Top Florida Food and Wine Festivals

Ten culinary getaways that make the A-list

 

Planning a trip around a food and wine festival adds an extra punch to any vacation. No matter when you travel to the Sunshine State, there’s almost always a foodie fest on the calendar. Here’s the lowdown, along with where to stay for easy access to all the culinary happenings.

January

Uncorked the Key Largo & Islamorada Food & Wine Festival, Jan. 9-18, 2015

Probably the longest-running food and wine festival in Florida, it goes for 10 days, offering wine tasting events, cooking demonstrations, wine dinners, food and wine pairing classes, progressive wine dinners, art and wine shows, and of course, live music and fabulous sunsets.

Our Picks: Restaurants in both Key Largo and Islamorada have specially designed casual events, like Meatballs and Martinis at Jimmy Johnson’s Big Chill and Bubbles and Burgers at Snappers, or you can attend the Grand Tasting at the Postcard Inn and sample the islands’ flavors with some great wines.

Stay: If a luxury resort is your thing, then book a room at the Cheeca Lodge & Spa where you can find privacy and all the amenities you want along with a setting on the Atlantic Coast. No matter where you stay, there’s only one main road, U.S. Highway 1, so getting around is easy. BOOK NOW

Forks & Corks, Sarasota, Jan. 23-25, 2015

Sarasota’s indie chefs and restaurant owners partner with visiting winemakers to present elaborate dinners in choice restaurants and Sunday’s Grand Tasting event. Those eager to learn more about wine can attend the Forks & Corks University.

Our Pick: Held in the courtyard of the Ringling Museum of Art, surrounded by classical sculptures and architecture reminiscent of Old Europe, Sunday’s Grand Tasting is a delicious soiree in one of Florida’s most beautiful settings. Sample fine wines and dishes prepared by Sarasota’s talented chefs.

Stay: Make your home base at the Hotel Indigo in downtown Sarasota. This boutique hotel with its periwinkle and white walls, sheer billowing draperies and oversize Adirondack lobby chairs brings the relaxation of the beach indoors. From its central location you can easily drive to any of the events. Book Now

Key West Food and Wine Festival, Jan. 27-Feb. 1, 2015

The wildest of all the food and wine fetes, this festival because of its sheer location attracts a crowd that knows how to sip, savor and party in the most laid-back, anything-goes way. Bring shorts and flip-flops.

Our Picks: Sample vinos during the Wine Around Neighborhood Strolls, Jan. 28, as you tour the Bahama Village, Historic Seaport and other neighborhoods. The Grand Tasting, Jan. 30, is the biggest and best presentation of premium wines and food. Hop on a trolley that drops you at the historic shrimp docks for the Key West Shrimp Boil at Hogfish Bar & Grill, Jan. 31.

Stay: The landmark La Concha Key West sits right smack in the middle of Duval Street, the island’s main thoroughfare, walking distance to most events. BOOK NOW

February

South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Feb. 19-22, 2015

Starry-eyed foodies are right in their element when the South Beach Wine and Food Festival takes over SoBe and brings Food Network’s celeb chefs to town for four days of sampling and sipping at 50-plus events.

Our Pick: The Grand Tasting Village, Feb. 21 to 22, held on the beach with cooking demos by the who’s who of culinary rock stars, wine samplings galore and new product launches.

Stay: If you can get a room here, the Loews Miami Beach Hotel is steps from the sands where big tents for events are set up. It’s abuzz with activity and a good spot to spy celeb chefs who often stay at this 790-room beachfront resort with their entourages. BOOK NOW

March

Boca Bacchanal, Boca Raton, March 27-29, 2015

The weekend festival events include multi-course Vintner Dinners in private Boca Raton residences; Saturday’s Bacchus Bash; and Sunday’s Grand Tasting in the Mizner Park Amphitheatre, with 30 bite stations and 140 featured wines.

Our Pick: Bacchus Bash is held in the elegant, historic setting of the Boca Raton Resort & Club. The champagne flows as you meet and greet 14 chefs and vintners then sample signature cuisine and prized wines. Auctions, music and dancing and a dessert bar with liqueurs rounds out the evening.

