Wine is old, really old, and we’re not talking aged. The first historical evidence of fermented grapes comes from Georgia (the Russian one) in 8,000 B.C. Mass wine production began in Armenia around 4100 B.C.
Today, the largest producer of wine is Italy; the United States comes in fourth, behind France and Spain. However, the United States wins in the consumer category by a landslide with annual sales at 4.3 billion bottles out of the $32 billion sold worldwide every year. That’s almost 13.5 percent of the world’s wine market.
Grocery stores and liquor marts carry an astounding number of options. All of those cool labels with those funky names scream “independent wineries” but the truth is, the vast majority are not. E. & J. Gallo Winery, which produces three percent of all the wine in the world, owns Edna Valley, Apothic, Barefoot, Ghost Pines, and Dark Horse — and that’s just the tip of the barrel. Constellation Brands is another big player, owning Clos du Bois, Ruffino, Estancia, Mark West, Black Box, and the list goes on. What does that actually mean to the consumer?
“The best way to learn about wine is by talking to the people who make it, not wine critics, or distributors and importers that sell it, but the actual source of it.”
— Christine Soto
Christine Soto, founder of the Palm Springs Wine Festival and owner of Dead Or Alive wine bar in Palm Springs, explains, “There’s way, way, way more diversity in wine than people are aware of and they also don’t really know how wine is made. They [big wine companies] keep that sort of mysterious for because there’s a lot of stuff in wine, a lot of additives. There’s 60 or 70 FDA approved additives that you can put in wine and not list it.”
Those additives can include sulfur, yeast, tannins, aromatics, and — here comes a big surprise for vegetarians and vegans — animal products. The most common are the albumen from eggs; Isinglass (dried swim bladders of fish); food grade gelatin; trypsin or pepsin, derived from pork or cow pancreas; Chitosan from crustacean shells; and potassium salt of casein (cow’s milk). Kinda takes the warm and fuzzies out of the romanticism of wine, huh?
“If you’re at all curious about wine and want to expand your palate beyond what you can get at the grocery store, definitely come to this event,” says event co-founder Christine Soto.
But Golden Grapes Wine Festival is bringing sexy back Dec. 8. Co-produced by Palm Springs Wine Festival (Soto and business partner Kristin Bloomer) and Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs, all of the wines available for tasting are “real” or “natural” wines made organically, biodynamically, and naturally. And while you’re getting heady from the wine, you can also tuck a little knowledge under your hat.
“The best way to learn about wine,” Soto offers, “is by talking to the people who make it, not wine critics, or distributors and importers that sell it, but the actual source of it. If you’re at all curious about wine and want to expand your palate beyond what you can get at the grocery store, definitely come to this event.”
The Golden Grapes Wine Festival is in keeping with Soto’s philosophy at Dead Or Alive. “I only serve wine that’s made by small or medium size wineries with at least sustainable organic or biodynamic farming and with some sulfur additions, but nothing else,” she says. “No enzymes, no acidifiers, stabilizers, or something to add texture: color, sugar, or water.”
This is the second year that Palm Springs Wine Festival and Ace Hotel & Swim Club’s have partnered on Golden Grapes Wine Festival, and Soto hopes to at least equal the atmosphere and success of last year’s event . There are 50 wineries showing off their varietals and blends from 1–4 p.m. at Ace’s The Commune, an event space next to the property’s smaller pool. General admission is $85, with a VIP package for $99 that includes earlier admittance and a bottle of wine. There will be food and live music provided by jazz pianist Kiefer from 2–3 p.m., as well as a DJ.
Golden Grapes Wine Festival, 1–4 p.m. Dec. 8, Ace Hotel & Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, eventbrite.com.
Desert Wine Tastings, Events
Bouschet – a specialty marketplace in South Palm Springs offering a large selection of fine wines, liquor, craft beer, gourmet specialty foods, exquisite giftware, a bistro menu, wine tastings, and special events.
Event: Saturday late afternoon wine tastings from 4–5:30 p.m.. $20. Check website for vintner. Hours: 10 a.m.–6 p.m Monday thru Saturday, closed Sundays.
Jalama Wines, an independent Lompoc winery with a tasting room showcasing their wines.
Hours: Noon – 5 p.m. or by appointment
Nov. 1 to May 31, Thursday thru Monday
June 1 to Oct. 31, Friday thru Sunday
August – closed
V Wine Lounge – retro wine bar with 80 California boutique and old world wines by the glass. Offering two flights of wines based on your palate. Flight 1 – 5 tastings, 1.5 ounces each pour; Flight 2 – 5 tastings, each taste a half-glass of wine. Check out their website for future dates on winemaker wine tastings.
Hours: 1 – 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday
1 p.m.– midnight Fridays
1 p.m.– midnight Saturdays
1–10 p.m. Sundays
On the Mark – gourmet food market and deli featuring a range of unique boutique products, such as craft beer and wine, artisan crafted cheese, nitrate-free meats, pâtés, small batch oils and vinegars. Check out their website. They occasionally have wine tastings. Hours: seven days a week, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Dead Or Alive – There’s always a wine tasting or event going on at this cozy wine and beer bar, and in most cases, they all benefit the community with portions of the profits going to local charitable organizations. The next event is the Palm Springs Wine Fest Kickoff, Dec. 6–7, 5 p.m. to midnight with oysters, wine, and jazz.
On Dec. 18, from 5–8 p.m. a champagne tasting with three of their favorite bubbles are being served. $25 for the tasting, wine club members get in for free.
Hours: 5 p.m.–midnight, Monday–Thursday
4 p.m.–1 a.m. Friday and Saturday
4–10 p.m. Sundays
Del Rey at the Villa Royale Hotel – Pintxo Pote is described as an evening under the desert moon. Rotating beverage selections with wood-fired bites served on a spike. Pintxo Pote will be a monthly, ticketed event. The next is Dec 15, 5:30–7:30 p.m. Tickets are available on Eventbrite for $50.
Desert Wine Shop on 111 – Boutique wine shop with wine available for purchase from all over the world.
Tuesdays: 4–6 p.m. wine tastings and discussions with certified sommelier, Katie Finn. $5 at the door for four or five different wines.
Fridays: 4–7 p.m. five wines and light nibbles from the local deli often featuring a special guest or winery behind the bar.
Hours: 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Saturday. Closed Sundays.
The Vine Wine Bar – Monthly Vine Wine Academy, 90 minute interactive, informative, and entertaining wine tasting tutorials. Learn the art of wine tasting as well and some fun facts. Also offering flights with five different selections.
Cork & Fork – Casual, small-plate, fine dining with wine dinners. All of the current events are sold out, so check out their website for January offerings. corkandforkwinebar.com/wine-dinners
Bristol Farms – California chain of specialty grocers. $50 wine tasting on Dec. 12, from 7–9 p.m. with Riedel’s Wine Specialist and go home with a Riedel Performance Wine Tasting Glasses set ($118 value). Check the website for future events. They have many locations, so make sure you’re looking at the Palm Desert location.