A road trip is even more exciting when your destination is marvelous food and wine. Fire up that convertible sports car and ready your appetite for these delicious events spanning Sonoma County to Monterey.
As the third annual Relais & Châteaux extravaganza takes over Carmel-by-the-Sea, the posh town grows even more glamorous with three star Michelin chefs converging to wow us with their gastronomic prowess. The biggest ticket is the 10-course rarities dinner, prepared by David Kinch (Manresa in Los Gatos), Joshua Skenes (Saison in San Francisco) and Michel Troisgros (La Maison Troisgros, Roanne, France); a close second is the rarities lunch from Hiroshi Nakamichi (Restaurant Molière, Sapporo, Japan). Both will feature super exclusive ingredients. Meanwhile, more than 15 other star chefs and winemakers will host some 18 other events – a wild mushroom hunt and lunch in the Santa Lucia Preserve, for example, and a dreamy (and also $695 a ticket) vertical tasting of Château Latour. // Feb. 25-28 (Monterey); gourmetfestcarmel.com
Cooking for Solutions—the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s renowned series of food and wine events across the Bay Area—has long been a big deal, connecting chefs, farmers, winemakers, and food artisans for a weekend of delicious fare and sustainability talk. This year, it's bringing together Wine Country's top chefs showcasing sustainable seafood in Healdsburg. Highlights include a Taste of Healdsburg stroll at Jordan Winery (Saturday) and a Warming Wintertime Lunch at SHED (Sunday). Sure to be on the menus: lots of lovely, fresh fish. // Feb. 27 & 28 (Healdsburg); montereybayaquarium.org
Flavor Napa packs in 40 top-notch events in just five days. Internationally inspired events include the "Celebration of the Judgment of Paris Dinner," cooking with three-Michelin Star Chef Christopher Kostow, and the so-cleverly titled "The Butcher, the Baker, and the Sparkling Winemaker" brunch. The "Terroir to Table" series beckons, too, with playful themes like "Detox to Retox," a Calistoga retreat at Indian Springs Resort. // March 16-20 (Napa); flavornapavalley.com
Here, piggy piggy! In years past, tickets for this now annual who’s who showcase of chefs and winemakers have sold out within four minutes. Don't hesitate! Admission to the two-day porcine-a-palooza at Hotel Healdsburg has been so coveted that lotteries have been held, waiting lists established, and bribes offered to founder Charlie Palmer (he says, "Sorry, it doesn’t work"). As always, this year’s delectable distractions include the Taste of Pigs & Pinot, Tournament of the Pig, Ultimate Pinot Smackdown, Dry Creek Kitchen’s Gala Dinner, and Spoonbar’s Swine & Wine Dinner, all put together by celebrity chefs such as Michael Mina, Matt Lambert, Barbara Lynch, and Bryan Voltaggio. // Mar. 18 & 19 (Healdsburg); pigsandpinot.com
The Four Fires Festival is named for the four signature varietal types grown in the region – in the style of Southern France, Italy, the Iberian Peninsula, and Heritage California – as well as the tradition of cooking over an open flame. What a fun party it is, too, with nearly 50 local wineries coming together at the Amador County Fairgrounds for a parade of more than 200 California wines. Plan to feast on flamed dishes including spit-roasted pork and lamb, giant pans of paella, side of beef roasted on an iron cross, and California barbecue. To bring the tasting experience home, there's also a marketplace stocked with olive oil, honey, chocolate, artisanal baked goods, cider, craft beer, and cheese. // May 7 (Plymouth); amadorfourfires.com.