From Friday, May 30 through Sunday, June 1, Mohonk Mountain House will host a brand-new event: the Wine and Food Festival of New Paltz. The festival will feature seminars by celebrity sommeliers, chefs and wine experts; tastings of a wide selection of wines culled from mostly small vineyards in Europe and the US, with a special emphasis on Italy and New York State; tastings and demonstrations by noted chefs of creative food-and-wine pairings; and on Sunday, reserved for the wine trade, the handing out of 19 awards to the best wines and a presentation on new trends in the industry.
The festival is the brainchild of Sam and Dushka Ramic, owners of New Paltz-based International Wine Masters, a company that holds tastings, seminars and other events geared to educating retailers about the wines that the Ramics sell through their second company, Wine Worldwide, an importer, wholesaler and distributor. Many of the wines that they import and sell are from smaller wineries located in the Mediterranean countries, and the couple began planning the festival nearly two years ago as a way to draw attention to these wines and better connect the vintners with their US customers. The response has been so impressive that the Ramics say they are confident that the festival will become not just an annual event, but the preeminent wine festival in the country.
Sixty wineries, based not only in Europe but also in California, Virginia and New York State, and 80 exhibitors will be represented at the festival. The Ramics have also put together a sterling roster of food and wine experts, of whom the headliner is Lidia Bastianich, the Emmy-winning popular television chef, best-selling cookbook author and restaurateur who also founded her own entertainment company, Tavola Productions. Bastianich’s specialty of Italian and Italian-American cooking – she’ll be giving a seminar titled “Authentic Cuisine throughout My Life” at 5 p.m. on Saturday – reflects the festival’s emphasis on Italian food and wine. The festival’s co-sponsor is the Italian Trade Commission, and preeminent Italian chef Rosanna De Michele, who promotes the culinary traditions of her native Abruzzo as executive director of the non-profit organization Abruzzo in Tavola, will be participating.
Anthony Giglio, a writer and raconteur who has written ten critically acclaimed books on wines and spirits and currently reports on wines for CBS Radio, among numerous other gigs, will talk on “High-Altitude Italian Wines” at 1 pm on Saturday, followed by Kevin Zraly, wine director for Windows on the World from the restaurant’s inception at the World Trade Center in 1976 until 9/11, at 2 p.m. Zraly founded the Windows on the World Wine School and subsequently authored a book on the subject, which he followed up with several other popular volumes on wine. He’ll speak about “The Best of Italy: Brunello di Montalcino.”
Continuing the Italian theme, Lou di Palo will discuss “Italian Cheese & Wine through Centuries” at 4 p.m. The fourth-generation owner of Di Palo’s Fine Foods, which opened its doors in Little Italy in 1925, di Palo has been featured in The New York Times and other national media sharing his knowledge of cheese and Italian specialty foods.
The focus on Italian wines reflects not only much of the inventory at Wine Worldwide, but also the general popularity of Italian wines in the US, which are the number-one imported wine, according to Sam Ramic. He also noted that there will be an emphasis on organic wines, which are a huge trend in Europe especially, as well as wines made from grapes that are sustainably grown and pressed and free of additives.
Michael Weiss, the chair of Wine Studies at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), based in nearby Hyde Park, will present “European Tour de Force” on Friday at 5 p.m.: a whirlwind tour of the top wines across the Continent. On Saturday at 12 noon, Weiss and well-known local chef Ric Orlando, proprietor of New World Home Cooking, will talk about “Wine and Food Pairings in the Global Village,” with an emphasis on healthful cooking and drinking and culinary creativity.
Bordeaux gets more than a nod on Friday at 4 p.m., when Mile Rupcic, a wine consultant for Wine Worldwide as well as an actor and author (originally from Croatia, he served with the UN Peacekeeping Forces in Bosnia for five years as an interpreter and media analyst), will present the seminar “Bordeaux: the Empire of Good Stuff.” And on Saturday at 3 p.m., Steven Kolpan, professor of Wine Studies at the CIA, a wine columnist and award-winning author, will give a talk titled “Old World, New World.”