BY RICK RIOZZA
I know of no better venue in town than to wine down Valentine’s Week with a wine jaunt and culinary cruise all within the Rancho Mirage Amphitheater and Community Park this February 17th. I know it’s last minute—but hey! That’s what we do best around here: so no problem—it’s on our calendar stat!
Okay—so if you haven’t yet heard, here’s the luscious chatter written about it:
“Join us on Feb 17, 2018 and enjoy over 200 incredible wines and cuisine from 17 of Rancho Mirage’s very best chefs. Award winning wineries will be pouring their world-class wines from Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, Lodi, Washington State, The Santa Lucia Highlands, Temecula, France and Italy. Enjoy an afternoon of unlimited fun, wine, food and live upbeat music—it’s the classiest wine and food festival under the sun! If you love wine and great food, then the Rancho Mirage Wine & Food Festival is the event for you!”
When I first saw the Rancho Mirage Fest advertised, I thought to myself, “Did I cover this event last year?” Well—the answer is: that would have been impossible, for this festival is in its inaugural year—isn’t it about time!!
You know when the world considers Rancho Mirage, they not only think of it as the “golf playground of the Presidents, they also have a pretty good idea that the city showcases some of the best restaurants around. So what a great idea to commandeer the gastronomic powerhouses and match their culinary prowess to some of the finest wines from around the world!
I recently met up with the festival organizer David Fraschetti. Although we’ve never met, I soon learned that I know about him already. He’s the guy behind the popular VinDiego Wine and Food Festival—one of the most fun events down in San Diego, going on seven years now. David and his wife reside here in Rancho Mirage, so of course our beautiful surrounds prompted him to seek out a venue to share the love, the food, and the wine with all of us enthusiastic foodies and vino lovers.
He and his wife were playing tennis at Rancho Mirage Community Park one day, while the popular Art Fair was also going on. The couple wondered, “Could this be the ideal venue?” Walking through the area, they were amazed at how large that park really is. David decided to partner with the Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce and now here we go! Where the presidents and perhaps the world will be watching and wanting tickets to this fine event.
David humbly states that he’s no wine connoisseur but surely he knows what he likes; but I will say, he has the pulse of the Southern California wine community as evident by his selection of world class wineries to the Festival. And here’s the news: David personally visits the wineries he invites to pour at these festivals; and he requests that only the owner, winemaker, winery rep or distributor manage the tasting booths so as to answer any inquiries as to the wines exhibited. How classy and refreshing to hear.
Further, David’s experience has taught him that to present a memorable event—one that causes the visitors to look forward to the next year’s festival, is to simply focus on the wine and the dishes presented. As he’s learned from his VinDiego festivals, “it’s about people coming together to celebrate a shared passion: a love for great wine and mouth-watering gourmet food.”
“There’s no beer, no booze and no cooking demonstrations that often serve to detract from the wineries and wine presented.” David assures our readers that, “We’re not trying to be everything to everyone. This is an elegant and stylish marketing event for our high-end top tier wineries, and thus, is a true wine connoisseur’s delight!” At last count, there are 17 Rancho Mirage restaurants and 50 wineries participating.
Personally, I’m very happy to hear of the wonderful winery line-up ahead. Just thinking out loud, some of the wine brands to catch will be: Ahnfeldt, who’s consulting winemaker is no other than Paul Hobbs! Hitching Post, with their delicious Santa Barbara reds; MacRostie, whose Chardonnay may well be the best wine to serve with olive-oil fried codfish with dill-butter; and, Navarro Vineyards whose Anderson Valley/Mendocino Coast wines continue to score Best-in-Class, such as their Gewürztraminer and Première Reserve Chardonnay.
Too many fine wineries to mention here, so please go online to the website, indicated below, to check out all of the fantastic players in the wine game this weekend.
The good news just continues: As ticket purchasers, you’ll be supporting The Desert AIDS Project! 100% of all proceeds from our silent auction and a portion of tickets sales will be donated to this fine Coachella Valley charity and will help them provide support for those living with, affected by, or at-risk for HIV or AIDS.
This is a festival after all, so look for some lively sounds at the event as a steady stream of live musical entertainment will be provided so guests can relax or dance the afternoon away.
The Festival takes place on Saturday, Feb. 17, from noon until 4pm. at the Rancho Mirage Amphitheater and Community Park, at 71560 San Jacinto Drive. Tickets start at $75. Visit www.ranchomiragewineandfoodfestival.com for those tickets or more information.
Your all-inclusive General Admission and VIP ticket includes an elegant crystal souvenir wine glass and unlimited tastes of award winning wines, along with a dizzying variety of gourmet appetizers, tasty cheeses, artisan breads, and olive oils. The Early Entry VIP ticket allows you to get in one hour earlier than the General Admission ticket.
I’ll see you there!—Cheers!