A Toast To Alsace This Weekend In California

By Marcie Gordon
Forbes Travel Guide Correspondent

Photos Courtesy of Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association and the International Alsace Varietals Festival

Photos Courtesy of Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association and the International Alsace Varietals Festival

When most people think “winter whites,” images of department store linen sales may pop to mind, but the first thing some people think of is wine. Nothing perks up a dark winter day better than a crisp white wine. If you’re a fan of fragrant and luscious whites, the 8th Annual International Alsace Varietals Festival is for you.

This year’s event takes place February 9 through 10 in Boonville, Calif., located in Anderson Valley — the wine sweet spot of Mendocino County — and tucked between rolling hills, coastal ranges and many exceptional wineries and vineyards.

The two-day event focuses specifically on Alsace-style white wines including riesling, gewürztraminer, pinot gris, pinot blanc and muscat. Winemakers and enthusiasts from around the world gather for wine tasting, educational seminars and food-pairing workshops.

The first morning starts off with technical seminars ranging from “Botrytis in the Vineyard” to “30 Years of Riesling,” a retrospective tasting and discussion about growing conditions for one of the most versatile and delicious Alsace varietals.

Midday, a food-pairing demonstration with mother and son team Evan and Joyce Goldstein begins. Evan, author of Perfect Pairings: A Master Sommelier’s Practical Advice for Partnering Wine with Food, and Joyce, author and winner of a Lifetime Achievement Award from Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, will lead a demonstration creating foods that pair beautifully with particular Alsace wines. Best part of the demo? You get to sample the results.

At the Grand Tasting, wines from around the globe (including California, Oregon, Washington, Alsace, Germany, Michigan and New Zealand) will be poured and small bites, such as pork belly and oysters, will be served. No matter how you choose to taste — old favorites first or plunge right in at the first table — you are bound to make a new discovery.

Insider tip: The scenic roads leading to Anderson Valley are thrill-ride worthy — full of twists and tight curves — so take it easy and make plans to spend the weekend. Special festival lodging packages are available along the Mendocino coast at Little River Inn and Stanford Inn. Options closer to the fairgrounds are the Boonville Hotel and The Madrones, in Philo, which features four guest suites, onsite tasting rooms, a cheese counter and shopping all tucked inside a relaxed courtyard setting.