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Wine & Food Festival returns to San Diego

Event showcases local and national food and wine personalities

The 5th annual San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival returns downtown Nov. 12-16.

Patrons can expect to experience the finest wine and food in San Diego, and rub elbows with local and nationally recognized celebrity chefs and winemakers. Nearly 160 wineries and 60 fine dining restaurants will be showcased throughout the five days of classes, dinners and specialty events.

Proceeds from festival auctions benefit the scholarship fund administered by the San Diego Chapter of the American Institute of Wine & Food. Scholarships are granted to individuals pursuing culinary arts and enology/viticulture in full-time or continuing education programs. Approximately $130,000 has been donated to the scholarship fund since the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival began.

“It is thrilling for us to be able to donate money to the AIWF,” said Michelle Metter, festival co-owner and producer.

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Over the years the Reserve & New Release Tasting as well as the popular Grand Tasting have become the signature happenings of the festival and the most well-attended.

Hornblower Cruises & Events’ newest yacht, “Inspiration Hornblower,” will serve as the venue for the Reserve & New Release Tasting. Hosted by Ted Allen, star of Food Network’s “Food Detectives” and food expert on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” the event features wines from more than 150 award-winning winemakers and 15 food stations. Large format bottles, rare wines, one-of-a-kind culinary experiences and more will be available for auction throughout the evening.

“Individuals who truly are wine lovers should not miss the Reserve Tasting,” Metter said.

The prestigious “Chef of the Fest” will be awarded at the Grand Tasting, which takes place at Embarcadero Marina Park North. Dozens of the finest chefs will put their very best on display for patrons to taste alongside an international selection of wines with the hopes of walking away with the top award of $50,000 in cash and prizes.

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San Diego’s own Sam Zien, of the popular television program “Sam the Cooking Guy,” has been selected to be a judge the final round of the “Chef of the Fest” competition, an honor the affable celebrity takes quite seriously.

“I bring a different dimension to the judging panel,” Zien said. “I may not be as technical, but I’ll be the vote that represents the regular person.”

Gavin Kaysen of the world renowned Cafe Boulud in New York City, and formerly of Rancho Bernardo Inn’s El Bizcocho, was a beneficiary of AIWF support while developing his skills. He has since received awards from the James Beard Foundation (Rising Star Chef 2008) as well as Food & Wine Magazine (10 Best New Chefs).

Kaysen will serve as a “Chef of the Fest” judge and be a feature participant in the exclusive Celebrity Chef Luncheon and Big Bottle Auction, where this year’s AIWF scholarship award recipients will be announced.

“It is an incredible honor for me to come back (to San Diego) in a national capacity,” Kaysen said. “I hope more national chefs come to experience San Diego’s cuisine.”

Tickets can be purchased a la carte for each event or in packages at a discount. For a complete schedule of events or to buy tickets in advance, visit

www.worldofwineevents.com

.

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If you attend

Grand Tasting

Make sure not to miss the folks at Ventana Winery, from Monterey’s Arroyo Seco district. Old-world style wine lovers will appreciate the dry minerality in their chardonnay (13.5%, 86 points) and the clean, restrained pinot noir (13.5%, 88 points). My favorite in their flight is the 2006 Ventana “Rubystone” blend of 62% grenache and 38% syrah. Mid-weight on the palate with tannins to match, raspberry and black pepper burst from the glass, followed by portabellas and a spice cabinet finish. A superbly balanced, bright and fresh wine meant to enjoy young on a sunny afternoon (14.3% alcohol, 90 points).