Mmm ... this wine does go well with the wieners
Mmm ... this wine does go well with the wieners
Michael Katz

Sommelier Dynamite

Like a fine pinot noir, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival is ever evolving. This year tickets have been limited in order to guarantee that glasses of wine and culinary samples won't run dry, and no one under the age of 21 (including children in strollers) will be permitted in the Grand Tasting Village. Steps have been taken to ensure that parking will not be a problem for the thousands of eager local and visiting gourmets. So slip into a comfortable, stretchy-yet-chic South Beach ensemble, and get ready for a decadent belly-buster of a weekend.

If you've seen the film Sideways, you know wine experts take their love of the juice to almost fetishistic extremes, going on and on about subtle scents and flavors. Watch, taste, and learn from the best at the Master Sommelier Blind Tasting. At the "Best of the Best," the stars of the culinary world will align as 27 California wineries present their finest reserves, and a dozen of the hottest chefs provide generous samples of their signature dishes.

The Grand Tasting Village will make foodies feel like they've died and gone to culinary heaven. Siam River, Chispa, M. Woods, Pasha's, Norman's, Ruth's Chris Steak House, North One 10, Miss Yip, and Ortanique on the Mile all have tasting tables here. Indulge your sweet tooth as Frieze Ice Cream Factory, Sublime Sweets, and Ghirardelli will be offering samples of their goodies. You'll also find representatives from the ingredient-producing companies you're used to seeing on grocery store shelves, all with something tempting to offer. Barilla will introduce its new line of healthy pasta made from multigrains and legumes, and Flavored IceShots will provide edible, fruit-flavored, frozen shot glasses for those who like to gulp down their alcohol. Feeling overwhelmed by all the libations and munchies? Stop by the Evian Oasis, a tranquil lounge area where you can get misted with high quality agua and sip watery "cocktails," like Evian ginger lemonade.

Wine goes great with gourmet food, but who says beer is the only alcoholic beverage that can be paired with down home favorites? At the "Wienies for Winies Seminar," chow down on an assortment of wild-game sausages, including jalapeño elk and pheasant with mushrooms, and slug back glasses of vino specially picked to compliment the tube steaks. At the "Make It a Blockbuster Night" seminar, see how classy chardonnay can compliment nachos, chicken wings, and pepperoni pizza.

The final event of this weekend of gastronomic delights promises to be a hoot. At the Belvedere Bartenders Bash, watch a dozen bartenders compete to create the perfect vodka cocktail. Make the tasting rounds and nibble on hors d'oeuvres while the potent concoctions come before a jury of celebrity judges. The odds of running into a famous food-related television personality this weekend are high. Mario Batali, Nigella Lawson, Nobuyuki "Nobu" Matsuhisa, Anthony Bourdain, Rachel Ray, Martin Yan, Al Roker, and Emeril "Bam!" Lagasse will all be making the rounds.


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