Culture

Come to Your Senses — Indian Wells serves up fine food, art, and music at its bigger, better festival.



Anthony Dias Blue, wine and spirits editor at Bon Appetit, considers a vertical tasting of complex, finely balanced, and beautifully structured Louis Martini cabernet sauvignon a highlight of next month’s Desert Festival of Wine, Food & The Arts.

The Monte Rosso Vineyard wines “really are impossible to find,” he says. “It’s a vertical tasting going back 10 to 20 years, and that particular vineyard is probably one of the greatest vineyards in California.

“From the standpoint of entertainment value, [Border Grill chefs] Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger are fabulous demonstrators,” Blue continues. “They are funny, and there is a lot of good information that comes out of their seminars.”

Blue, a Global wine consultant, James Beard award winner, and program director for the Desert Festival, called on notable wineries and chefs to participate in the inaugural event April 2-4 at Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

“It’s really exciting,” he says. “It seems to have caught on in the industry, and everybody seems to be very enthusiastic about it.”

Paired with the art exhibition formerly known as Indian Wells Arts Festival, the wine and food component has attracted chefs such as Roy Yamaguchi, Francois Payard, Celestino Drago, Gary Danko, Bradley Ogden, and others. In addition to cooking for Friday’s luncheon, they will lead Grand Food Seminars that include pairing wine with fine cheeses or sushi, fusion cooking, and decadent chocolate desserts.

Among educational — or, if you prefer, purely enjoyable — programs, Michael Mondavi leads a seminar on Robert Mondavi’s Oakville and Stag’s Leap appellations. Joseph Phelps’ President Tom Shelton and Kendall-Jackson Chief Winemaker Randy Ullom offer vertical tastings (tasting different vintages of the same wine) of their wineries’ best. A symposium on Saturday studies pinot noirs from premier grape-growing regions of California and Oregon. But wait, there’s more!

In addition to tastings, seminars, and demonstrations throughout Friday and Saturday, the festival makes the most of magical desert evenings with Grand Tastings from 6:30 to 9 p.m. both evenings, featuring local and celebrity chefs and servers walking the grounds pouring wines from more than 50 wineries — accompanied by live music. “Saturday night’s Grand Tasting is going to have a dance floor and band,” Blue notes.

A lavish Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. offers festivalgoers a chance to imbibe champagnes from the northeast region of France. The bubbly will come from only family-owned, grand marquee houses, such as Bollinger, Pol Roger, Duval Leroy, Laurent Perrier, and Taittinger.

Visual gratification complementing the gastronomical comes not only from the tennis garden setting, but also from the art exhibition. The juried show features painting, sculpture, pottery, weaving, glass, photography, jewelry, and handcrafted wares by more than 175 artists.

Admission to the arts festival is $6 (free for children 12 and younger); Festival Package tickets — which include the luncheons, Grand Tastings, choice of five wine seminars and/or cooking demonstrations, champagne brunch, and art festival admission — are $850. The Platinum Package, which also includes the choice of two reserve tastings (limited to 50), is $1,000. Reserve tastings may be purchased separately for $100 each.

Information: (800) 999-1585, www.iwtg.net

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