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Cheers to the Second Annual Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival

We attended as a guest of the venue

me & sam

It’s barely 1:00 on Saturday, and I’m already sipping a crisp Rosé paired with a foie gras ice cream cone. To my right, Top Chef Master, Rick Bayless is plating goat cheese and sweet corn tamales. There’s an entire Stella Artois Beer Bus behind us, brimming with chalices begging to be filled. No, I didn’t sleep in, this is real life.

laura frost

The Second Annual Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival packed on the “pinch-me” moments. Bringing together the best in local food and wine, the weekend lavished festivalgoers with a dreamy smorgasbord of epicurean delights.

mastro's butter cake

Appetites were piqued on October 2, at the Official Launch Party & Charity Event at the trendy Oak Grill and Aqua Lounge where guests sipped fine wines and cocktails, dined on a seasonal menu, and danced under the stars. Chef Hubert Keller even DJ’d a guest set, all to the tune of a great cause. Proceeds from all the Festival events went to support their Charity Partner, Project Hope Alliance, which aims to end homelessness for 500 of Orange County’s kids this year.

sur lucero

Entering the Festival grounds on Saturday and Sunday, October 3-4, was like entering the white pearly gates of gastronomical heaven. The Newport Beach Civic Center was transformed into a playground for adults…foodie adults, that is. With samplings from 31 of Orange County’s top restaurants over 200 boutique, “cult” and premier wine tastings, I felt like a kid at Disneyland, ready to charge into the park and take my tastebuds for a ride!


Fortunately, the lines did not resemble Disney’s. Despite being a sold-out event, the crowds were under control. While the wait for Mastro’s Ocean Club did get a bit lengthy, when they’re serving seared steak on top of lobster mashed potatoes accompanied by their signature gooey butter cake garnished with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, well, you’re just lucky to be in a line at all.


As guests nibbled, sipped and swirled through the two Grand Tasting Pavilions, wineries and restaurants put their best glasses and forks forward.


My glass was kept full throughout the day with a sampling of sensational wines. Favorites like Justin did not disappoint, and new discoveries like a rich Pinot Noir from Wrath Winery kept me on my toes. Bernardus poured a standout Sauvingon Blanc and Zach Mesa Wines featured a savory Syrah.


Coppola Wines showcased a delectable sampling from their selection, including a Blanc de Blanc from their Sofia line. Francis Coppola created this sparkling blend to be served at his daughter’s wedding. With one taste of this celebratory concoction, you can’t help but be grateful they’ve decided to share it with the masses.


Each sip met its match with an equally delectable dish. One offering that seemed to satisfy my cravings for sweet, salty, and savory all in one bite was The Winery’s Maple Leaf Farms duck breast, paired with a refreshing Alsatian celeriac slaw and persimmon marmalade with duck crackling and bacon crumble atop a pita crisp.

foie gras rose

The glamour continued as a pale pink Rosé, uniquely packaged in what looked like a champagne bottle caught my eye. Developed by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, it’s no wonder I was attracted to this bottle! Luckily, the posh aesthetic of the Miraval Côtes de Provence Rosé was backed up by an elegant and refreshing taste as well.


After making my way through the fantasia of wines, nothing satisfied like Driftwood Kitchen’s Roast Porchetta sandwich, carved tableside with shaved fennel, arugula, pecorino cheese and a pequillo pepper marmalade on grilled country bread.

pork sandwich

There was truly something for everyone at this event and that meant stations for mixology courses and plenty of craft cocktails, including a refreshing Paloma Spritz from the Patron booth.

Nearing the back of the second pavilion, just when I thought my senses couldn’t be further stimulated, Chef Casey Overton of the Montage had another trick up his starched, white, chef sleeve: a Barnegat Light Scallop Sashimi crusted with salted tempura and pickled plum puree. This was the perfect bite, and my favorite of the Festival. Chef Overton definitely got to know me that day.


Chef Steven Mary of True Food Kitchen presented a rustic seasonal roasted vegetable board with tasty dipping sauces. This simple but satisfying preparation highlighted the delicious beauty in a well-executed vegetable dish.


Nourishment for the mind was provided as well through a selection of engaging and educational panels. The Wine Seminar was impressively led by four Master Sommeliers, included including, Michael Jordan, Sur Lucero, Steven Poe and Thomas Price.

me & bayless

Fred Dame, the first American to have served as President of the Court of Master Sommeliers Worldwide, and star from the documentary Somm, led a private tasting event and mingled with guests in the Grand Tasting Pavilion.

Equipped with a deductive tasting grid, a common wine aroma and flavor descriptors handout, and the effervescent knowledge of their trusted teachers, attendees studied, swished and savored their way through a “Blind Tasting” of four different wines. The audience learned to determine where a wine is from and what grape it is made from by sight, smell and taste only. Guests left with purple teeth and enough wine terms to impress the biggest oenophiles at their next dinner party!

The Winery

In addition to wine panels, guests were also invited to live cooking demonstrations from acclaimed Top Chef Masters, Hubert Keller and Rick Bayless. Both chefs seemed to be having a great time and their passion was undeniable. During Bayless’s demo on Red Peanut Mole with Chicken, he generously shared details on each step so everyone could make their mole, “Sing like an orchestra symphony’s choir!”

Meanwhile, the festival provided a soundtrack all on its own with Aiken, South Carolina’s Mike Frost Band cooking up a lively set of soulful and jazzy tunes.

Boasting a wide variety of dishes, drinks, and panels in a relaxed and upbeat atmosphere, the Second Annual Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival included something on the menu for everyone, and left us wanting to come back for thirds!

Rebecca Horrigan has always loved writing and food. She found her niche in college writing for the food section of UC Santa Barbara’s newspaper. Since then, she’s been published in the Los Angeles Times and in OC Menus. She also worked in food public relations. She now resides in Santa Barbara where she’s working on inspiring a hunger for reading, writing and life-long learning in her students as an English teacher. She blogs at
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