Cruzan Into the End of South Beach Festival

I was invited by Beam Global to a party at the Presidential Suite of The Royal Palm to launch the new Cruzan Strawberry.  Considering this was the middle of the South Beach Food and Wine Festival, I knew that I was obligated to attend as many parties as I could, so Lynn and I were one of the first to arrive.

Cruzan flavored rums are known for their genuine taste and the strawberry is no different.  Whether you are sipping it on ice, mixing it into a cocktail or pouring it on strawberry shortcake (one of the offerings), the latest flavor is definitely a keeper. Of course, while I was checking out the new I also needed to make sure the old was as good as I heard, so I tried the Mango and Black Cherry flavors (separately) with club soda, Coconut with Pineapple Juice and the Pineapple by itself over ice.  I can confirm that they are all good!

We headed back to the Riu South Beach for a good night’s sleep before Sunday’s final day at the Food Network Festival.   I was at the Whole Foods Market Tasting Village for a preview on Friday and I was heading back there for the final day to catch anything I might have missed.  I also had an interview set up with Professor Barry Gum. While I plan on making a full story out of my conversation with the esteemed professor of FIU, the benefiter of the South Beach Food and Wine Festival, I would say the delightful and dedicated (he’s been teaching wine for more than 30 years) Professor Gump was a pleasure to talk to as he doled out the beer his students had produced during the semester.

After the interview, I stopped by the T-Fal tent to sample pasta with Emeril Lagasse’s Vodka Sauce (it definitely doesn’t taste like it came from a jar), a cheeseburger cooked on the chef’s grill and some crispy fries made the healthy way in T-Fal’s ActiFry (impressive). I picked up a bottle of Fiji water and cooled off with it as I passed the cooking demonstrations and headed over to the set-up of The Cosmopolitan, Vegas’ newest offering. There I had some yummy Pink Sangria (blush wine, crème de cassis, simple syrup, soda water and basil leaf), a turkey meatball and some bruschetta before heading into check out some wines and spirits.

There was no way I could pass up a Godiva sign and the Raspberry Chocolate Infused Vodka was well worth a stop. I then went from Diageo vodka to their wine products, stopping at Rosenblum (a favorite since I had a private tasting in August) to see what was new.  Winemaker John Kane gave me a taste of the Rosenblum Cellars Sonoma Zinfandel and I highly recommend this 100% Zin from the Russian River Valley and Northern Sonoma. It’s fruit filled with just enough spice to make it a signature Zinfandel, but not too much that it over powers the dark fruit.  I also tasted the 2008 Rosenblum Cellars Mount Rooso Reserve Zinfandel, a good deal at about $40 and a little more complex and sweeter than most Zins, from an interesting combination of old and new oak (both French and American).

It’s been awhile since I was at Sterling Vineyard so I also stopped by that table to see what was new.  The Sterling Vintner’s Collection Meritage (54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec) was excellent, full of ripe red fruit and a bit of vanilla from 12 months in new and old oak. I also had my first taste of Chalone Vineyard (Monterrey County) Pinot Noir, not quite as dry as most Pinots and a bit lighter.

My next stop was to taste NuManthia, a Spanish wine that was a  full-bodied red, fruit forward with some spice in the finish.  I would definitely put it in the fine wine category, in contrast to my next sampling.  It was my first tasting of Absolute Wild Tea and – especially with a bit of cucumber – it was very good, and nothing like a sweet tea vodka.

I didn’t make it to Penfolds when I was in Australia and I loved their Chardonnay, flavorful but not overly oaky.  I wasn’t a big fan of their Riesling, though, which seemed to have picked up a bit too much Adelaide dust and was way too earthy for me. I had a short time back at the Riu to shower, change and get up my taste buds and appetite for Guy Fieri’s Farewell Beach Bash at the Gansevoort.  It was not at all what I expected – in a good way.  The place was packed and the food and music had a few different offerings, including a selection of Pizza, Wines That Rock and Tito's Vodka. I also got to keep up with the vegetarian motif with a Grilled Cheese and a small ganache covered treat from Misha's Cupcakes.

Everyone knew when Guy appeared on stage by the roar of the crowd. His appeal is wide-ranged (and I also happen to know he’s a nice guy, no pun intended).  He mixed up a large batch of tequila drinks, poured some shots and gave out some autographs, while we all continued to party the final night of the South Beach Food and Wine Festival away. 

Although the official festivities  ended on Sunday, my time in Miami did not. I still have more bars, restaurants and hotels to check out, and of course I will share my findings.


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