By Stef Schwalb
The warmth of good times and great wines shined at Mohegan Sun’s 10th Anniversary WineFest during the last weekend of January. Plenty of oeno-perfect presents made our hearts flutter and inspired us with lots of ideas for Valentine’s Day. After all, nothing prompts amore more than the buzz of a great bottle of wine and decadent, delicious food. With celebrity chef eye candy on hand for demos and numerous vendors of the vine at the Grand Tasting serving samples, the excitement was…we shall say…intoxicating.
The standouts for us wine-wise included a vibrant Pinot Gris and captivating Cabernet Franc from John Edwards Winery, based in North Stonington, CT. They handcraft both premium Napa Valley and Estate Connecticut wines and are one of 24 wineries on the official CT Wine Trail (which will be talking about and exploring further in the spring). Some amazingly priced and fruit fabulous Malbecs were found from Bodega Catena Zapata. Wine education director Jimena Turner provided a wealth of information and is an inspiration for women in the wine world. We licked our lips twice after sampling Cycles Gladiator Petite Sirah Lodi and Boneshaker Zinfandel Lodi – both packed a serious punch to the palette. Pascal Jolivet Sancerre and Clean Slate Riesling are among some of the other faves we found on the demo floor. There were also a few non-alcoholic selections that really surprised us in taste and versatility. RIPE is our new pick for 100% natural fresh-squeezed bar juices – the perfect partner for crafting killer cocktails. We enjoyed imbibing some spirited samples of kick-ass creations made with their Agave Lemon Sour Bar Juice – yum. Last but not least, we encountered Ariel Vineyards premium dealcoholized wines – perfect for nondrinkers or women who are expecting. Their Brut Cuvee is an ideal alternative for champagne-based cocktails and could be your new buddy for bubbly at Sunday brunch.
The demos by all of the celeb chefs were impressive – props to Bobby, Todd, Robert, Mary Ann and more – but we’d like to give a little shout-out to gorgeous Govind Armstrong, executive chef and owner of 8 oz. Burger Bar in LA and South Beach. His steak, cooking style and smile had the crowd going wild during his Sunday session. It’s no surprise that he’s been featured on Iron Chef America and Top Chef. The author of Small Bites, Big Nights has also been chosen as one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People,” but this boy’s more than just a pretty face – he’s got some serious chops to boot.
In addition to special culinary events held throughout the year, Mohegan Sun celebrates Wine Wednesdays the first Wednesday of every month with wine-themed tastings and pairings. For more information, check out http://www.mohegansun.com.
***All photographs courtesy of Stef Schwalb***