NOWFE Vintner’s Dinners

As I mentioned in my last column, NOWFE is coming up and one of the best aspects of the event are the vintner’s dinners. There are far too many of them for me to cover in this column, but having been to many of them over the years I can tell you that it’s a fantastic experience if you like food and wine.

If you’re reading this and you don’t like food and wine, I think you may be in the wrong place. I’m not going to speculate about what you typed into your search engine of choice to lead you here, but if it wasn’t food and wine I’m very sorry to have disappointed you.

If you’re not familiar, the concept is that wine makers collaborate with chefs to put together a meal – usually four to five courses including dessert – with each course paired with a glass of wine.

The price for the meal runs from $100 to $225, depending on the restaurant but tax and gratuity are included and, of course, the wines. I’ve always enjoyed these meals because for the most part the restaurants do something special and you also get to hear things about the wines that, if you’re like me, you wouldn’t know.

I don’t remember the restaurant (I think it was Cuvee) at which I got to drink Bonny Doon wines for one of these dinners many, many years ago, but I do remember Randall Grahm entertaining all of us with stories about how the wines were made and also stories that one would expect from a wine maker who convinced Ralph Steadman to do the art for a few of his labels. Grahm is a bit of a professional iconoclast, but much more charming than that sounds.

It is a rare occurrence for me to remember wine more than the meal, but in that instance the wines were incredible, and I have always held “Le Cigare Volante” in very high regard. Grahm was able to explain why he made the wines he did, as he did, in plain language and I may be a Philistine but I’ve always liked the stuff they produce and I’ve also always liked the price point for their “plonk” wines. I wish “Big House Red” was still my “house” wine.

These dinners are a fantastic chance to try wines you might not otherwise sample, with food paired to each glass and the opportunity to ask the people who make the wine questions about the whole thing. I very much recommend you click on the link above and find a dinner that suits your taste. I’d also recommend you attend the grand tastings, but if you are perhaps a person who feels more comfortable without hundreds of people tasting wine around you, then this may be the best way for you to experience NOWFE.

If you attend one of these dinners, I’d very much like to hear your thoughts about the food, the wine and the overall experience. Thank you in advance.


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