Social Ambassadors: Kevin Lu
Credit: Kevin Lu

I just returned from an amazing weekend at the fourth-annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine, a four-day festival in one of the most beautiful settings—Monterey, California. I was there on business, but it’s times like these that I realize how fortunate I am to do what I do.

From my arrival at the Monterey airport—complete with an unbelievable aerial view of the Inn at Spanish Bay and Peninsula—I knew I was in for a good time. What’s not to love about great food and drink, and golf at the wildly scenic Pebble Beach Golf Links? (Here I am (on the left) with Cody Plott, president and chief operating officer of Pebble Beach.)

But as I discovered, too much natural beauty can be a distraction. I hate to admit it… it wasn't one of my better performances. When you play this legendary course without a cloud in the sky, it’s not about the golf, it’s all about the setting. And there was an interruption at every hole—whales, Cypress trees, fabulous homes. My golf game wasn’t top of mind. Can you blame me?

Wine, not surprisingly, was a big part of the Pebble Beach Food & Wine experience and at many seminars and meals throughout the weekend, and I noticed some trends that to pay attention to in my travels ahead:

The breadth of wines being poured at the event was amazing. You could taste anything from a terrific $10 Chardonnay in the main tasting tent to some of the world’s most sought-after bottles in the reserve seminars, like Domain de la Romanée Conti’s ultra-rare Montrachet—which runs an unbelievable $3,000 a bottle or so.

I also noticed that many wines were produced by family vintners—Pesquera from Spain, Andrew Will in Washington, and Kutch in Sonoma. Plus, former NFL star Drew Bledsoe is working towards his second vintage of Walla Walla Cabernet. Big companies may own many of the top wineries, but there's something very appealing and special about wine being produced by a family. The passion for and joy of winemaking really comes through.

And finally—as always, everyone likes champagne. Wherever I turned, champagne flutes appeared. I drank more champagne than I usually do and thoroughly enjoyed it!

On that note, I'll say cheers to another great year at Pebble Beach Food & Wine! Our company is extending this partnership and presenting the first annual Los Angeles Food & Wine from October 13-16, 2011. Hope you can join us!

Ed Kelly is president/CEO of American Express Publishing, the presenting sponsor of this event and the parent company of Travel +Leisure.