An Afternoon at The Beverly Hills Wine Festival

On February 26th I attended the Beverly Hills Wine Festival at the historical Beverly Hilton Hotel. (Whether other guests were thinking it or not, I couldn’t help but remember that just a few weeks ago, this is where Whitney Houston was found dead.) But immediately upon entry, my mine shifted to the event — I was astounded by the number of vendors. There were well over 100 different vendors that came from all over the city and the state of California to offer their wine, spirits, sparkling wine, beer, chocolates and even jewelry.

I was thrilled to see that a portion of the proceeds went to benefit the LA Animal Alliance and Best Friends Animal Society. There was a full orchestra entertaining us playing Big Band Swing and there were huge screens projecting the The Academy Awards Red Carpet. It was truly a sight to behold and the Hilton seemed to have not spared a single expense in showing its guests a very luxurious experience.

I was given a wine glass inscribed to read The Beverly Hills Wine Festival. As a journalist, it is customary for me to carry a notebook in one hand and camera in the other. Now, I had a breakable wine glass to juggle as well. I must have looked absolutely ridiculous trying to take notes, pictures and drink at the same time.

The Orchestra Performing

My first stop was to the table of Astrale e Terra winery, a boutique winery in Napa Valley. I had a rich full-bodied cabernet. I liked the wine but I couldn’t help but have a mini panic attack when I saw how big the pour was. I was in for a lot of drinking today, and if everyone kept being so generous, I was going to end up taking a taxi home or getting a room.

Astrale e Terra Red Wine

Pama and Hpnotiq Liqueur

I was relieved when my good friend (and now drinking buddy) Morgan Hall arrived. She wanted to start with some sparkling wine. I was given a taste of a delicious one from Spain. Anna De Codorniu was 70 percent chardonnay, but very sweet and refreshing.

Next we stopped at the Hpnotiq booth. The spokesperson Josh introduced himself and offered us a taste of Hpnotiq Harmoni liqueur from an adorable little martini glass. “It has essence of flowers,” he said as I took a sip. I didn’t taste the flowers, but I did taste a strong liquor taste that would’ve been better in a mixed drink than by itself. However he was also offering tastings of Pama, a pomegranate liqueur that was fantastic. It was fruity and tart like cranberry juice and definitely something I would like to try again.

Vampire Wine

Next we stopped and tasted some Vodka. Vodka? I thought this was supposed to be a wine festival. Clearly I was in for some surprises. We both did a small shot of Prairie Organic Vodka, infused with cucumbers. It was a very clean taste and the cucumber was apparent. It went down smooth and while I wouldn’t do another shot of it, I would enjoy it again mixed with something else (lime and mint perhaps?).

Next we went back to wine, Vampire wine. The Vampire Wine and Tasting Room located in Beverly Hills right down the street from the Beverly Hilton, had stopped in. They told me that the very first basket of Vampire was made in Transylvania. With a slogan like “Sip the Blood of the Vine,” I couldn’t say no to a taste. The Cabernet Sauvignon was excellent, and I would definitely like to stop by their main location for another tasting.

It wasn’t even an hour into the event and even though I had only had sips of these drinks, I knew it was time to take a break and find some food. I couldn’t find any real food but The Beverly Hilton had no problem with supplying us with lots of desserts.

In fact, I saw a few familiar faces from The Indulge Chocolate Festival I attended in February. My favorite? The Kira’s Kiss cupcakes. These mini-cupcakes or “cuppies” are delicious, all natural, less than 50 calories, and the tastiest, “healthy” cupcakes you will ever eat!

Kira's Kiss Cuppies

I also had to stop and visit the folks from Pacific Cheesecake Company. They not only had their very tasty sweet cheesecake bites, but also other small bites that were bursting with flavor. I sampled some of their savory cheesecakes, but it was an unusually delicious experience to dip crackers into the various cheese dips  such as spinach feta, sundried tomato basil and gorgonzola apricot. All were delectable but my number one was the spinach feta. I was also thankful to see something that at least resembled real substantial food after all the adult beverages consumed. Next time I go to an alcohol-themed event, I’ll be sure to come with a full stomach or bring some of my own snacks just in case.

