By Rick Riozza

Welcome back my friends to the largest Food & Wine event of the year!

Things are a-poppin this April in abundance in the Coachella Valley.  How fortunate are we to showcase every bit of impressive culture from fashion to music and the culinary arts.  And now for the 6th year, our valley venue is pleased to stage the coveted Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival where over 40 restaurants and 60 world class wineries will participate for the season’s gastronomic adventure—Bring your appetite and stay thirsty!

Hmmm…where does one start when attempting to describe all the tempting eats and drinks for this cheery weekend—and the weather I hear will be resort perfect!  The festival is this Friday, Saturday & Sunday, April 8-10th and the Schedule of Events which include the James Beard Gourmet Four-Course Luncheon, Celebrity Chef Demonstrations, Restaurant, Wine & Craft Beer Tastings, Wine & Spirit Seminars, and other activities can be viewed online at are on sale now!


Pinot, Pints, & Plates is the apt title of the welcome opening by co-producers Tony Marchese and Dominic Peterson in this year’s event publication, where it will bring you up to date with this weekend’s festivities.  Check out this polished publication online at

This year, the event will be held at the Gardens on El Paseo in the Ferguson Better Built tents.  This year, the lavish tents will lodge extremely comfortable alongside the perfect weather.

The theme of this year’s culinary extravaganza is “Modern Pairings”, so gear-up as the weekend event commences with the luncheon of your dreams Friday, April 8th from 11:30am to 2pm with the aforementioned James Beard Gourmet Four-Course Gala, the proceeds therefrom to be donated to local charities.  Here, four stellar dishes will be prepared by superstar chefs Cat Cora, Suzanne Tracht, Valerie Gordon, and Gale Gand, and, all dishes will be paired with the outstanding wines from Australia and from our own esteemed California winery Grgich Hills.

Further these same chefs along with other illustrious epicures from all over the map, including our valley’s own celebrity chefs such as Grand Master Hervé  Glin, the Parker, Bruno Lopez, Ritz-Carlton, Drew Davis, Catalan, and many other super-talented local chefs representing their restaurants.  They will be conducting prepping & cooking demonstrations throughout the event from 12:30pm to 3:30 pm. Saturday and Sunday.  Again consult the event schedule to find your favorite chef and cuisine; better yet, use some tasty time-management and hit them all!

On Saturday, April 9, 2016, the VIP Grand Tasting pass will include one-hour early entrance to the event, special chocolate and champagne tasting and exclusive chef demonstration by Cat Cora.  On Sunday, Peruvian chef Ricardo Zarate will do the honors.

From 12 p.m. – 4 p.m., on both Saturday and Sunday the Grand Tastings will feature delectable morsels from more than 40 restaurants! created by renowned chefs from all across California. More than 60 premium wines and champagnes will be offered as well, and participants will be able to interact with the vintners and chefs to discuss in detail about the offerings.

As to the “Pints” portion of the event, the Grand Tasting will include the “Craft Beer Experience” both days from 11am to 4pm featuring beers, brews, and hard ciders from seven California breweries such as Coachella Valley Brewing Co., Hanger 24 Craft, Ace Premium Hard Cider, La Quinta, and Dudes, just to name a few.  And while you’re enjoying the suds, remember to catch the “Smoking Food & Grilling Food Technique” demonstrations in the Central Garden Area.

Okay—okay, all you wine enthusiasts tuning in and wagging your tongues in anticipation: Did I mention the golden opportunity to sample from over 60 world class wineries!?  It doesn’t get any better here in the desert for you foodies and vino lovers.  It’s the treat of the year.

Now the activity of the year will be sampling your favorite wines from all of the participating wineries!  Meet me early, as I may come up with an itinerary: Perhaps a to and fro schedule of sorts, that will get us through some awakening Champagnes and sparklers; some tastes of whites—dry, refreshing, spritz-y, then a touch sweet; some soft Pinot Noir, comforting Cab Franc; and maybe some sassy Cab Sauv to wash down all the exquisite bites about us.  And then—make the rounds again with a different slate—yeah!  The art & love of simply tasting.

I adore and have written through the years on most of the wines and wineries that will be on hand at this event.  Geez!—too many to suggest to do justice and sound fair in recommending them.  So just let me mention some of the ones that have become a part of global wine history:

Alexander Valley Vineyards, Ampelos Vineyard & Cellars, Buena Vista Winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Clos Pegase, DeLoach Vineyards, Duton-Goldfield Winery, Fess Parker, Grgich Hills Estate, Mumm Napa, Navarro Vienyards, Rex Hill, Sanford, Summerland, Villa Antinori, and the list of course goes on.

The entire event is presented by the Agua Caliente Casino Resort & Spa.  So thanks to them, the City of Palm Desert, the Gardens on El Paseo, and all whose efforts we so appreciate.

Bonne Fête & Bon Appétit—Cheers!

 Rick is the valley’s somm-about-town conducting and entertaining a wine events, restaurant venues, and tastings. Contact