Spring has sprung and our array of O.C. wine festivals has begun! For me, the first real kick-off is the California Wine Festival in Dana Point. This year, the festival is Friday and Saturday, April 20-21, with Friday’s Rare & Reserve Tasting at Laguna Cliffs Marriott, and Saturday’s Lantern Bay Park festival. The coastal locale, expansive ocean views, and California-centric pours are the quintessential experience for local wine lovers.
Every year, I try to improve my festival experience. Be it comfier shoes, remembering a hat, or discovery of better parking, I always want to up the ante. My lesson learned from last year’s event is the true benefit of its VIP pass. While I loved strolling in the sun last year with a glass of Talley Chardonnay, my feet were getting achy and my freckled face needed a respite from the sun. I spied a shady tent with comfy seating and colorful décor. We were excited, anticipating a moment to sit and talk about the wine while out of the sun’s glare. Nope, rejected. This shady tent was VIP only—and no, media doesn’t count. They even had VIP-only wine tastings! Pouting, we headed for the Total Wine tent, which had a ton of wines to experience (lots of bubbly!) and at least a shade overhead.
The VIP ticket for Saturday afternoon on the grassy knoll below Laguna Cliffs Marriott is just $109 (purchased online but limited to just 500 people). The VIP pass grants you a one-hour earlier access to spin through your favorite California wineries and food purveyors before the crowds arrive at 12:30. And of course, you’ll get VIP entry to the lively, shady tent with cushy seats and VIP pours. If you want the early access, but can forego the VIP tent, the fee is $89. General admission from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. is $69 and includes all the perfect wine festival accouterments, such as live music, complimentary wine glass, and food samples, along with nearly 50 wine tables.
Years ago, I attended the Friday night Rare & Reserve Tasting, which was an impressive array of top California wines. For 2018, this special night is at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. for $99. In addition to the great wine, top Orange County chefs share their culinary talents for this slightly more formal evening affair.
So, my words of wisdom for the 2018 California Wine Festival—buy your VIP tickets online now. Make a wine weekend of it with a VIP pass for the Rare & Reserve Tasting AND the Saturday Festival for just $159. Look for me sitting in the shade of a Lantern Bay Park tree with a glass of Navarro or Ahnfeldt wine!
California Wine Festival
April 20 and 21 – Dana Point