Monday, March 1, 2010

South Beach Wine and Food Festival Finale

The finale of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival was as tasty as the previous days as I learned about Spanish wines and then sampled a bit of everything.

I was back in the classroom Sunday morning.  This time it was to learn about wines from Spain and who better to teach that than Doug (no relation) Frost, author of 2008 Wines from Spain Far from Ordinary Wine Guide.  It's been years since I was in Spain and I was quickly taken out of any preconceived notions of the $5-10 wine the country had poured with no consideration to quality years ago.  We had 10 wines to taste and, though they were all still moderately priced ($17-45), it was clear how the third most producer of wine in the world has earned that position.

It was Cava I had chosen this seminar for, on assignment for Crave Magazine, but as in the previous day's seminar, Doug Frost kept it fun and moving as he took us through some of the growing regions, like Rioja, Galicia and La Mancha. We tasted a wide variety from the Cava Segura Viudas, Aria Estate, to the very light Morgadio Albarino Rias Baixas (I would have loved to take a bottle of this down to the beach) and the heavier Pago de Vallegarcia Syrah.

After the 10 wine tasting, I decided to take a walk along the beach to the Whole Foods Tasting Village, which was actually on the sand.  It was a brisk (for Florida) 60 degree day, but the warm sun and the blue ocean made for an inviting break (and a chance to burn of some of these calories).  It wasn't nearly enough as the festival's village was an endless array of food and drinks that one could not imagine without being there.  I had done a few quick tastings the day before, but it was time to get serious.  I grabbed some delicious pasta at the Barilla booth and got working.

It is physically impossible to taste everything at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, though I'm sure many tried.  I was able to do some immediately elimination based on my seafood allergy, but that still left quite a bit to eat.  There was such a great assortment (including some tasty dishes from Tasting Village sponsor Whole Foods), but here are a few that stick in my mind...

The French Cheese & Wine tent, with Ile de France cheeses and some great French wines, including Champagne Henriot..

Ty Ku Japanese spirits-The Soju was delicious (and under 100 calories).

Villa de Borgo Pinot Grigio-I must put an Italian wine trip somewhere on my schedule.

Kahlua-While I've been busy with wine and hard spirits, this old favorite came in with (incredible) French Vanilla and Hazelnut flavors.

Allen Brothers Steaks-Some great beef in every presentation.

I tried a number of wines from California vineyards in my Waterford crystal glass (with a handy neckstrap) which I am definitely considering adding to my upcoming Napa trip. And a special mention to Lindt chocolates for those wonderful bars they were giving out.  After all, I day isn't complete without a little dark chocolate.

Since the Food Network is the top sponsor of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, there were also plenty of cooking and appearances throughout the Tasting Village by some of the network's major chefs, Emeril Lagasse, Paula Deen, Guy Feri, Rachel Ray and many others.  There was no one that left there hungry and we all went home with samples too.

All proceeds from the South Beach Wine & Food Festival will benefit the Florida International University (FIU) School of Hospitality and Tourism.  Prior to this year, the festival had raised a combined $8 million for the school. 

Look for additional stories on my Examiner Wine and Spirits Travel column.

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