|Pictured: The perfect combination, Pinot Noir and Big Sur (photo: M. Hall)|
When you think of good wine and California, the most common thought maybe of wines from Sonoma and Napa Valley. But the fact is that there are many other great wine regions in the vast state of California. One area that may often be overlooked for great wine is the Carmel Valley and Big Sur. Some of the outstanding wine producers in the area are Bernardus Winery, Joullian Vineyards, Boekenoogen, Chesebro, Talbott Vineyards and Chateau Julian to name a few. This year's Big Sur Wine fest will bring together many of these great producers at the Hyatt Highlands for an opening night on Nov. 1 for what promises to be a superb evening of food and wine tasting at the Hyatt's Pacific Edge restaurant.
Last week, I visited the luxury Carmel Hyatt Highlands Hotel for a special preview of the "Gateway to Big Sur" opening night event. This special night of tastings at the Hyatt Highlands will offer a selection from 35 wineries and 18 chefs in Pacific's Edge restaurant including the Lounge and Fireside Room. During my visit to the Hyatt, I met with the hotel's Wine Director, Paul Fried, and David Lambert, Director of Sales for the hotel. It's easy to pitch an evening in Big Sur, but it's more difficult to actually deliver on the promise of wine and food that match the views of the Pacific and the California coast. Sometimes restaurants in the Carmel/Big Sur area trade on the views and the charming location, rather than excellent food, fine wine or good service. That's not the case with the Carmel Hyatt Highlands Hotel. The restaurant delivers amazing food and wine to match the views of Big Sur. Signature dishes at the Hyatt's Pacific Edge restaurant include the sustainable Abalone appetizer locally farmed in Monterey paired with Castroville artichokes, Brussels sprouts with grapes, ricotta cheese and vinegar, sea bass served with vegetables from the nearby Swank Farms, as well as flavorful steaks and lamb. While the fare is not inexpensive, it is excellent and the presentation is simply beautiful. For those on a budget, the special "Gateway to Big Sur" night will offer an all-inclusive night of tastings and wine for the fixed rate of $160.00 per ticket. The special night will feature dishes from the Hyatt Carmel Highlands Chef Matt Bolton, Adam Nichol, Chef De Cuisine, Grand Hyatt San Francisco, Greg Lopez, Executive Chef for Two Hyatt Hotels in Seattle.
A special benefit of the "Gateway to Big Sur" night is that everything will be offered in one location at the Hyatt's restaurant and lounges, with shuttle service provided from parking lots on Rio Road near the village of Carmel. That means there's no driving from winery to winery while you are drinking. Check out the Big Sur wine festival website for more information. "Gateway to Big Sur" is one of several upcoming special events planned at the Carmel Hyatt Highlands. Other upcoming events include a three-course "Meet the Farmer" lunch on Saturday, Sept. 22 priced at $75 per person and a "Shake, Rattle and Roll" winter cocktails class on Nov. 7 offered at $45.00 per person. As consumers and foodies look for special events rather than expensive long vacation stays to satiate their wallets and well as their palates, these gourmet events at Big Sur offer pleasant, reasonably priced diversions. Check out the slideshow below to see more of what's on the menu at the Hyatt Carmel Highland's restaurant.