by Anneli Rufus
It's hard to believe that Berkeley didn't have its own wine festival until last year, but it's true — and (better late than never) the second annual Berkeley Wine Festival, a three-month extravaganza celebrating the wines of France, Italy, and California, starts this Friday at the Claremont Hotel, Club, & Spa.
The festival starts with a grand opening reception featuring more than fifty different wines, presented at tasting booths by representatives from the wineries that bottled them, and paired with salads, soups, entrées, and desserts created by a collander-wielding confab of acclaimed Berkeley chefs.
These include Wood Tavern’s Max DiMare, Gather’s James Beard Award finalist Sean Baker, Summer Kitchen Bake Shop's Paul Arenstam, Venus and Revival Kitchen’s Amy Murray, and Café Rouge’s Rick DeBeaord, along with the Claremont’s own Josh Thomsen.
The festival then continues through May with a series of Wednesday-evening seminar-dinners spotlighting winemakers and winery proprietors. For example, on April 27, Tuscan vinicultural icons Leonardo LoCascio and Marilisa Allegrini will discuss and offer specialties from their Poggio al Tesoro and San Polo Wineries. March 16's event features Dave Miner, founder of Napa Valley's Miner Family Vineyards, sharing its signature single-vintage pinot noir and its proprietal blend, Oracle.
“We are excited for the second year of the Berkeley Wine Festival and are proud to host the only Berkeley-specific food and wine event,” said Thomsen, whose award-winning cooking will comprise the dinners that follow the seminars at each of the festival's Wednesday-evening events. “This year, we are bringing in even more world-class wineries as well as exciting culinary talent from our own backyard in Berkeley. We are honored to have these renowned winemakers at the Claremont for two months of great food and wine.”