Travel and wine lovers can sip, savor and explore vineyards from around the world at a wine festival. If your schedule doesn’t allow a trip this year to Napa, California, or Bordeaux, France, check out one of the wine festivals on Florida’s west coast. Be forewarned: tickets often sell out months in advance.
SARASOTA: FLORIDA WINEFEST & AUCTION
Called “America’s Friendliest Winefest,” Sarasota’s annual event has drawn winemakers, wine collectors, writers and lovers to enjoy a wide range of unique tastings and dinners, leading up to the live and silent auction. It is “unparalleled in the United States,” says David Elswood, Christie’s International guest auctioneer.
Winemaker dinners are held in fine restaurants and private homes during the event.
Proceeds from this and other related events held during the year have awarded more than $8.5 million in grants to 85 charities since the nonprofit organization was established in 1991.
TAMPA: BERN’S WINEFEST
Bern’s Winefest is Central Florida’s top wine-tasting event. The eight-day food and wine event features top culinary teams complemented by the best wines from around the world. It’s an opportunity to taste more than 200 top-rated wines, arranged by country of origin and paired with culinary delights from Bern’s Steak House, Haven, and the Epicurean hotels’ Elevage and Edge. A silent auction offers dozens of travel opportunities as wineries from all over the world donate unique items.
PLANNING AHEAD FOR NEXT YEAR
NAPLES: WINTER WINE FESTIVAL
This multiday charity event features celebrity chef-hosted dinners and an auction. It also tops Wine Spectator magazine’s list of the highest-earning charity wine auctions in the country and offers once-in-a-lifetime travel, including “behind-the-scenes” adventures. Since its 2001 inception, it has raised more than $176 million for children in need. The annual soiree is held at The Ritz-Carlton, and ticket packages for the 2019 event started at $12,500 a couple for a Double Magnum package and $30,000 for two couples for a Jeroboam package.
SARASOTA: FORKS & CORKS FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL
Tickets went on sale in November 2018 and sold out immediately. The 2019 Forks & Corks Food & Wine Festival, presented by the Sarasota-Manatee Originals, began with a series of winemaker dinners. Taking place at participating Originals restaurants across Sarasota, Manatee and Venice, the 2019 winemaker dinners featured extravagant multicourse dinners with top wineries such as Chateau Lagrange from Bordeaux; Iron Horse Vineyards from Sonoma, California; Paul Cluver Wines from Elgin, South Africa; and others. The community was peppered with “pop-up” retail tasting tents, hosted by some of the area’s leading local wine merchants, and formal events ranged from large gatherings to intimate get-togethers. A multiday epicurean event was held in the courtyard of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the ballroom of Michael’s On East and other venues across the region.
Photos by Rod Millington