Robert Weakly watched as the Masters of Food and Wine ended a 21-year run at the Highlands Inn last February and immediately went to work on something to replace it.
He quit his job as food and beverage director of the Highlands Inn, now a Hyatt Vacation Club in Carmel Highlands, Calif., and started Coastal Luxury Management, expressly to put on Pebble Beach Food and Wine. The first annual event is March 27-30, 2008, at Pebble Beach Resorts, where it can grow in size because it will have several hotels to use instead of just one.
"We want to create a world-class West Coast event," Weakly said by telephone this week. "I love the South Beach Wine & Food Festival and the Aspen Food and Wine Classic, but they're not where the produce is for the food or where the grapes are for the wine. That's what made the Masters special."
Weakly, who managed the last few Masters, is thinking big. With Pebble Beach Resorts on board as a sponsor, and American Express and Lexus in the works, he is about to announce a weekend that will keep the Lodge at Pebble Beach, the Inn at Spanish Bay and the exclusive Casa Palmero busy with wine tastings, chef demonstrations, lunches and dinners.
The format will follow the one used at the Masters, only bigger. An opening-night walk-around tasting in a tent will have 200 wines from invited wineries and food from featured chefs. Friday and Saturday there will be two lunches and two dinners, instead of just one at the Masters, each one featuring a lineup of chefs and wines from participating wineries. Every morning and afternoon there will be five wine tastings and two chef demontrations.
The lineup of 40 chefs includes several with three Michelin stars. Gerard Boyer, Alain Passard and Thomas Keller are confirmed so far. Other chefs include Andrew Carmellini, Tom Colicchio, Gary Danko, Daniel Humm, Michel Richard, Eric Ripert and Charlie Trotter.
I could hear Weakly getting excited as he read off the wine tasting lineup. The morning and afternoon tastings follow a 10-wine format, most led by a sommelier and a representative of the winery. Among them: a vertical of Château Margaux, a survey of Caymus wines, Dr. Loosen Rieslings Kabinett to TBA, a tour of Spanish wines with Jorge Ordoñez, single-vineyard Pinot Noirs of Kosta-Browne, a complete 14-vintage Harlan Cabernet Sauvignon vertical and two vintages each of five wineries' Pinots from Shea Vineyard in Oregon.
"I'm working on more," he added.
The most exclusive event at the Masters was the Rarities Dinner, a black-tie eight-course affair for 24 that cost thousands of dollars to participate in and served classic vintages with food by star chefs. The new event will have a rarities auction instead, at the Beach & Tennis Club. The chefs will all be Michelin three-stars and the wines will include the likes of Margaux 1983 and Screaming Eagle 1997, Weakly promises. Benefitting from the proceeds are such charities the first year as the Boys and Girls Clubs of Monterey and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates).
One of the charms of Masters was its size. Limited to a few hundred participants, it had an intimacy and an exclusivity that the bigger events in Aspen and Miami Beach did not. Weakly believes the Monterey Peninsula can scale it up and keep the magic. The lineup looks good. Let's see how the public responds. Tickets go on sale Sept. 10 at the website (just google Pebble Beach food and wine).
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