Dining in Florida
A Tour of Florida's Winter Wine Festivals
Florida Trend's Restaurant Editor Chris Sherman sends notice of the best of the best wine festivals around the state.
This month uncorks the 2013 vintage of Florida winter wine tastings packed with A-list guests and five-star bottles on both coasts from South Beach to St. Petersburg.
- The parties begin in southwest Florida Jan. 24-27 with the exclusive Naples Winter Wine Fest, one of the richest events in the world. In 12 years, the festival and its donors have raised more than $107 million bidding on fine wines and exotic trips, which has gone to serve children in Naples’ poorest communities.
The event turns out the most famous names in wine like Piero Antinori, Tim Mondavi, John Shafer, Paul Hobbs, Cleo Pahlmeyer, Laurent Ponsot and more. They will be paired with equally sought-after chefs, such as Lee Hefter of Spago, Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern and Barbara Lynch of Menton Boston.
The weekend at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples includes intimate private dinners and a Saturday afternoon auction, a raucous affair that raises more than $5 million in less than four hours. There are still a few ticket packages left at $8,500 per couple. For more information, visit napleswinefestival.com or call 888/837-4919.
- The Sarasota-Manatee Originals throw their own Forks & Corks festival the same weekend. Visiting wine makers include Michael Keenan, Bertrand Ambroise, Leonardo LoCascio and Michael Adelsheim will host wine dinners at local restaurants Friday and Saturday night and a day of seminars Saturday. The event closes with a grand tasting on Sunday, when more than 100 wineries will pour their wines and 50 local restaurants will prepare cuisine to match. Tickets range from $75 to $150. Check freshoriginals.com for details.
- The next round of grand tasting and bidding is Wine Weekend St. Pete hosted by the Stuart Society at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg Feb. 8-10. Franco-American vintner Jean-Claude Boisset and Napa stars Shari and Garen Staglin will be the honored guests at a series of grand meal and a Saturday night auction of fine wines and luxury items. Tickets range from $100 to $280. For information, see wineweekendstpete.org.
- Paula Deen, Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri and all the TV stars of food and wine shine over Miami Beach two weeks later at the Food Network’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Other celebrities include Ming Tsai, Nobu, Nigella Lawson and Marcus Samuelsson will preside over three days of endless seminars, wine tastings, cooking shows, barbecues and banquets from South Beach to Coral Gables. Tickets for most events range from $85 to $225. Information: Sobefest.com.