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Mammoth Mountain Food and Wine Experience

Yes folks!!  You’re favorite Southern California Resort now has it’s very own Food and Wine weekend.  It is a very small, easy-going experience.  Nothing like the much, much bigger one in another mountain town.  Mammoth is one of my favorite places to go.  So add food, wine, education, and many many tastings, and I’m there.

It is short and sweet, starting Friday July 6 in the afternoon and finishing with a grand tasting Saturday night.  My party arrived Saturday at lunch, and unfortunately we had just missed the Riedel class, where you vertically tasted with different types of glasses to see how it changed the dynamic of the wine.  We did have a terrific wine lunch in the village at The Sidedoor.  If you are not familiar with it, you better be on your next trip.  Shields, the owner is the biggest proponent of wine events in Mammoth Lakes.  And when you see his wine and beer listings, you will understand why.  He knows his stuff, and has cultivated many relationships with top CA winemakers for many of these events.  But I digress, let me tell you about the other events/classes on Friday:

There was a:  “Thai One On” with Richard Leonin and Mike Coco

“Keeping It Classic: Tales form One of Mammoth’s Top Sommeliers” with Whitcraft Wines – Mitch Cahoon and Ian Algeroen.

“Insider’s Peek into Chef Frederic’s Kitchen and Champagne & Cava with Chris Collins”

“Fresh Suds & Chevre” – Sean Turner of Mammoth Brewing and Chevre from Cypress Grove with Steve Swinford.

“Appetizers for Easy Entertaining” – Napa Chef Richard Haake with Doug Filipponi and Ancient Peaks Wines.

“The Dream Team Eureka Reunion Talk” – Dan Molnar and the Eureka Chefs

“Wine and Cheese, the Perfect Pairing” – California Artisan Cheese Guild – Laura Conrow.


All these events took place at Cerro Coso Community College right outside of town.  There were tents set up, and some classes took place just inside in the audio/visual classrooms.  They were one of the recipients of the money raised.  Yes, this event is for not only the college which serves many young people in the mountain community, but it also helps Education and the Arts in the Eastern Sierra.  So the money you spend on your ticket goes towards a great investment in the future.  You also get to eat and drink your face off.

And yes, there are “celebrity chefs” there as well.  The food aspect of the event is put together by Chef Dan Molner who lives and plays up in Mammoth.  He got his start many, many years ago at a legendary Beverly Hills restaurant Eureka.  He brought in his old compatriots who now have gone on to culinary greatness!  They are: Chefs Jennifer Black Dea; Jody Denton; Danny Farr; Neal Fraser; Jennifer Jasinski; Jason Knibb; and Jennifer Naylor.  Not a bad lot to spend a weekend with.  Now since this is a smaller event, all the chefs are very approachable, and a few are actually leading a few of the classes/events you can attend.  This is one of the main reasons I was excited to go this year.  You can actually learn from and talk to big time chefs.  This doesn’t even include the wine and winemakers!  You might not know many of the Chefs right off the bat, but you will recognize them.  Not only have they ALL worked for Wolfgang Puck, but a few have even been on a little TV show, Iron Chef.  So there are some people here who know how to cook.

They had a bit of a meet and greet in the big tent Friday, and heard many great stories from them all.  Then there was a small Q&A.  It was very cool to see how they all got their starts and how you go from a small-time prep cook to owning many of your very, own restaurants.  There was also Mammoth Mountain Brewing pouring some of their famous brews.  If you haven’t had any, better find some.  They have some stellar beers.  I was lucky to then get into the Wine and Cheese class.  I was not disappointed.  If you were not aware, I guess if you live under a rock, California has some AMAZING cheese makers.  Some of the best I’ve ever had. So I got to pair some classic California cheese with wines from Eberle Winery.  We tried a Formagella from Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, Goat Gouda from Central Coast Creamery and Fat Bottom Girl from Bleating Heart Cheese.  Paired with a 2010 Mill Road Viognier and a 2008 Sangiovese.  Tasty, Tasty Stuff.

