By Rick Riozza

Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here!  And we do care!  Indeed we’re loving it.  With the sun out and the visitors & tourists all happy again, this is our season in full swing.  So with some vino sense and sensibility, let’s check out the valley scene.

Speaking of full swing—of course, the 2019 BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden has just commenced and will continue up until the tournament finals for both women and men to be held on St. Patrick’s Day, Sunday March 17th.

“Quaffing wine & painting the lines” is always my take on this world class sports event which pulls in all of the top players around the world.  And let’s not forget, the Tennis Garden showcases the second largest outdoor tennis stadium on the globe–the largest being Arthur Ashe stadium at the U. S. Open.

As we’ve come to expect, the famed Champagne house, Moët & Chandon, whose chic and elegant Champagne Pavilion, also known as the Circle of Palms Lounge, located at the center of the grounds, will continue to quench our thirsts with chilled Goblets and flights of their delicious line of bubbly. The lounge has been expanded this year, to include twice as many bottle service cabanas and additional #MOETMOMENT guest experiences, including a life-sized frame, bottle tower and a Vintage Airstream.  Moët & Chandon will also be serving up the fresh signature cocktail, The Desert Paradise, an enticing mix of Moët & Chandon Impérial, Volcán Blanco Tequila, lime juice and honey.

This year, we have an additional Official Wine Partner: Kim Crawford Wines.  There’s the new open-air Kim Crawford Terrace located on the upper level outside Stadium 2 where everyone can order up a glass or bottle of Kim Crawford’s iconic Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé or Pinot Noir from the custom bar within the Terrace.

Traditionally, when this tournament gets underway, the March desert sun really bears down on the spectators.  To help relieve the situation, look for the signature frozen Kim Crawford Ace Frosé cocktail. This is made of frozen Sauvignon Blanc that is blended until smooth and garnished with a twist of lemon.  I can see this cocktail catching on all over the valley come this summer!

For you suds in the sun fans, Corona Premier is the new Official Beer Partner of the BNP Paribas Open, and will be offering their new Corona Premier light beer that will be available throughout the Tennis Garden grounds.

And by the way—quoting from a previous article of mine, “Keeping the faith at the Le Fe Wine Bar, 73900 El Paseo, Palm Desert, CA 92211; (760) 565-1430. This is one of the newer wine bars on the block and I’m throwing all of my support to this east-end Palm Desert venue for all the success it deserves. I’ve only been there once and I was so impressed with the ambiance, the appetizers, the quick dishes, beer flights, and the wine-by-the-glass options. Oh—not to mention hitting it off with the two young owners, Richard and German, who exhibit integrity and dedication to the craft.”  If you have the time, check out this wine bar when taking a break from the tennis—it’s close by.

Coming up this weekend, you wine folk who love J.Lohr wines will wish to get over to the La Quinta Arts Festival, March 7-10, 10am to 5pm daily at La Quinta Civic Center Campus.  I know this is a favorite art lovers and collectors annual haunt for food & wine, activities and entertainment. This year at this event, J. Lohr wines will be celebrating their 40th anniversary of stellar wine making. Tickets to the event are only $17/day or $22/multiday pass, free parking.  “A feast for all senses.”

I recently spoke with the food & wine maven, Tim Kelley, of Fisherman’s Market & Grill fame, who will in charge of the eight wine booths spread about the venue.  “The entire J. Lohr wine portfolio, Cabs, Chards, Pinots, Sauv Blancs and other varietals will be available by the glass for only $8 for a gracious 8 ounce pour!”  Cheers to that!

As we mentioned last time, our famed Palm Desert Food & Wine will be held this March 22-24, 2019.  And we look forward to doing a nice preview article of this event in the next couple of weeks. Every year the festival’s related culinary activities expand.  This year, one of the wine dinners I’d like to give a shout-out to, is to be held at the Toscana Country Club in Indian Wells.   “Taste of Italia”, March 21, 2019, 6:00 p.m.

Quoting from the Palm Desert Food & Wine website, “Experience the vibrant culinary landscape of Italy, where every dish has a story and old traditions are celebrated next to new voices. Start your evening with a cocktail reception followed by a remarkable four-course dinner paired with exceptional wines that are sure to capture the heart and soul of this country.”

The wine pairing dinner features Antonia Lofasso, TV, chef, restrateur and author along with executive chef Alain Redelsperger, Toscana Country Club.  A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Friends of the James Beard Foundation and Coachella Valley’s FIND Food BankFor the price of this ticket, each seat sold will feed 35 people and the goal is to feed 1,000 people.  This is your money going to a worthy cause and a plus, delicious food and surroundings.” Cocktail Reception and Dinner: $150 per person

And dear readers: During the next couple of months, where this valley’s venues will be brimming with wine and wine-related events, I most humbly request that you give me a heads-up to such entertaining culinary news.  I’d love to do a shout-out, via this column, to bring attention to the event or activity that you know our readership would be interested in.  Please email me at winespectrum@aol.comCheers!