Friday, January 29, 2010

International Wine Festival - Hollywood ( PART I)

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to attend the International Wine Festival held in the Renaissance Hotel located at the famous Hollywood and Highland Complex ( thanks to the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher program).

The even was open from 5 pm to 8 pm. Luckily, my fiancee and I arrived at 4:55 pm and the event had already begun. The registration table was lined hundreds of wine glasses waiting for the attendees to pluck them and venture into the banquet hall set up with wine from around the world.

Though it wasn't very crowded upon our arrival, within fifteen minutes, the venue was swarming with wine connoisseurs eager to find a new favorite.

Ironically and surprisingly, my favorite tasting of the night was not a wine, but a version of sake.  In fact, it was a sparkling blueberry sake -- made from rice.

 Besides the various spirits to available to imbibe upon, there were to food vendors. One was bitterSweet treats, it featured homemade versions of classic American comfort sweets such as marshmallows and Oreos (see below). The other was a catering company called Viva LA Foodies (see below).

First, I'll start with my favorite drink. It is manufactured by the Banzai Beverage Corporation.  The company was founded in 2003 by Takahiro Tokura. He prides himself on finding the finest premium sake available, and importing it to the United States. Often this means the sake you purchase from the Banzai Beverage Corporation truly comes from a small family owned microbrewery, whose product would have never had the opportunity to find its way to your dinner table otherwise.

Granted, I must warn you, my preference in these drinks is skewed by my sweet tooth. I am not  particular fan of dry wines, or dry sake for that matter. Instead, I enjoy the delicate Riesling -- or in this case, the slightly bubbly blueberry sake.

This particular beverage goes by the name "Banzai Bunny". They have the "natural" variety and the "blueberry" variety. This drink comes from the Umenoyado Sake Brewery Co. located in Nara, Japan. The Sake is referred to as "Sparkling Junmai" and has an alcohol level of 6-7%.

Its aroma was inviting and the taste was delighting. So much in fact that we went back for seconds and if we weren't shy, we would have gone back for thirds and fourths.

The table we wandered over to next was serving Broquel Malbec made by TRAPICHE, an Argentinian wine.  This wine is perfectly paired with grilled red meats and cheeses. It offers slight glimpses of vanilla, chocolate and smoke.

As expected, the wine had more alcohol than the sparkling sake -- 14% to be exact.

The grapes are harvested from 25 year old vineyards located at altitudes between 900 and 1200 meters above sea level. After being hand harvested and fermented for a minimum of 25 days, the wine is aged for 15 months in new French and American Oak barrels.

As promised, the delights offered by bitterSweet treats ( yes, they spell their name with a lower case b). At the top you will find the home made marshmallows. The bottom left are mini chocolate cupcakes with meringue topping -- I thought that was creative. Among the other offerings were home made oreos and red velvet whoopie pies.  I have to say, the spread was very inspiring for me. Don't be surprised if I attempt to replicate these myself.


  1. Blueberry sake- Somebody was thinking out of the box on that one! Sounds amazingly delicious!

  2. What a cool opportunity! I've heard of the FB Featured Publisher program but not really aware of the details. You've inspired me to look into it more closely because I'd love to jump on these opportunities.

    Love all the cool stuff you saw. I may have to try recreating the red velvet whoopie pies too!