“This event is very much community focused, within the wine industry, but also within Palm Springs,” says Charlie Jane, marketing and program lead at Ace Hotel & Swim Club.
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY CHRISTINE SOTO
It’s not just a glass of wine they will pour on Dec. 4 at the Golden Grapes Wine Festival at Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs. “The generation of winemakers you meet at the festival are out to change the landscape of California wine,” says Christine Soto, owner of the Palm Springs wine bar and shop, Dead or Alive, and founder of the Palm Springs Wine Festival, which has joined forces with Ace Hotel & Swim Club.
“The winemakers we invited are making their own wine naturally, with minimal or low intervention, producing their wine in an honest way,” Soto says. “Their goal is to express the moment in time when they harvest the grapes that year.”
Soto connects people to wine on a regular basis at her bar, but the festival allows her to reach a broader audience in a community setting that Ace Hotel & Swim Club brings.
“This event is very much community focused, within the wine industry, but also within Palm Springs,” says Charlie Jane, marketing and program lead at Ace. “This is what this event does, that is how it’s more unique. People will have a chance to meet the winemakers, they will get the insights. They will meet the faces of the wineries, the people who actually make the wines. That’s what makes the festival so special, it brings Californian wine and community together.”
Dead or Alive plans to host events leading up to the festival:
• On Dec. 2, from 5-7 p.m., Dead or Alive will host a tasting with Minus Tide, a group of young winemakers that debuted at the Palm Springs Wine Fest in 2018. The event is open to the public.
• On Dec. 3, from 4-6 p.m., Carboniste winemakers Dan Person and Mara Ambrose will be at Dead or Alive pouring a selection of their sparkling wines that will be paired with oysters.
This event is for Dead or Alive’s 150 wine club members. To join the club and register for the event, visit deadoralivebarandshop.com/150-club.
What did the pandemic do to many of these winemakers? How did they survive?
Christine: I want to mention first that in 2020, there were also horrible fires. They have the pandemic combined with the fires. Many winemakers didn't make wine in 2020. Some of them shut down completely.
Other than this said, like everyone else, they had cash flow problems and people got COVID. It made working in the tight winery difficult. The fires added so much more trauma and stress to an already terrible year. But those who survived made some great wine. I have to say the 2020 vintage is pretty nice. We're going to be tasting a lot of 2020s this year. Winemakers are tough as nails. If you make wine, you go through a lot!
Palm Springs seems to be a cocktail town. Do you sense wine is catching up and what needs to be done to raise the profile of wine in the city and valley?
Christine: Yes, it is a cocktail town. Cocktail reigns; it always will. I don't want to change that about Palm Springs. I love cocktails. There is this small, meaningful change. When you meet winemakers, that's what makes the difference. If you meet these people, you fall in love with them and their story. That's what sommeliers do. They paint the picture, they create the story, and you can't help, it's so romantic: wine. I hate to toot my own horn, but you do a fun cool event and people start to notice and things start to shift. Bit by bit, I notice around town, restaurants have slightly elevated wine lists. People make the shift, and the buyers at the individual restaurants see a demand and change their shopping.
What will be the wine selections at the fest? Is there a focus on a special grape, wine or region?
Charlie: I’d like to add that it will be all organic, since people are doing sustainable practices.
Christine: The focus is on sustainable and/or organic, biodynamic winemaking. Farmed by the people that make them. Whether or not it's their vineyard, which oftentimes it's not. A lot of these folks are bootstrapping it. They buy fruit from existing vineyards. There is no focus on a certain wine. There's going to be so many different kinds of wine. You're going to taste a Trousseau Gris, there's going to be some Vermouths, there's going to be wine in cans. There's going to be single moods. There's going to be Pet Nat, rosé, red, white, and dozens of different varietals.
How would you describe the experience for someone who has not been to the wine fest before? Is it outdoors or all indoors?
Christine: It is a hybrid outdoors event in the clubhouse. The experience will be very flowy. There will be quite a few folks here. If people aren't ready to be in a crowd, then they should wait till next year. But the view from that upper deck is insane. It's beautiful.
Charlie: Historically we do it in the Commune. This year due to COVID and just because we wanted to create a more intimate setting, it's going to be in the clubhouse top and bottom floor. All the doors will be open, so you'll be able to be inside, outside. We've also got COVID safety measures in place. Guest will have to show proof of vaccination status or a negative COVID test.
Where does this event go from here? Do you envision it being a multi-day event at some point?
Christine: I want to maintain the innocence of this event. Keep it the one day, five-hour, easy, fun thing that it is. Palm Springs Wine Festival, which is my organization that puts on Golden Grapes in partnership with Ace Hotel & Swim Club, does other events. I've worked with different hotel properties in town. I envision other events, and also other events with Ace. Maybe wine dinners, seminars, I am thinking in this direction. We were ramping up toward that and then COVID happened, and we just put a pin in it. We're reviving it now.