Festivals for Wine Lovers

Originally published in Lake & Sumter Style, October 2011 •


Food and wine festivals can be fun learning experiences for wine enthusiasts. The good news is you do not have to travel beyond Florida to find some of the best wine festivals in the country. The bad news is they can be budget busters if you don’t plan ahead.

16th Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

Sept. 30 – Nov. 13, 2011 • Walt Disney Resort

The granddaddy of wine festivals has to be the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, a six- week extravaganza that showcases food and wine pairings from around the world. You can certainly eat your way through the International Marketplace where 25 different countries have kiosks featuring tapas-size portions of food along with suggested wines or beers. A festival guide map is available online describing each country’s offerings, which range from $3 to $8 per serving.

Many visitors spend so much time trekking through Epcot’s six continents that they never make it to the very educational and informative seminars by leading winemakers and beverage experts. The seminars offer pairing tips and wine tastings in relaxed, air-conditioned classroom environments. Are you interested in organic wines? Then you may want to attend seminars with representatives from Chile’s Emiliana Organic Vineyards. Have you ever wondered about the difference between California and Chilean cabernets? Wineries from both regions will host a few same-day seminars. Different speakers are featured each day so it’s best to check the online schedule for topics of interest to you. Beverage seminars are $10 to $12 each and reservations are required

Culinary demonstrations, seminars, and the “Party for the Senses” are extra costs over the theme park’s admission price. Plan ahead to get the most bang for your buck by checking the menus, topics, and prices online. Reservations are recommended.

2nd Annual Boca Raton Wine & Food Festival

Nov. 11-12, 2011 • El Camino Real in Boca Raton

One-third of a mile along Boca Raton’s picturesque El Camino Real will be transformed into a lavish walkway of elaborately decorated countries and regions during the Boca Raton Wine & Food Festival. More than 70 South Florida chefs will prepare their favorite dishes, and premier vintners will offer tastings of world-class wines during this two-day event. Sensory tasting classes, cooking demonstrations, outdoor art galleries, and live entertainment are planned for this outdoor culinary affair that is described as a gastronomic journey of tastes. Tickets are $85 for Saturday’s events, and $175 for the two-day VIP admission which includes dinner. For more information, visit bocaratonwineandfoodfestival.com.

11th Annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Feb. 23-26, 2012 • Miami Beach

Sponsored by The Food Network, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival has grown into a four-day culinary extravaganza that attracts more than 50,000 people from around the world. Luminaries from the network will dish about their favorite recipes, but the event is also a wine-lover’s mecca. The Wine Spectator wine seminars offer serious education for both novices and aficionados who want to know more about specific wines, grapes and the techniques used to create  award-winning vintages. This year’s highlights also include actor Antonio Banderas, who will discuss his Anta Banderas Winery in Ribera del Duero, Spain, and 11th generation Austrian glassmaker Maximilian Riedel, who will prove how the right glass can enhance a wine’s aroma and taste. Seminar events begin at $100 each and tickets will go on sale Oct. 24 at sobefest.com.

4th Annual Wine & Seafood Festival

March 23-25, 2012 • Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards

Large festivals can seem like sensory overload in addition to being budget busters. If you prefer staying closer to home and you like Florida seafood, then don’t miss the Lakeridge Annual Wine & Seafood Festival near Clermont. Seafood is the perfect complement to Lakeridge wines, especially the Stover Reserve and the Blanc du Bois.

The winery has many events throughout the year, including a chocolate festival in December, but the Wine & Seafood Festival has become its signature event. For only a $2 donation, you can experience great springtime weather, music, arts and crafts, wine tours and tastings. Seafood specialties are purchased separately but certainly won’t break the bank. For more information, visit lakeridgewinery.com.

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