The best of the best in California wine and CA wine events: the Grape and Gourmet

I'll admit it: I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about wine. And food. And what foods go best with what wine. And where I can get my next fix.

Which helps explain my perenially pear-shaped silhouette.

I also attend my fair share of wine and food events. My favorite event of the year is coming up next Thursday: the Grape and Gourmet. Why is this one my favorite? I'll tell you why!

Over the years, have developed a personal list of criteria by which I judge the success of a wine/food event. The list includes simple sensibilities as well as personal preferences that I think make for the most enjoyable wine and food experience. The Grape and Gourmet exceeds my small but crucial list of criteria; they are as follows:

Where wine is flowing, food and water should be available and included in the ticket cost for 2 reasons: the wine experience is made even more wonderful when accompanied by food, and it serves the more practical purpose of balancing the potentially dizzying effects of the wine with the 'neutralizing' effects of the food/water.

Crowd control; are the crowds manageable, or did the organizers over-sell the event, leaving patrons thirsty, hungry and unable to belly-up to any bar in a throng of fellow festival-goers?

Comfort level: it's summer in Sacramento; odds are it's going to be hot. Really hot. Is the event held indoors in air-conditioned comfort, or will I be left wilted and weary, drinking overheated wines in a sweltering sauna?

And of course, the quality of wines/wineries in attendance.

With over 140 California wineries pouring more than 800 State Fair medal winning wines, along with award-winning cheeses and foods from over 90 local purveyors, the Grape and Gourmet fulfills my crucial criteria list, and then some. That's why I've been attending every year for as long as I can remember. It's an epicurean motherlode that will leave your palate fatigued and your waistband screaming, but in the most blissful, 'what-a-way-to-go' way.

The event is being moved from Cal Expo to the Sacramento Convention center this year. Tickets are $50 online or $70 at the door.

Proceeds benefit the State Fair Scholarship Fund, so check with your tax advisor; all this vinous bigfun may be tax deductible as well!