In South America, a Culinary Showcase

070904_mendoza2.JPGThe idea is simple: bring the world’s top chefs together in a breathtaking environment to prepare gourmet meals paired with exquisite wines.

Twenty years on, the Masters of Food and Wine event, in Carmel, California has established itself as one of the most important gastronomic gatherings on the planet. The roster of participating chefs and vintners over the past two decades includes the most famous names in the business, like Wolfgang Puck, Todd English, Julia Child, Mario Batali, and Nobu Matsuhisa.

Now, this simple idea has come to South America, where the second annual Masters of Food and Wine South America event will take place on February 14-17, 2008 in Mendoza, Argentina. Chefs Christophe David from France, India’s Floyd Cardoz, the U.K.’s Craig James and others will be there to cook at the stunning vineyards in the foothills of the Andes, where Bonarda and Malbec grapes are grown.

Mendoza is one of the world’s eight Great Wine Capitals and the ideal place from which to explore Argentina’s varied wine region, from Salta in the north to Patagonia in the south.

The inaugural Masters South America event was a huge hit earlier this year, and organizers hope to repeat that success this coming February. To help spread the word to oenophiles and foodies in the United States, Park Hyatt Hotels and the Vines of Mendoza are hosting the “Masters of Food and Wine Argentina/USA Tour” this month.

The tour will stop at Park Hyatt hotels in Philadelphia (September 17), Washington (September 19) and Chicago (September 21), featuring a night of Argentine culture and cuisine prepared by acclaimed Argentine chefs, like Fernando Trocca of Buenos Aires’ Sucre and Maximo Togni, head chef at the Argentina Embassy in Washington.

An array of Argentine wines, such as Salentein, Septima, Trapiche, Zuccardi and Catena Zapata, will be available at the dinners and on the three Park Hyatt Hotel’s wine lists.

For wine lovers in Argentina this week, be sure to check out one of South America’s largest and most exclusive wine expos at La Rural in Buenos Aires from September 6-8.

The Vinos y Bodegas Expo hosts dozens of Argentine vintners for tastings, cooking exhibitions and wine classes by the country’s top sommeliers. This is the place to taste the latest vintages of popular Argentine wines, as well as fresh-from-the-barrel boutique blends.

Brian Byrnes