By Rick Riozza

The straight ahead news hits you immediately when going on www.palmdesertfood&wine.comStatements such as “Terrific food makes the world a better place,” and “Three extraordinary days of food and beverage tastings,” alerts foodies and vino lovers, locals and visitors alike, to the fun and festivities of the ninth annual Palm Desert Food & Wine, taking place March 22-24, 2019.

The quotes continue: “Enjoy eclectic tastings, libations, hands-on demonstrations . . . where three-day premier event showcases some of the nation’s most prominent epicurean influencers — chefs, vintners, and brewmasters.  Treat yourself to this annual celebration of gastronomic pleasure in the Coachella Valley, a destination where talent, sophistication, and unbelievable views blend to create the ultimate culinary event and welcomes all to the breathtaking tree-lined El Paseo shopping district in Palm Desert, California.”

I could safely guess that many of this column’s readers have made it over to this culinary event over the past eight years and most of us keep returning.  And why not! It’s a once a year treat to not only taste through over 60 world class wines, but to do so in a gathering of many wine friends and acquaintances—we’re talking about enjoying a big, loud and festive wine party—cheers!

Every year this Food & Wine celebration seems to add more and more culinary activities featuring all of the celebrity chefs we’ve come to know and love.  You’ll no doubt wish to go on-line to check the calendar list for locations and times of over 20 chef demonstrations.

So—as you would expect in this column, let’s cut to the culinary chase and comment out loud on some of the wines and winery booths that we look forward to encountering.  For a heads-up, I advise you to go on-line, above, to peruse the list of wineries pouring.  The three to four hours of tastings will go by quickly as the fun craziness increases when the crowds enlarge; it’s wise to have a little game plan to sample and chat with the winery’s representatives of your choice, otherwise with all of the bites and chumming going on, just run with the happy haphazard happenings.

Of course it’ll be great to see and taste through our traditional favorites: Grgich Hills Estate.  We all know this famed Napa Valley winery and all the California wine history that comes to mind.  And oftentimes at this event we are honored to meet up with the irrepressible winemaker Mike Grgich who has a winter home here in La Quinta.

The lovely Jacquee Renna has been Grgich’s representative in these parts for a while now and hopefully we’ll be seeing her pouring here. It was Grgich’s Chardonnay that won that famous 1976 Paris tasting where California beat out the French stuff. Also his Zinfandel, Merlots, and Cabs continue to score off the charts. It’s all history in a glass! Stop by, say hi—and enjoy!

Another favorite shout-out goes to Navarro Vineyards.  It’ll be great to see their reps again for they are the consummate personality pair.  Their wines, such as the Gewürztraminer and the Pinot Noir, from the Anderson Valley in Mendocino Valley, simply reeks of the pristine coastal area.  Always a treat and always delicious!

Another shout-out goes to Riboli Family Vineyards.  Named the “2018 American Winery of the Year”, this is one of the booths you’ll wish to seek out.  I’ve become a friend of Chris McMillin, the Riboli wine rep in our area, and I can say he brings their best stuff to these wine events.  Chris recently poured at last month’s Rancho Mirage Wine & Food fest and there was a constant line to taste.  My advice is to get there early; the Riboli portfolio is not to be missed.

And speaking of pouring at last month’s Rancho Mirage’s wine affair, the very exclusive Rombauer Vineyards, who finally came out to our desert to pour their wares, found a more than welcoming fan-base here and have decided to showcase their portfolio again for this month’s vino voyagers.  And let’s face it—it’s a quintessential favorite for the desert dwellers here who order it all the time!

And let’s also keep in mind the venerable ZD Wines portfolio.  Owned and operated by three generations of the deLeuze Family, whose winery and vineyards are located in the heart of Napa Valley.  They consistently produce world class wines from Chardonnay to Cabernet, from Pinot Noir to sparkling wine. There’s always time to enjoy a ZD wine!

And for the new age of wine lovers who especially seek out the biodynamic, sustainably farmed, and organic wines about, this fair is full of them.  Truth be told, the wineries I’ve mentioned above have been sustainably farming their vineyards for many years now.  Indeed, Grgich Vineyards were one of the first in California vintners to do so and have been sustainably farmed for over forty years now.

But there are these recent labels in town that make their mark with the organic moniker. Certainly, Annie Arnold’s Organic Wine Exchange has brought to light many of the wineries who’ll be pouring at this tasting.  We’ve covered this organic distribution company and look forward to raising awareness to new organic wineries.

Look to Badger Mountain Vineyards, Eco Terreno, and Chacewater Water Winery and a few select other organic wineries pouring their tasty wines.

Finally, I’d like to bring to light Luna Vineyards. Recently Paolo Maximilliano, of the Palm Springs Wine Blog, and myself were invited to a Luna Vineyards tasting with sommelier Andre De Carteret in his wine cellar at Spencer’s Restaurant in Palm Springs. The lovely Heidi Daniels is Luna Vineyards representative and she poured the winery’s portfolio. The wines are world class! Fortunately for the Palm Desert wine set, Heidi will be pouring this same wine line-up for this festival!  Cheers!

Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival at The Gardens on El Paseo; 73545 El Paseo, West Side Upper Level Parking Deck; Palm Desert CA