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Friday, March 5, 2010

Cheers to the 2010 South Beach Wine and Food Festival!

This year marked the 9th annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival, one of my favorite wine & food events of the year! It is billed as "a national, star-studded, four-day destination event showcasing the talents of the world’s most renowned wine and spirits producers, chefs and culinary personalities." If you have a passion for food and/or wine, this is definitely the event for you! There is such a variety of events to choose from, ranging from a $525 dinner honoring Chef Daniel Boulud to the $25 Kids Kitchen interactive seminar.

This year Steve and I attended two seminars given by two fabulous wine experts: Kevin Zraly and Gary Vaynerchuck. I love the seminar format because you really get to interact with your instructor, ask questions and always come away learning something new and fun. The seminars were held at the very hip and oh so trendy W Hotel on Miami's South Beach.

The "One-Hour Italian Wine Expert" seminar was presented by wine expert and "ultimate wine educator," Kevin Zraly. Probably best known for his tenure at Windows on the World Restaurant, located in the north tower of the World Trade Center, he was with the restaurant from its opening in 1976 until its tragic demise on September 11, 2001. Zraly is the founder and teacher of the revered Windows on the World Wine School and has been teaching wine for over 30 years. He also authored the Windows on the World Complete Wine Course, and the 25th Anniversary Edition was just published in 2009. Having read and heard so much about him, I was very excited to take his class!

The seminar was a guided tasting of seven quintessential Italian wines: Chianti Classico Riserva, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino, Barbera, Barbaresco, Barolo, and Amarone. Representing three of Italy's 20 wine regions, Tuscany, Piedmont and Veneto, Mr. Zraly took us through the process of classifying each wine starting with the country and finishing with the grape varietal (i.e. Barolo is from Italy, the Piedmont region and is made from the Nebbiolo grape.) We were even required to use the requisite Italian hand-shaking gesture while repeating in unison "Neb-bi-O-LO" (likewise for "Sangio-VE-SE.") Zraly's dynamic and witty style was immensely enjoyable and kept us all very engaged in the presentation.

The Wines:
1. 2005 Antinori Chianto Classico Riserva Tenute Marchese
2. 2006 Boscarelli Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
3. 2004 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino
4. 2008 Renato Ratti Barbera d'Alba
5. 2004 Pio Cesare Barbaresco
6. 2004 Prunotto Barolo
7. 2004 Allegrini Amarone Della Valpolicella

If you're a fan of Italian wine you can definitely appreciate this list! It includes some fabulous wines from some very well-known Italian producers. My favorites of the list included the Brunello di Montalcino which was perfectly balanced with wonderful fruit nicely mellowed with some age; the Renato Ratti Barbera D'Alba with its interesting flavors of dark fruit and cassis; the Pio Cesare Barbaresco with its delicious plum flavors; and the Amarone with its raisiny overtones, high alcohol content and hint of residual sugar - definitely a great pairing for chocolate! Overall, this was a fabulous seminar and it was such a pleasure meeting one of America's best and most entertaining wine educators!

The other seminar we attended was entitled "The Pulse of the Wine Word with Gary Vaynerchuck." It was designed to improve our "wine self-esteem," empower our palates and introduce us to some up-and-coming wines from some emerging wine-producing regions.

I am a fan of Vaynerchuck's refreshingly irreverent approach to wine and the wine industry. He is the host of Wine Library TV a video blog which he describes as "the Internet's most passionate wine program" and Director of Operations at Wine Library in Springfield, NJ. In addition to his passion for wine, he is also a marketing expert and has recently published a book entitled "Crush It! Why Now is the Time to Cash in on Your Passion." It is a guide to using the power of the Internet and social media to turn your passion into your profession. I am a big fan of the book and Gary was nice enough to sign my copy after the seminar - thanks, Gary!

The Wines:
1. Juve y Camps Cava Brut Rose (Spain)
2. Trapiche Torrontes (Argentina)
3. Wachau Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Terrassen (Austria)
4. Mastroberardino Greco di Tufo (Italy)
5. Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais-Villages (France)
6. Amisfield Pinot Noir (New Zealand)
7. Delas Châteauneuf-du-Pape (France)

Once we had given each wine a swirl, a "sniffy-sniff" and a taste, we expressed our feelings about each one through a show of hands. The scale including "loved it", "liked it", "meh", "disliked it" and "hated it." While none fell into my "loved it" category, my favorites were the Torrontes with its intense floral aromas, citrus flavors and bright acidity; the Grüner Veltliner with flavors of peach and white pepper; the Pinot Noir with cherry and currant flavors and nice acidity; and the Châteauneuf du Pape with flavors of blackberry and fig and a nice, long finish. Vaynerchuck encouraged us to continue broadening our palates by frequently trying new wines and not limiting our experiences to the mass produced varietals and styles we frequently see on store shelves.

After a long and enjoyable day of learning (and drinking) in Miami Beach we decided to swing by Joe's Stone Crab for dinner before heading home. Established in 1913, Joe's is an institution and "the place" to go for Florida stone crabs - next time you're in Miami I highly recommend it! It was a delicious meal and the perfect ending to a fabulous day. I'm already looking forward to South Beach Wine & Food Festival 2011 - Cheers!


  1. Oh! How exciting! I would love to attend these fabulous events some day! I too love Vaynerchuck's Wine TV.

  2. I am glad to find your blog..... it is very eventful and interesting.... like this Special Wine and Food Festival itself :-)

    Sawadee from Bangkok,

  3. Dahling, I do not remember getting the phone call to attend with you! LOL I love both of them, since I had the privelage of going to the WTC and having cocktails and dinner, as well as I live in Gary's country! Those crab claws- OMG'd!

    In Dallas, we had these events so often, but have been disappointed none exist in NJ, maybe one tasting but no lectures, etc., only Joe Canals a retailer will hold classes...

  4. Stephanie,
    We have a lot in common. I was a member of the Junior League of Portland, ME and created and edited their cookbook RSVP. I consider the cookbook my forth child.

    I love wine - particularly the reds and the blends.

    Thank you for stopping by.


  5. I love Junior League cookbooks and have many of them on my shelf. I like to buy them from wherever we travel.

    I would have loved attending those seminars! My daughter worked in a fine Italian restaurant for a few years and became very knowledgeable in fine Italian wines. I recognize some of those wonderful bottles!

    Thanks for your visit to my place ;)

  6. Sounds like you had a marvelous time, Stephanie! South Beach is host to so many exciting events; I love going down there.

    You can't beat Joe's. I first went there in the 50's and have been going back off and on ever since. Their fried eggplant is fabulous!

  7. I am absolutely green with envy. What a wonderful food and wine event. You look like you had a great time.

  8. I would love to have attended a party such as this. What fun and I am definitely bookmarking this so I can keep the lists of wines to give them a try sometime.

    Thanks for the comment on my blog. I use a Nikon D700 for my photos and it has been a great investment. I also have a D70 that I enjoy as well.

  9. What a fabulous event to attend! the wines sound excellent!

  10. So glad to hear there are so many Junior League fans! Wow, Carol, way to go for heading up your League's cookbook, RSVP. That must have been some experience! Also, Barbara I've never had the eggplant at Joe's Stone Crab but sooooo look forward to trying. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. All those wines are making me tipsy. Great event and post.



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