Wine and food festivals have become a destination draw for tourists willing to travel far and wide to attend one. Here in the Hudson Valley, we need look no further than our own back yard for the Wine and Food Festival of New Paltz, returning to the Mohonk Mountain House this Friday through Sunday, May 29 to 31.
The three-day event offers oenophiles and casual imbibers alike a multisensory experience of wine-tastings and cuisine pairings along with seminars and chef demos conducted by leading luminaries of the wine and culinary worlds. There will be silent and live auctions, topnotch celebrity presenters and – new this year – a fashion show with Italian and French fashion houses putting together a runway show.
Those who attend the entire weekend will find that each day at the festival offers something unique. Single-day visitors can tailor their experience according to which seminars and activities they most want to partake of.
The Festival opens on Friday evening, May 29 with the Wine & Food Gala. The cost is $135. The cocktail hour beginning at 5:30 p.m. will feature high-end domestic and imported wines along with a variety of international food stations, followed by a sit-down dinner at 7:30 p.m. with cuisine prepared by Mohonk chefs. The Gala will be accompanied by live jazz from the Woodstock-based Lindsey Webster Band and a silent auction benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Saturday will bring the Grand Tasting event from 12 noon to 5 p.m. and the Red Carpet Cru Tasting (of the highest-end wines) from 1 to 5:30 p.m. Admission costs $75 for the former and $120 for the latter, which includes the Grand Tasting as well. The events will be held indoors in three large rooms at Mohonk, including the main dining room. A live auction benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation will be held that afternoon, along with a mixology demonstration, and Saturday is the day for the fashion events. A photo shoot with Vogue photographer Max Soly will follow the fashion show, and there will even be a “made-to-measure” tailor on hand should one wish to order a bespoke suit.
Awards and medals for wine producers will be given out on Saturday evening at a private for-the-trade event.
It’s important to note here that parking on Saturday is allowed only at the Ulster County Fairgrounds, where shuttle buses will take visitors up the mountain and back.
Sunday’s Grand Tasting events are open from 12 noon to 4 p.m. and will take place outdoors under the covered pavilion overlooking the lake, giving an entirely different flavor to the proceedings in the beautiful outside environs. Prior to the wine-tastings, chef demos will be held on the parlor porch, and Sunday will offer a different selection of seminars from those on Saturday. Admission costs $75, but a special promotion is being offered to Almanac Weekly readers: The first 50 people who enter the promo code “almanac” while ordering online will be able to purchase two tickets for the price of one for Sunday’s admission.
Chef demonstrations are included with admission. The seminars offered both Saturday and Sunday cost $30 each to attend, including the presentation by headliner Martha Stewart on Saturday. Following her noon seminar, the best-selling author, television show host and founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia will be available for a book-signing and meet-and-greet.
Celebrity chef presenters include Rose Levy Beranbaum – “Diva of Desserts” and three-time winner of a James Beard Award – and Sara Moulton, who was a protégé of Julia Child. Moulton is the founder of the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance, executive chef of Gourmet magazine and the host of several Food Network programs. Local chef Marcus Guiliano of Aroma Thyme Bistro will also present demonstrations, along with Lou DiPalo speaking on wine and cheese and Italian chef Rosanna di Michele.
Wine experts presenting seminars include Kevin Zraly, former wine director for Windows on the World, and Michael Weiss, Steven Kolpan and Mile Rupcic, covering topics from the wines of New York State to how to pair food and wines to a comparison of the wines of Croatia and Italy.
The Wine and Food Festival of New Paltz is organized by Yugoslavian natives Dushka and Sam Ramic, residents of New Paltz since the ’90s and co-owners of two wine-related businesses in town. The first, Wine Worldwide, Inc., imports Mediterranean wines from small- and medium-sized producers, with an emphasis on Italian selections. The other company, International Wine Masters, was formed to offer tastings, seminars and other events for wine professionals who retail their product. More than 700 wines are expected to be offered at the festival, with producers coming in from all over the world. “They’re flying in from Italy, from Chile, from Croatia… just for this event,” says Dushka.
In creating the Wine and Food Festival of New Paltz – last year’s event was the inaugural outing, and the intention is to maintain an annual festival – the couple drew on their years of experience attending other such events all around the world. “We tried to pick out the best of the good things we found in other festivals to bring to ours,” says Sam. “And last year, people who attended said it was like a festival that had been here for ten years.”
What sets their festival apart from its competitors, say the Ramics, is its picturesque location at the 1869 Mohonk Mountain House. Other wine and food festivals are generally held under simple arrangements of tents or in a convention center, Sam adds, noting that along with providing a spectacular scenic backdrop for the event, the Mohonk grounds will be open for the day to those admitted to the Festival, allowed to come and go freely from one to the other.
And while the couple’s wholesale business focuses on imported wines, the Ramic’s objective with the festival is to support the local wineries, too, and help other local businesses like their own to thrive. “We want to support them,” says Sam. “This is a way of giving back to the community, to the local wine-growers and purveyors and restaurateurs who are helping us, from all around the area. We work with international people, but we try to make it local as much as it can be. It still comes down to local businesses, local consumers. Why send the money somewhere else when it can stay right here in this great place?”
Wine & Food Festival of New Paltz, May 29-31, Wine & Food Gala, Friday, 7:30 p.m., $135; Grand Tasting, Saturday, 12 noon-5 p.m., $75; Red Carpet Cru Tasting/Grand Tasting, Saturday, 1-5:30 p.m., $120; seminars, Saturday/Sunday, $30, Mohonk Mountain House, 1000 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz; (646) 527-9500, www.internationalwinemasters.com.