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Pebble Beach Food and Wine Experience: April 16-19, Carmel, CA

Once upon at time, there was but one major event for food and wine enthusiasts looking to experience some of the top chefs and wines of the United States. The Aspen Food and Wine Classic was the ultimate experience for epicures and wine lovers who could afford to attend the multi-day showcase of taste. Other events equally focused on bringing together fine food and wine and the people who love them have followed.

Strangely, for many years none of these events took place in California. Eventually, though, some people realized the travesty represented by this fact, and started an event PBFW.jpgcalled the Masters of Food and Wine, which for several years provided credible proof of California's stature in the food and wine scene, and allowed thousands of people to experience the ultimate food and wine experience.

But through an unfortunate series of events, the Masters went away. One year it was going strong, the next year, it was in Argentina. But there were enough people who had seen, and indeed, been responsible for, the quality of experience that could be offered, and the willingness of so many to attend, to simply let that be the end of the story.

And so last year, a couple of enterprising young men invented Pebble Beach Food and Wine, with the goal of taking the whole idea to the next level. Which essentially means providing the most exclusive and remarkable dining, drinking, and learning opportunities available in the world of food and wine.

Pebble Beach Food and Wine is now in its second year, and seemingly untouched by the current economic situation, at least so far. Despite crashing markets and tough times everywhere, they are still managing to put on an event featuring some of the absolute top chefs in the world cooking for groups of 150-200 people, giving detailed cooking demonstrations, and where sommeliers pour some of the worlds most sought-after wines into waiting glasses.

No matter what your yardstick, it's hard not to have this event measure up to the title of the ultimate food and wine experience of its kind. They will pour more Cristal champagne this year (including vintages going back most of a century) than any other single event in history -- more in 4 days than the entire US allocation of the stuff. They will have Thomas Keller, Tom Colicchio, Daniel Humm, David Kinch, Masaharu Morimoto, David Myers, Eric Ripert, Rick Tramonto and many more giving cooking demonstrations and making elaborate meals for attendees. They will offer the opportunity to taste wines that range from verticals of Domaine Leroy's Burgundies to 15 years worth of Colgin's Cabernets. The server to guest ratio hovers around 1 to 5. The sommelier to guest ratio is around 1 to 4. And so on, and so forth, all set amidst the backdrop of Pebble Beach and the Inn at Spanish Bay in Carmel, California.

While this is certainly an over-the-top event, the organizers have incredibly made it as accessible as possible to as many people that want to attend. You can spend $165 to attend the grand tasting -- an afternoon of wine tasting where every four or five tables or so you'll find one of the country's best chefs making canapes for you to enjoy with your wine, or you can spend $4750 for a package that includes four days of VIP access to any of the events. Every single event is available as an a-la-carte ticket, in addition to being included in their package deals.

If I didn't have this pesky day job and a little one to take care of, you can bet I'd be down there for the grand tasting at least, especially given the list of 250 wineries pouring (all of which are there by invite only) and 48 chefs cooking. You can see the list, and find out many more details on all the activities on the event web site.

Pebble Beach Food and Wine 2009
Thursday, April 16th - Sunday, April 19th
Pebble Beach Resort
Carmel, CA 93953

Tickets should be purchased in advance on the event web site, and start at $165. Obviously, those wishing to stay for multiple days need to arrange lodging, either at Pebble Beach in conjunction with the event (it can be purchased with your tickets), or elsewhere.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud