Last weekend, the Great Wine Festival returned to the OC Great Park in Irvine for its sixth edition. If you could not make it, here’s what we have seen and enjoyed the most!
By the way, this is more than a fun event for wine lovers and foodies. The Great Wine Festival is produced by and benefits the Legal Aid Society of Orange County, a non-profit organization that provides free legal services to people who would otherwise be denied access to justice.
Indeed, given how many people were waiting for the gates to open, the fundraising was probably successful! The gates eventually opened around 1pm and the first impression was definitely positive. The renovated Hangar 244 turned out to be the right location not just to sip good wine but also taste some delicacies.
Let me just mention the Irish cheese from Kerrygold and fresh pasta from Brio Tuscan Grille. The Brio stand also offered a small caprese salad with freshly harvested tomatoes, basil, and a drop of balsamic vinegar. Speaking of which, Seven Barrels presented a wide selection of olive oils and barrel-aged Italian balsamic vinegars from Trebbiano grapes.
Also, we have to give a shoutout to Black Tie & Blue Jeans Creative Catering, which (fittingly) served their creations in cocktail glasses. For dessert lovers, the fruit, chocolate, and carrots cakes proposed by Radisson Newport Beach were hard to resist.
What we sipped at the Great Wine Festival 2016
The Great Wine Festival is (mostly) about wine, right? So let’s jump right into it. It would be impossible to talk about all the wine producers in attendance, so we apologize in advance for making a selection. Let’s start from the three Italian wines we found.
The first wine we tried was the 2008 RI.VA.LE Chianti Riserva, from Tuscan winemaker Agricola Fontanella. A wonderful expression of the unique territory of Tuscany. Black cherry and spices, with a toasted oak background, are the notes that we appreciated the most.
The second Italian wine was the 2013 Il Bruciato (65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 15% Syrah) from Tenuta Guado Al Tasso. The estate is owned by the famous Marchesi Antinori winemakers, a name that is worth more than a thousand words. Red fruits, sweets spices, and coffee characterize this wine with a good acidity and tannins. Perfect as an all-around dining wine.
The last Italian wine we tasted was the Mia Dolce Moscato D’Asti. Let me say that Moscato is one of my own favorite sweet wines. The Mia Dolce, even if not particularly rich in fruity flavors, turned out to be a well-balanced wine, perfect to be served cold during hot Southern California summers.
Aside from Italy, while the Great Wine Festival hosted many other wine regions from around the world, we particularly appreciated wines from California. Once again, we had the demonstration that California wines are getting better year after year. In our personal opinion, they are becoming very competitive even when compared to Italian and French wines.
Moving to something completely different, The California Fruit Wine Co. proposed several fruit wines, from pineapple to mango to cranberry. If you are invited to a poolside party this summer and don’t know what to bring, this might be an idea. Definitely refreshing, perfect to be enjoyed with friends.
Enough with wine? Well, the Great Wine Festival also brought several breweries from all over Southern California to Irvine. Besides winemaking, this is also a very interesting and growing trend. The beer selection was pretty varied. The real standouts were the IPAs, which are reaching the state of art here in SoCal.
Overall, the 2016 Great Wine Festival demonstrated once again that people in California are getting more and more interested in good food and drinking. As Italians, of course, we feel attached to our foods and wines and we wouldn’t trade them for the world! As “foodies”, however, we are happy to see that California’s food and wine/beer culture are evolving year after year.
All photos by the author. Cover photo provided by event organizers. Special thanks to the Legal Aid Society of Orange County.