Stay: The Boca Raton Resort is the place to stay, whether you attend one or all three events. Here you can enjoy your weekend with downtime at the beach club, a round of golf and a spa treatment. BOOK NOW

April

Bern’s Winefest, Tampa, April 16-20, 2015

Tampa’s famous Bern’s Steak House is known for its exquisite wine cellar filled with some of the world’s best wines. That said, if you’re looking for a smaller festival to sate your taste buds, this is it. A handful of winemaker dinners and parties are held at Bern’s and its sibling restaurant SideBern’s; the choice of wines served will blow you away.

Our Pick: Sunday’s Grand Tasting is by far the choice event where a selection of impressive wines and culinary creations from the kitchens of the Bern’s restaurants are presented. Afterwards make your way to the wine shop to buy a bottle or case of the best vino you discovered at the event.

Stay: Book a room at the Epicurean Hotel, the newest addition to the Bern’s family, which is across the street from Bern’s Steak House. The urban chic hotel is in Tampa’s fashionable SoHo (South Howard Avenue) district. BOOK NOW

May

Fort Lauderdale’s Las Olas Wine & Food Festival, May 1, 2015

Some 70 South Florida restaurants and 40-plus wineries set up tables on Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale’s most fashionable street, for this delicious festival. Complementing the main event is a VIP party and additional restaurant and on-site events.

Our Pick: Parading the boulevard and sampling local bites along with pours of wine and even some tastes of the latest spirits concoctions is what this Friday night tasting event is all about. Arrive early and stay late because the crowd is one of South Florida’s best.

Stay: If you want to step out your door and be in the middle of the festival, stay at the Riverside Hotel tucked between Las Olas Boulevard and the New River. BOOK NOW

September-October

Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, Sept. 19-Nov. 10, 2014

Experience another side of Walt Disney World with a trip to Epcot’s food and wine bash. The theme park event is so popular that Disney extends it every year (now at 46 days) with more seminars, tastings, cooking demos and wine-paired sit-down dinners.

Our picks: Besides sampling wine and bites from various countries at the kiosks set up in the park’s World Showcase, consider attending Saturday evening’s Party for the Senses. Chefs present tastes of their favorite dishes alongside wine experts serving pours from around the globe in an elegant, yet casual, venue; performers from Cirque du Soleil entertain throughout the evening.

Stay: Why not splurge with grand luxury and stay at the brand-new Four Seasons, just a quick door-to-door motor coach ride away from the festival. The resort’s Disney Planning Center can take care of all your tickets and theme park reservations. BOOK NOW

November

Seeing Red Wine Festival, Seaside, Nov. 6-9, 2014

Wine events are held throughout the beach town of Seaside. This is Northwest Florida’s premier event where guests enjoy wine, music, Southern hospitality, and the sand and surf of the Gulf of Mexico. Choose from a vintner dinner at Bud & Alley’s beachfront restaurant, a champagne tasting and outdoor festivals designed for swirling and sipping.

Our Pick: Saturday afternoon’s Seeing Red Grand Tasting is held on the streets of downtown Seaside, where you can stroll from tent to tent and sample some 600 wines, then mosey over to beach for sunset. Before you leave visit the retail tent and take home a case of your new favorite wine.

Stay: Combine your wine adventure with beach time and stay at the WaterColor Inn & Resort in the neighboring community of WaterColor, right smack on the sands and just a short walk from Seaside on Scenic Highway 30-A. BOOK NOW

December

Palm Beach Food & Wine Fest, Dec. 11-14, 2014

Events are held at some of Palm Beach’s best venues, from the Breakers, a treasured historic hotel, to the more contemporary Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach and from the hottest restaurants to Worth Avenue, one of the country’s most elite shopping streets.

Our Picks: Friday night’s red carpet Chef Welcome Party is the official kick-off worth attending for its luxe setting at the Breakers resort and the samplings prepared by the hotel’s executive chef Jeff Simms, along with exquisite wines and specialty cocktails. A fun event is Saturday’s Chillin’ N Grillin’ where TV food personalities reinvent the burger poolside at the Four Seasons.

Stay: The Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach is the official host for the festival. Book a room and you’ll be in the center of the action. Since many of the events are held here, including the Late Night Rock hosted by Food Network’s Jeff Mauro, you can party hearty and then just retire to your room. BOOK NOW

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