New World Wine & Food Fest Faves

The New World Wine and Food Festival, now with ten years under its ever-more-ample belt, has switched seasons on us. Formerly in November (and, more specifically, the beginning of November to coincide loosely with Day of the Dead celebrations when the intent of the event was more Latin than it is now), it is, as of this year, being mounted in May. May 12-16, to be precise. And an alliance has been forged with the Valero Texas Open taking place, as are many festival events, at the posh new JW Marriott.

Burgers, BBQ, Beer & Texas Spirits on May 13 is one such event. It previously took place at Artisan's Alley and had never quite realized its potential as a casual offshoot of the festival's more high falutin' focus. The name may now be more ponderous, but the inclusion of BBQ and Texas Spiritsâ??of which there are now more than you may thinkâ??is welcome. The cost is $35, and for a mere $20 more you are invited to mosey over to the Valero Texas music Pavilion where Robert Earle Keen will be holding forth for a clutch of golfers.

Winemaker Dinners have always been a festival mainstay; the trick has been to find the perfect pairing of a wine you like (or would like to know better) and a restaurant whose food you admire. Too, an actual winemaker or winery owner should preferably be present. The best bets, IMHO, are as follows: Las Canarias with J, J's winemaker, and the cuisine of Chef John Brand; Pavil Restaurant & Bar with chef Scott Cohen and Continuum, the new Napa label of Tim Mondavi and his sister Marcia (though Carlo and Dante, Tim's sons, have modest involvement with the winemaking, they will be here to represent the family); The Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills with Chef Jason Dady and the wines (and winemaker) of California's White Oak, a prolific producer with several wines to choose from. (Continuum, on the other hand, makes only cabernet sauvignon, so pairing will be an interesting exercise.) All of these dinners take place on May 13, and prices vary with the restaurant, which you must call directly to make reservations.

My favorite event of all those presented is the Becker Vineyards Winery Lunch in which Texas wines (including Becker's, of course) are poured along with those of visiting wineries. Tost, Bistro Vatel and the Westin La Cantera will be presenting the main courses in the wood-paneled Becker event space adjacent to the winery. Play nice and you might get a tour of the winery itself. This one, taking place on Friday, May 14, sells out, even at a cost of $60. Maybe some wildflowers will stick around for the occasion. Becker's Lavender Fest follows on May 15 & 16, so we assume that lavender will be in bloom if nothing else. (

When active with the festival, I always agitated for more wine and food seminars, and they always ended up poorly attended. Shame on all of us. But they're still trying. On Saturday, May 15 at 3:00 p.m., Mastering Wine Aromas and “The Aroma Wheel of Fortune” sounds like an especially good opportunity to stick your schnoz into some interesting wines with expert guidance to help you evaluate (and develop) your reactions. It takes place at the Hilton Palacio del Rio, and the cost is $35.

I admit to having grown weary of most mass tasting events, but the location of Totally Tejas, Rio Cibolo Ranch about 30 minutes east of town on I-10, would make this family event a must even if there weren't good food (get there early; it has been known to become scarce) and lots of wine. There are kids' activities, too, so take the opportunity to pet a longhorn and help the wineries clear out their stock. $35 for adults, $7 for those under 21. This price difference ought to reconfirm the ratio of wine to food.

For more information and reservations, call the NWWFF at 210-822-9555, or go on line at

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