Food Gal Giveaway — Tickets to the Berkeley Wine Festival

Berkeley's Claremont Resort at night. (Photo courtesy of the hotel)

The Claremont Hotel in Berkeley invites you to the second annual Berkeley Wine Festival, which begins March 11 with a grand gala and continues through May 18 with intimate wine dinners and seminars.

The March 11 opening reception will feature more than 50 wines from around the world, as well as gourmet eats from the Claremont’s Executive Chef Josh Thomsen, who will be assisted by the likes of Chef Sean Baker of Gather in Berkeley and Paul Arenstam of Summer Kitchen in Berkeley. Tickets are $85 per person.

Other events to come include a reception and dinner with Miner Family Vineyards on March 16 (tickets are $140 per person); and a reception and dinner with Opus One Winery on May 11 (tickets are $195 per person). For a complete list of events, click here.

Guests also can stay overnight at the Claremont on festival days and receive 20 percent off the best available room rate. Call (800) 551-7266 or book online by using the code: WINE.

Food Gal is thrilled to be able to give a pair of tickets to the March 11 opening reception to one lucky person.

Contest: Entries are limited to those who can be in Berkeley on March 11. Entries will be accepted through midnight March 5. The winner will be announced March 7.

How to win?

Just tell me about one of your most memorable winery experiences.

Here’s my own:

“Years ago, I was visiting the Coppola Winery, when it was still located in the Napa Valley, when I spotted the man, himself — Francis Ford Coppola — wandering around the gift shop. The noted director and winery owner likes to mingle with guests at his winery, so it’s not unusual to see him there. I had just purchased a bottle of his Claret and thought how wonderful it would be to have him sign it. So, I hunted in my purse for a pen, then pulled the bottle out of its brown paper bag, only to find myself thoroughly dejected. Of all the Coppola wines I could have bought that day, I had to have chosen one with a black label on it. Sigh. So much for that. But ever since then, I always make sure to carry a silver-ink pen in my purse anytime I visit the Coppola Winery.”

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  • I would like to win this giveaway in order to HAVE a memorable (or any, at that) winery experience. I would be so grateful.

  • I think you still should have asked him to sign it. He probably carries a silver pen for fans! 😉 (BTW, I’ve tried his Claret before too and it’s very enjoyable.)

  • It was the birthday of my 70-year-old Scottish mother-in-law, and her daughter treated her—and the rest of our family—to a special dinner at the Monticello Winery in Napa Valley. We sat at tables in a room with all the wine barrels, where we tasted unbelievably fine wines. And then, at the end of the evening, a bagpiper walked in, playing his instrument as he walked among us. I told myself right then and there that when I’m 70, that’s exactly the kind of party I want.

  • I had just returned to California from 3.5 years living abroad in Kenya. My girlfriend from Kenya, who was then living in London flew out for New Years and we went to Healdsburg to stay at a friend’s place, along with my dog who I had brought back with me from Kenya. While dining at Zin the night we arrived, we struck up a conversation with our waiter about wineries to visit and he recommended a good selection that left us overwhelmed. When we expressed concern about having to drive from place to place amidst all the tasting, we asked him for the number of a cab service which he gave us. A while later, he approached our table and sheepishly offered to drive us around as he was looking to make some extra money and we agreed, seeing that he was nice, a local, had grown up around wine, and we could certainly use some guidance.

    The next day, we all piled into my car, dog in tow of course, and headed out to the wineries. Hands down, our favorite was Bella Vineyards. They were so welcoming and kind. They took special care of my dog with water, treats and scratches, and their wine was simply divine. They let us tour the cave, gave us a special sample of their 2004 Lily Hill Zin which they said was very rare and they were out of, and generally treated us like royalty. Upon looking through their shop where they sell flatware, tableware and chotchkies, I spied two dusty bottles of wine on a display and low and behold – 2004 Lily Hill Zinfandel. I immediately went to the sales rep and asked if I were to have found some of that delicious, yet non-existent wine if I could buy it and he said yes. Sweet.

    That night the two of us enjoyed one of the two bottles of Bella Vineyards 2004 Lily Hill Zinfandel while sitting in my friend’s yard watching the sun set over the Dry Creek Valley. Still have one left. Saving it for another very special day.

  • My own best wine tasting experience to date happened just last month. I’ve been to Napa and Sonoma dozens of times over the years and had some really fantastic wine experiences there (including my own Francis Ford Coppola sighting once, as well as some fabulous winery dining experiences). But unemployment pretty much brought that to a screeching halt a couple of years ago.

    I’m now living in Tracy, CA. Tracy has three small family-owned wineries under the “Tracy Hills” appellation and they recently hosted a Valentine wine and chocolate tasting event. It would have been a bargain at the advertised price of $5/person to taste at all three venues, but one winery (La Bonne Vie) sent out an e-mail offering recipients a free admission. I talked an also-unemployed friend into driving over from the San Francisco Peninsula about an hour away to go with me.

    It was fabulous! The weather was beautiful, the wine flowed like water and all of the wineries put out tons of chocolate in every conceivable form. Windmill Ridge Winery had live jazz playing and some barrel tastings. And we finished the afternoon sitting at a table out in the back of the Ramon Rios Winery, nibbling delectable brownies and drinking their port-like wine. It was the best freebie event I’ve ever attended and it was incredibly welcomed after a long drought of great wine experiences (actually, of ANY great culinary experiences). The event was free, but its spirit-lifting effect was priceless.

  • Just wondered — the Claremont Hotel used to be in Oakland. Did they move it?

  • After a 15 year law enforcement career in Virginia I decided to follow my passion for winemaking. I had been flying back and forth to Calfornia for two years before I decided to take the plunge. I would often Gundlach Bundschu and thoroughly enjoyed their wines. It was always on my mind that one day it would be great to meet the winemaker, Linda Trotta.
    After moving to California in 2004, I got a harvest job with Chateau St Jean. I would still visit GunBun as often as I could.
    It was a day at the CIA at a Women For Winsense conference that I actually met Linda Trotta for the first time. We began talking and found out that we were from the same area back east. The more we talked about our families the more we realized that we could be distant cousins.
    It was women like Linda Trotta who inspired me. I later launched my own brand Passaggio Wines and am one of the winemakers for Crushpad in Napa.
    I am just a small town girl who took a chance to follow her passion.

  • LisaH: According to the Web site, the hotel is in the Berkeley hills on the border of Oakland and Berkeley.

  • I’m out of the running but Mr NQN would love this event! 😀

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