Pacific Cheescake Company's Savory Spinach Feta Cheesecake

Lovely Rings by Saatchi Jewelry

Still on the hunt for some sustenance, I noticed some tables in the center of the room and decided to see if there was food there. I did however get distracted by some shiny objects along the way. Saatchi Jewelry was displaying diamonds that I had to see! The necklaces, rings and watches were all stunning. None of the rings fit my tiny fingers, but it didn’t stop me from trying a few on. Then it was back to my mission to find some food.

To be honest, I was disappointed when we arrived to find that the tables had nothing on them but single serve packets or Everybody’s Nuts California Pistachios. This couldn’t be it! This was the luxurious Beverly Hilton. There had to be food somewhere! Don’t wine and cocktails taste better when paired with delicious food? I decided to ask, so I went to the registration table and was told that there was a bread and cheese room. We were relieved.

Drakes Brewing Company IPA

Next up was a table for Drakes Brewing Company. I love wine and cocktails, but deep down, I’m a “beer girl.” Morgan and I especially love IPA’s and luckily there was one waiting for us. To me there is nothing more refreshing than a cold beer, and I have to say that his beer really hit the spot! If you are ever in the bay area, visit Drake’s Brewing Company in San Leandro for a beer tasting.

When we entered the bread and cheese room, I don’t know what I was expecting but definitely more than just cubes of cheese on platters and sliced bread. While both were just fine, I expected more from a Beverly Hills event especially since tickets to attend were $150. I suppose I expected more variety and a nicer display, even a nice fruit platter would have made a difference. I’m sorry to say that it was definitely disappointing.

A Small Selection of Cheeses

My mood was lifted however when I went to speak with Candi Crawford, the events specialist for The Best Friends Animal Society Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Clinic. I talked with Candi for quite a while about their facility in Mission Hills, and their top secret plans to make Los Angeles a no-kill city. Rather than euthanizing the staggering number of cats and dogs in LA that are overcrowding shelters, they are making plans to help facilitate moves to foster homes and adoption centers. I don’t know how they plan to do this because it is an overwhelming problem in Los Angeles, but I will be staying on top of it! They plan to announce their plans soon… Visit their website to stay informed!

Candi Crawford of the Best Friends Animal Society and me

The tasting continued and we tried a few more wines including, Papal, Primitivo di Manduria a rich red wine that had been blessed by the Pope! I also tasted my favorite beverage of the day, Fresita, a sparkling wine made with fresh strawberries. It was delicious! It tasted like a strawberry mimosa. If you like sweet and bubbly, you will love it!

Fresita Strawberry Sparkling Wine

Next were some delicious Butterfinger brownies from Randy’s Brownies & Desserts. Then after we tasted Trader Joe’s Raspberry wine served in a bite size chocolate cup, we both swore we were done, but Morgan spotted Moreno sparkling wine with a big sparkly “M” on the bottle, like “M” for Morgan, and we had to indulge one last time!

Moreno Sparkling Wine

We toasted to a fun afternoon, but couldn’t take another drop. Maybe if there had been more food we would’ve stayed longer, but we were both exhausted. We ended up leaving about 45 minutes before the event ended. Overall, I think people seemed to enjoy it and the tastings were fun, but to be honest, I probably wouldn’t go again. I felt hungover by 7 pm. There was too much alcohol and not enough food to soak it all up. That said, I was definitely introduced to some new brands I’d never heard of that I liked very much and met some wonderful people.

The Vendors at The Beverly Hill Wine Festival

About Liesl Jackson:
Liesl Jackson is a writer/actress/comedian/pet sitter living in the heart of Hollywood. She loves the arts, animals, volunteering, traveling, and attempting to learn the acoustic guitar. Email her at liesljackson@yahoo.com. Follow her on twitter @SillyLiesl and follow The Pacific Punch @ThePacificPunch.
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