Wine and the Big Sur Vibe

beautiful Big Sur

“I have the very definite impression,” wrote Henry Miller, “that the people of [Big Sur] are striving to live up to the grandeur and nobility which is such an integral part of the setting. They behave as if it were a privilege to live here, as if it were by an act of grace they found themselves here” [Big Sur and the Oranges of  Hieronymus Bosch (1957)]. This humility and reverence for a gorgeous, twisty, slow-yourself-down landscape has much to do with what is generally known as the Big Sur vibe. Nature controls how fast you move through this space. Just ask anyone who’s ever driven behind a lim0-sized Hummer as it tortuously just barely makes another tight turn on Highway 1. People who live in this artistic edge of the Northern Central Coast soon learn that there’s no sense rushing through Big Sur. That awareness of one’s connection with the landscape begins to get into the bloodstream: the Big Sur vibe.

Take your time but do get on down the Highway 1 November 3-5 for the Big Sur Food & Wine Festival. This event mixes a Big Sur vibe with some quality events that never let you forget you’re in an amazing place that demands your attention as much as the wine in your glass and the flavors, textures, and aromas of the well-paired foods on your plate. This is a food and wine event unlike any other. Participants will set off into the Big Sur landscape to enjoy wine and foods in the dramatic atmosphere on this rugged, tectonic coast. Events hosted at some of Big Sur’s classic landmarks encourage participants to appreciate these foods and wines while tuned into the Big Sur frequency.

On Friday and Saturday, informal but professional wine tasting seminars bring together interesting winemakers and informed audiences to encourage a new way of seeing through the world in each wine glass. Having attended a few professional wine seminars since arriving in the Central Coast, I’m always eager for another chance to experience the intersection of winemaking attitudes, skills, and perspectives made possible with a well-conceived panel. If you’ve never attended such a wine seminar but you love wine, you owe it to your wine-loving self to attend one or several such events. Tickets are still available for the following two wine seminars planned for the Big Sur Food & Wine Festival. Both seminars occur at the Big Sur Lodge.

Red in the Woods! ~ Friday, 10.30am-noon

“The Big Sur Food & Wine Festival carries the vibe of Big Sur,” says Steve Beckmen of Beckmen Vineyards, a panelist in one of the wine seminars offered during the Festival. “It’s a really good vibe.” Steve likes the intimacy that these wine seminars invite, including the possibility for some fun back and forth among panelists and with the audience. John Alban of Alban Vineyards agrees: “Lorraine and I enjoy the Big Sur Food and Wine Festival for much the same reasons we love Big Sur—it embraces the natural beauty of California in a relaxed atmosphere that is both comfortable and intimate. Nothing is overly adorned but nothing is compromised.”

Both John and Steve (and a special guest) will participate in the “Reds in the Woods!” event at the Big Sur Lodge that focuses on Grenache. Who better to discuss this favorite Rhône varietal but John Alban, one of the original Rhône Rangers. “I think a Grenache focus is a natural for the Big Sur Food & Wine Festival,” he says. “While the variety is at the heart of some of the most majestic wines on earth and is the foundation of the very first appellation awarded in France, many people think of it as Bohemian, much like the unsurpassed natural beauty of Big Sur and its wonderfully accomplished but down-to-earth inhabitants.” Steve Beckmen agrees: “Grenache is a huge favorite of ours. I love the way it performs—it has an incredible range in character and diversity of winemaking styles.” Although it’s one of the world’s most widely planted grapes, really good Grenache emerges from a relatively small area relative to its planted acreage. France and the Central Coast both distinguish themselves as exceptional Grenache sweet spots.

L’Aventure Retrospective ~ Saturday, 11am-12.30pm

Saturday’s wine seminar will focus on a vertical tasting of Stephan Asseo’s exceptional blends from L’Aventure Winery. The vigneron himself will lead this tour through eight or nine vintages of his Paso Robles wines made with fruit from L’Aventure’s estate vineyards situated in the pending Willow Creek sub-appellation west of the 101. Stephan will discuss how, over the last dozen years since coming to California, he has embraced the freedom to blend unusual collections of varietals such as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Verdot. This blend would raise eyebrows in his native Bordeaux but, in the Central Coast, we just raise our glasses for another taste of these exceptional cuvées. Stephan looks forward to the wine seminars at the Big Sur Food & Wine Festival because they are “high end seminars, in a good way.”

Almost to L’Aventure

The Big Sur Food & Wine Festival celebrates its third iteration with distinguished producers such as Stephan Asseo, John Alban, and Steve Beckman because this event is short on snobbishness and long on good memories and the chance for winemakers and guests to learn from each other.

More info:

Big Sur Food & Wine Festival

Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur


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