Sunday, March 4, 2007

2007 South Beach Wine & Food Festival

On February 23rd-25th, Wine Compass editors participated in the 6th annual Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival. Held in South Beach, Miami, this three day event stretched across several blocks of fine sand on the breath-taking beach. The tremendous turnout was expected, since tickets were sold out weeks in advance. The three days were filled with wine, spirits and food tasting accompanied with food demonstrations by popular Food Network personalities like Emeril, Rachael Ray and David Lieberman. With glass around the neck (due to fabulous contraption which were provided by Target), flip-flops on feet and the excitement in the air, the crowds filled the tents, growing larger each day.

Even though the wine and spirits exhibited were only those distributed by Southern Wine & Spirits of Florida, there was a large selection of excellent wines from throughout the world. There were French wines, Italian and Spanish wines, wines from South America, and of course, North American wines. We were also impressed with the large number of rum distillers, including retailer Tommy Bahamas. Their new rum line was smooth and refreshing; smooth enough to sip over ice or as a mixture with fruit in your favorite collection of boat drinks.

As for the wine, we had the privilege of meeting with three distinct wineries with vast differences in appellation but similar passions in winemaking. Cubanisimo Vineyards owned by Mauricio Collada, Jr., a neurosurgeon found his passion for Pinot Noir during his residence. His personality emulated the bold, full bodied taste of his wine. As written on of each bottle, he extends his desire through his wine to enhance consumer’s life through the palate. This Oregon winery is now producing a rose style Pinot Noir to complement their full bodied red. Click here to view our earlier review of Cubanisimo Vineyards.

Our second stop was at the only Canadian exhibiter - the Mission Hill Family Estate Winery - located in British Columbia. We were very surprised to find that a Canadian winery had supplied such fine wines. We were most impressed with their ice wines. In order to make ice wine, the grapes must remain on the vine for 3 weeks at -7 degrees. This concentrates the sugars in the grape that produces the sweetest dessert wines we had the pleasure to sample. The cost of this special wine is evident due to the fact that it takes seven times the amount of grapes to make one narrow bottle and the conditions must remain perfect in order to harvest the grape. Click here to view our earlier review of Mission Hill Family Estate Winery.

In a completely different realm, we came upon the Gnarly Head representatives. The personalities of these California wines were evident from the bottle decor to their signature wine - Joe Blow Red. Noted as “almost a 100,000 mistake”, this wine was conceived after no one claimed a crate of grapes, so with innovation and quick thinking they produced a concoction that would withstand any critic. The “surfer” laid-back image definitely has an appeal to the 20-30 something generation, both at the festival and probably in California. Click here to view our earlier review of the Gnarly Head Zinfandel.

Another California winery we enjoyed visiting with was Bernardus Winery; our favorite wine, their 2005 Monterey County Pinot Noir. This Carmel Valley winery produces Pinot Noir from grapes grown in three different growing areas in Monterey County. This is a full bodied wine that exudes a raspberry nose with a soft, silky body. The finish is long and slightly spicy.

We could continue forever, describing the great wines we tasted at the festival. A better idea is to convince you to attend next year’s event. The dates for the 7th annual Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival have already been set: February 21st-24th 2008. We have already made our hotel reservations. See you there.

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