That night were three different events.  We did the Wine Walk in the Village.  If you know Mammoth you know the central courtyard area by the gondola.  All the wineries in attendance were pouring.  And pouring.  And pouring.  We did some tastings then headed over to where the Chefs were staying at, and one of the promoters was a housing area called Tallus.  There was an open house with more wine, food and live music.  And oh ya, you could check out the units being offered to buy.  They were opulent and magnificent.  The cost didn’t even seem too bad.  Till you learned about the “extras”.  But I digress.  It was a fun experience, and having seem these places being built the last couple years, it was neat to check them out.  The real fun was relaxing on a cool evening tasting fun appetizers and wine.  There was even a test your wine knowledge table where you could blind taste 5 wines.  I did horrible, I believe due to the number and types of wines I had already consumed.  After this was dinner, so we missed the last event.  Champagne, Chinois and other Sparkling Goodies at the Red Lantern Restaurant.  Talley and Jaffurs wines were poured with appetizers from Petra’s.  It actually was probably better than the dinner we had.  We stopped by to check out Rafters, and I will say, left much to be desired.  The manager was nice enough to take a few things off the bill.  Luckily we got to Giovannia’s before they closed for one of their wonderful Whole Wheat Pies.  Then to bed.  For Saturday was a full bill of events.

Now not to bore you, I will just highlight the Saturday sessions I attended.  There was a Duck Demonstration by LA’s own Neal Fraser with wines by Tolosa.  It was very informative and tasty.  He made a Roast Duck with Sweet and Sour Cherries that was paired with a 2009 Pinot Noir.  Then the ultimate in taste heaven, Duck Confit Tacos with a 2009 Syrah.  I was lucky we got in, it was booked up, and a few people were late.  Was well worth it.  You got the recipes and notes from the Duck and the Wine.  And you got to learn something about it, and ask questions.  A very hands on, easy going way to taste.

Then was an excellent Wine Class by Pedroncelli Wines in Sonoma.  A family run outfit for 3 generations, who make great Cabernet Sauvignon.  Not only was the Vice President of the winery talking, who’s Grandfather started the winery, but they brought a vertical tasting that started with a 1977 Cab.  We tried a 77, 85, 92, 02, and 09.  The 85 was outstanding.  Truly epic bottle of wine.  The grapes were from Dry Creek Valley and the black-fruit flavors were met with some pepper and light tannins.  It was great to see the evolution of an old CA winery and their wines.

Then there was a session by Chefs Jennifer Jasinski and Jennifer Naylor with a pairing by Palmina Wines.  If you’ve never been, Palimina specializes in Italian Varietals.  And they are delicious. Chrystal who is married to the winemaker, Steve, was pouring and explaining the wines.  Another nice touch.  You really get to meet the people involved with nearly all the wines here.  It is something special whether you are a novice or a master.  The Chefs made a Risotto with Oven-Roasted Celeriac, crisp pancetta and acorn squash.  It was paired with a 2010 Dolcetto.  Chef Naylor made this and gave lots of tips and advice when preparing risotto.  Another fact filled food mission.  Then Chef Jasinski made a Savory Ricotta Cheesecake with an Heirloom Tomato Salad that was paired with Botasea Rosato di Palmiina.  A very elegant white that paired perfectly with richness of the dish.

Luckily we had some downtime to go back to the condo and relax (ie nap).  Then was the “Grand Tasting”  where the big time chefs made a dish to go up against culinary students.  There were Le Cordon Bleu schools from CA, and students from Bakersfield that were taking culinary classes there.  You tasted each of the 5 dishes, then the crowd got to vote for their favorites.  All the while every winery in attendance was pouring.   Along with Mammoth Mountain Brewing, in case your palate needed a break.  My favorite dishes were Pasadena Cordon Bleu with their grilled Lamb Chop, and the Bakersfield school with their Pesto Shrimp with Watermelon Salad.  There definitely stood out.  The Celeb Chefs made a Paella that was good, but not outstanding.  Wouldn’t you know it, everyone thought the same.  Bakersfield won top honors and Pasadena came in second.  After this was a Silent Auction, and then a regular auction.  With all proceeds to the aforementioned charities of the Eastern Sierra.  So a win, win for all involved.  There were some awesome items, and I wish I had a little extra cash to bid.


All in all a perfect two days of food and wine, for a good cause.  I can’t wait to go next year, and you all should keep on the lookout for when tickets go on sale.  I will be talking about it in the Spring, so stayed tuned.  If you like the great outdoors, mixed with excellent food and amazing wines, you better get your butt to Mammoth next July!!