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There’s always wine on the agenda (and menu) when visiting San Francisco – the famed Napa Valley is just an hour drive away, after all. But for the next five weeks, oenophiles can sip a little closer to home at the historic Claremont Hotel and Spa, just a 15km drive across the Bay Bridge, where the Berkeley Wine Festival is feting all things vino every Friday evening until 24 May.

Each week welcomes a selected winemaker from California, Oregon or Washington whose wines are served in concert with the refined California cuisine of Scott Quinn, chef of the hotel’s Meritage Restaurant, whose menus are designed to accentuate the featured drop.

“The whole experience comes together when the ingredients and the wine are perfectly balanced,” said Quinn.

Evenings commence at 6:30 pm with a wine reception, then move to a four-course dinner in the restaurant (no extra charge for the stellar views of the San Francisco’s skyline). Opening remarks from the guest vintner, as well as introductions to each paired course, give diners a personal and intimate education in local food and wine.

Highlights include acclaimed Napa Valley producer Robert Foley on 19 April, who will share his latest exceptional red blend, The Griffin, as well as his 2006 petite syrah, Pepperland. Quinn’s accompanying menu will feature fava bean angnolotti, pan-seared halibut and braised rabbit, using ingredients that, as far as possible, have been sourced locally.

Oregon’s oldest winery, Elk Cove whose loveable pinots (noir, gris and blanc) consistently earn accolades from wine publications, will be on show on 3 May.

And the last night of the festival, 24 May, brings a real vineyard-to-table experience when winemaker Julie Johnson of Tres Sabores in Rutherford, California, arrives with her elegant zinfandels, with Quinn’s menu plucking ingredients from Johnson’s organically-certified farm.

Last year’s sipping and supping extravaganza lured almost 1,000 wine-lovers, and this year the expected number is closer to 1,800. Tickets range from $130 to $165 per person (depending on the featured wine) and can be purchased online.

Kimberley Lovato is the San Francisco Localite.



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