It was a picturesque day at Dana Point’s California Wine Festival last Saturday. The outdoor festival at Lantern Bay Park featured bluebird skies, a light breeze, temperatures in the low 80s, and a healthy mix of wine, food, music, and retail. The lines were never too long and the food purveyors were smartly intermingled among the wine offerings, ensuring attendees could last the three full hours in the coastal sun.
Before even tasting the wines, you can almost tell which wineries have good juice. The reps are relaxed, casual, engaging, and laughing with attendees. When you have great wine, you don’t have to sell, you share. Despite the many wines tasted—some yummy, some way too young, and some pours going straight to the dump bucket after one sip—two wineries stood out. My top experience was Ahnfeldt Winery and particularly the Ahnfeldt merlot grown in Napa Valley. The merlot is blended with a touch of cabernet sauvignon, giving it that Right Bank Bordeaux style. Though all of the Ahnfeldt wines were tasty, the merlot is the one where you sip, then immediately lock eyes with others tasting at the table, politely slug back your pour, and put your glass out for another. Ahnfeldt offered a generous 40 percent discount on case purchases at this event. I also loved their sister brand, Carducci, particularly the rosato and pinot grigio.
My other favorite was Navarro Vineyards. The flagship Estate Gewurztraminer Dry is just a remarkable wine. This is perfect Southern California beach wine to pair with spicy foods like Thai or ceviche. Navarro was also pouring a chardonnay, pinot gris, and pinot noir, which were all top notch. All of the wines retailed for just $20 a bottle, yet were 25 percent discounted if purchased at the Festival.
The second phase of the California Wine Festival is in Santa Barbara, July 13 to 15. As a central coast wine fan and after having a great experience in Dana Point, I recommend making the jaunt north for this wine getaway—especially with small production, direct-sales wineries like Navarro and Ahnfeldt offering 25 to 40 percent discounts!
California Wine Festival – californiawinefestival.com
Ahnfeldt Winery – ahnfeldltwines.com
Navarro Vineyards – navarrowine.com