Disney theme parks and wine aren't exactly two words you'd find in the same sentence (OK, maybe asides from the Napa Rose restaurant in the Disney's Grand Californian Hotel, which I heard is one of the best in O.C. and been meaning to try,) but I definitely changed that tune when I was invited to check out their Disney's California Food & Wine Festival at the California Adventures Theme Park for free. A combination of California Screamin' and some screamin' Californian wines? Count me in.
Since it took a little longer than expected to get my tickets, I wound up missing one of the wine events (no late admittance) -- oh well, time to soak up some sun and enjoy a few rides.
After a brisk spin and whirl on the Orange Stinger and Mulholland Madness, we got back to the patio area in time for the Scherrer Winery seminar and tasting with winery owner Fred Scherrer.
The wines are decent (most taken aback by their rosé, which is not cloyingly sweet at all and would even pair nicely with a chicken or light pork dish) but what I love was the casual conversation style of the seminar, particularly with Fred's at-ease speaking style; he can explain basic concepts (e.g. how grape varietals, vintages and regions influence the product) without making the audience feel dumb while tackling more technical questions ('organic' wine certification, estate bottling) without 'geeking out'.
Another perk of the seminar/tasting is that should you choose to buy a bottle of the sampled wine, you can get the bottle signed and can pick it up at Guest Relations/Lost & Found on your way out so you won't have to worry about shlepping that vino all day long.
Following the wine seminar, we went on a few more attractions, got some fastpasses, then swung by the cooking demo, where the co-owners of Brooklyn's Baked were preparing their Oprah-approved brownies (a mixed blessing, esp. since they went from baking 2-3 trays to 40+ trays practically overnight, but a welcomed endorsement nonetheless.) The recipe looks simple enough, but I picked up a few tips and tricks on brownie baking (e.g. using a mix of white and brown sugars for a slightly molassey flavor, use paddle instead of whisk and to beat/fold slowly to avoid incorporating air for a fudgier brownie) and of course, the best part of all.
Tasting the decadent final product, which I heartily improve too. Moist, rich and as fudgy as possible without falling apart, this will definitely be on my itinerary next time I'm in New York City while questing for a L.A. equivalent.
The last event we were able to squeeze in was the World Beer Styles. I totally forgot take down the name of the lecturer (Dave? Dan?) but he definitely knows his stuff, albeit a bit more 'geeked out' during the seminar than Fred Scherrer. Less fortunate was the beer tasting itself . . .
. . . served in 2 oz. shot glasses and were room temperature by the time we got to taste them. While I totally understand it's a free event and that thousands of people will be served over the course of the festival -- there's approx. 60 people at any given seminar and it would've been so much more pleasurable to taste and enjoy chilled, freshly poured beer in preferably larger portions (especially since we were ask to taste each shot three times to analyze different components.) But oh well.
On top of the seminars, there were other signature events tied into the festival, include a wine or beer walk where you pay-as-you-go to taste and try assorted alchy, as well as open tasting receptions, wine-paired meals, and "meet the food/wine celeb" affairs that are also available for additional charge (and most require reservations ahead.) Since I hadn't made any RSVPs beforehand not feeling particularly spendy, I enjoyed the rest of my day with the various California Adventure rides and attractions.
But overall, I think the Food & Wine Fest is a nice supplement to the whole California Adventure experience, particularly with a group of adults or in a family where some members aren't as open to riding the Tower of Terror. With schedules posted at every venue, it's also a great way to pass the time, learn a little something new and possibly taste something delicious while waiting for that fastpass time to go into effect. A tip for those planning to attend, do line up early especially for the later events! After the venue is filled up -- that's it.
And with all events I attend, hopefully next year's will be better and funner!
The California Wine & Food Festival goes on until June 7, for more information and schedules, click here.
Disney's California Adventure
1580 S Disneyland Dr.
Additional photos on my flickr set here