By Rick Riozza

We knew that this was going to happen sooner than later. An international destination such as Palm Springs will no longer suffer the want of a wine festival. And this inaugural wine fest will of course be held at the Ace Hotel on the upcoming weekend of December 1st and 2nd.

The news gets better. Christine Soto, owner of Dead or Alive bar, is bringing a new focus on the wine festival theme. Those of us who drop in at her wine bar already know her disposition to keep it real in the wine game. She continues to showcase the smaller wine producers who make a great bottle of wine but often do not get the fanfare they deserve.

Well—it’s this energized concept that’s she bringing to the Ace. This isn’t your grandfather’s wine tasting event, this is the new California wine country; the new breed of winemakers on the forefront. What a treat it will be for us vino enthusiasts to expand our wine experience.


I stopped in at Dead or Alive the other night to chat with Christine. She brought me up to date and spoke plainly, “It’s all about diversifying our palates and have fun doing it.” I love the fact that she’s got the pulse of the new wave community of winemakers who particularly use biodynamic and organic farming practices.

She is absolutely excited with both initiating the event for our Palm Springs area and bringing over forty dedicated winemakers and producers on hand to the festival to pour their lineup.

The entire weekend event is titled Golden Grapes, A wine weekend bacchanalia with Palm Springs Wine Fest & Wine Not? There’s a Saturday pool party/wine tasting event (this is the Ace Hotel after all) from noon to 5pm; and the aforementioned Palm Springs Wine Fest on Sunday from noon to 5pm as well.

The Ace Hotel writes on the Saturday event, “Oeno enthusiasts Evan Enderle and Bon Appétit’s Marissa A. Ross play host to a bar of small-production, sustainable varietals, spreading the good news on natural wine.”

Kristin Scharkey, recently wrote in the Desert Sun, “Author and Bon Appétit Magazine wine editor Marissa A. Ross also will be in attendance, co-hosting a pool party with event producer Evan Enderle at the Ace hotel on Saturday. Ross has garnered a devoted following through her blog, “Wine. All the Time” where she uses “The Ross Test” to review wines by drinking them straight out of the bottle. She calls Palm Springs her second home and said the opportunity to share her love of wine in one of her “favorite places on Earth” was a “no brainer.”

As to Sunday’s Palm Springs Wine Fest, the Ace writes, “For its inaugural year, the Wine Fest celebrates the Golden State and its place in the contemporary landscape of wine. The day-long tasting highlights the movers and shakers of the ‘California Style’ preserving varietals from far-flung locations like the Sierra Foothills and Mendocino, and taking a lighter touch in the cellar. Their grapes are grown and wine is made with love, reflecting their dedication to California terroir.”

Tickets are $85 at the door. Admission includes unlimited tastings, small bites, expert insights from the winemakers and live entertainment.

Winemakers include, but are not limited to, A Tribute to Grace, Arnot Roberts, Broc  Cellars , Caraccioli Cellars, Extea Wines, Field Recordings, Forlorn Hope, Habit Wine, Halcyon Wines, Jbrix, Lieu Dit, Lofi, Martha Stoumen, Matthiasson, Methode Sauvage, Minus Tide Wines, Nomadica, Oeno, Penville Wine, Poe Wines, Potek, Presqu’il, Red Car wine Co., Roark Wine Company, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Ruth Lewandowski Ryme Cellars, Scribe Winery, Scholium Project, Trailmaker Wine Co., Waits-Mast and Whitcraft Winery.

As is usual with the Ace Hotel, live music is the rule: appearing is Mattson 2 and dublab’s DJ Frosty.

Here’s the buzz: “The Mattson 2. If you could soundtrack the jangle of the sea and the jazz of the surf, The Mattson 2 would most certainly be the composers. The identical twin guitar and drums duo are truly a marvel of jazz-rock orchestration and arrangement. The duo shimmers and shakes with the soaring modern wizardry of Jared Mattson’s untamed, layered guitars and Jonathan Mattson’s tribal jazz hard-bop drumming. They channel the gorgeously hypnotic gods of surf, sun, and neon-punk-jazz of our modern universe, evoking evolved realms of experimentalism, rhythm, and story.”

Quoting Kristin Scharkey, again from her Desert Sun article, “Beyond the festival weekend, Palm Springs Wine Festival – established as a nonprofit– will bring educational wine events to the Coachella Valley throughout the year. Soto envisions seminars with winemakers, trips to wine regions, wine dinners, and trainings with educators or importers.

In the meantime, she will continue her mission by constantly curating the selections on her wine list at Dead or Alive. It’s her way of “converting” people, or at least introducing them to a “different kind of wine.”

“I do this night after night, with some impact – but small,” Soto says. “The wine festival’s mission is to introduce the people of the Coachella Valley to honestly-made wine. What better place to start than California?”

See you at the Wine Fest! Cheers!