Wine Lover’s Paradise, Salsa & The Grandiose Grand Tasting
The moment I arrived, I started kicking myself.
I had a room at the San Diego Marriott Marquis Marina Hotel downtown overlooking boats the bay, a perfect location for that night’s two San Diego Bay Wine + Food Festival events in the hotel and the next day’s Grand Tasting.
Yet I took a casual approach in driving down from L.A., and did not arrive until about 3 p.m.
Little did I know the room would be overlooking the bay from its 21st floor with a balcony. It was spectacular! But instead of savoring it, I had to leave in an hour for the first of the evening’s two wine tasting events, hardly enough time to fully appreciate it. I was kicking myself because had I left earlier, I could have been in that room all day!
Although, I quickly made up for that mistake. Or rather, the events made up for it. Both were conveniently located in the Marriott; the first was a Blind Tasting with the Masters and the second was the always good SommCon, a big and lively event.
When my PubClub.com associate Digger and I arrived to the Blind Tasting, we took one look at the setup and said, in a total laughing matter, “uh oh, we’re going to be in trouble!”
There were seven – seven! – big wine glasses at each place setting. There were at least two ounces of wine in each, and we knew we had a pretty good chance of leaving this event feeling pretty darned good.
That turned out to be exactly the case and while we throughly enjoyed chatting with the masters afterward almost as much as we did the tasting, we knew a great time awaited us two floors up the Marriott’s escalators.
And oh my, it was a great time. The SommCon room was buzzing – literally – with the frenzied activity and conversations of people chatting, laughing and drinking wine. We dove right in like Olympic high divers and splashed down with an evening of red wines, white wines, sparkling wines, spirits and even sake.
The entire time we had smiles on our faces, and I knew I was probably making a mistake by tasting the aged scotch, the tequila-based sample-sized drink and even a couple of beers on top of everything else.
But hey, it’s hard to stop when one is having so much fun!
When the event ended at about 7:30, I followed Digger out the door to a courtyard by the Cheesecake Factor just a block or so down the street to a huge outdoor (and free) salsa party. There was full salsa band and about 500 people dancing and drinking in the adjacent bars.
They do this every third Friday in San Diego and I highly recommend it. It was so good I can still hear the music in my head and envision my dazzling moves on the dance floor.
After a nightcap in the Top Gun Bar (Kansas City BBQ), Digger and I decided to call it a night and save up for the next day’s Grand Tasting. After all, we had VIP tickets and the gates opened early, at 11 a.m. And believe me, if you’re a VIP you want to be at every moment of this event.
On my way back to the Marriott, I went up a walkway to the hotel, turned a corner and bam! I was somehow in a private party at Roy’s. This beautiful location was in several rooms, including a patio adjacent to the marina. I think it was fate that I wound up there, and while I did help myself to a beer (well why not, right!?), I did not linger.
The next morning I awoke to a gorgeous day looking over the bay. I had a full view of the marina, the Coronado Bridge and the Grand Tasting venue site.
At the Grand Tasting, we spent most of the first couple of hours getting information, photos and videos for PubClub’s coverage of the event, then moved around to see if we had missed anything. Frankly, there’s so much to see at this annual event you’ll likely miss something – food here, some wine there, another delicious treat elsewhere, etc.
Twice we went to the orange Port-o-Let. This was no ordinary temporary bathroom; it opened into a cool jungle-themed pop-up bar hosted by Monkey Shoulder scotch. The second time we were joined by a couple girls we had met and they did not believe us. Neither did the kindly lady who came up to us and said, “You know, there’s no line for the restrooms around the corner.”
This type of creativity, plus the scene, the people and the food and drink, make this a top-notch San Diego annual November event and we were thrill to again be at it.
The fun even continued after the event. Digger decided to take a pedicab back to the Gaslamp and instead of choosing some young buck to pedal us he picked some 90-year-old guy. He was pedaling hard but we did not seem to be going anywhere, he barely missed grazing half a dozen cars – “missed being the optimal word,” he comically pointed out – and it took about 20 minutes to get to Barley Mash. We could have walked it in 10 but that’s not the point – it was another entertaining and hilarious adventure.
For someone who traveled from Los Angeles, it all made for one whale of a fun weekend in San Diego.