to Gasparro, last year’s class was such a success, it is being repeated.

Next up is the “Mastering the Art of Blending Experience” class in the Commodore Room and Patio. Festival coordinator, J.C. Converse, who is Waterline’s General Manager and BBR’s Beverage Manager, fills us in.

“This is a first-time event for the festival,” Converse says. “We’re limiting it to 38 people, who will be led by a winemaker, with guests actually making their own blends.”

Attendees will be blending from a range of base wines and will learn the characteristics attributed to each varietal. Converse predicts it will be the festival’s signature event and will sell out the fastest.

The day ends with the festival’s well-established Grand Tasting in the Grand Ballroom, with more than 200 wines from 90+ wineries from around the world providing sips for guests. Chef Lesage and his team will orchestrate culinary creations to delight the senses, including live action stations, and live music is always part of the mix.

The festival introduced a “Beer for Breakfast” Sunday morning last year and is repeating it this year in the resort’s newly-renovated A&O Kitchen+Bar.

“We are taking it to a whole new level,” Gasparro says.

Converse, who has a degree from UC Davis in Brewing and has been brewing for 15 years, says, “Chef Vincent comes up with a hearty, gastropub-inspired breakfast menu, and I pair the beers to it. We’ll discuss the beers flavor profiles with guests and how they interact with the foods, much like you’d do with wines.”

Converse says a number of local breweries will be included, as well as international beers and offerings from San Diego, a particular hot spot for good brews.

“We now have a tap system that can pour local and popular craft beers,” Gasparro adds.

The festival concludes with its ever-popular seafood festival, this year dubbed the “Waterline and Wine Seafood Festival.” Always held outdoors in the past, this year the scrumptious seafood, wines from 30 different wineries, and an assortment of craft beers, accompanied by live musical entertainment, will be showcased in Waterline and its large bayfront patio and will carry over onto the Commodore, Boardroom and Library terraces, with views of gorgeous Newport Bay.

“We wanted to showcase the seafood, and we couldn’t do it outdoors,” Gasparro says.

Converse sums up the entire effort.

“The festival will be everything we’ve done in the past, and more,” he says.

How could it not be? Where else can you sip fantastic wines and partake of sumptuous gourmet fare in such an exquisite waterside setting? Here! Here!