Today: United Way Miami Wine & Food Festival Kicks Off 17th Annual Edition

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It might not have the swag or bravado of its nationally-recognized

cousin the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, but the 17th annual edition of

the United Way Miami Wine & Food Festival definitely has a lot to offer. Best

of all, and unlike SBWFF, proceeds go to a charity that strengthens the

community with programs designed to improve education, income, and health in

Southern Florida.

"The UWMWFF brings together beer, spirits, wine and food

lovers for a spectacular four-day festival," the United Way said in a statement

on its website. "It kicks off with a Best in Glass Month, top sommeliers,

notable chefs, prestigious wineries and winemakers, breweries and impressive

auction lots, all to benefit the South Florida community."

The festival runs from Wednesday, April 18 to Saturday,

April 21 in locations across South Florida. Here's a quick look at this year's


Best in Glass Month
March 12 - April 18

A two-day full scale graded wine tasting competition was held at Miami Culinary Institute January 8 and 9, 2012 and judged by 18 of South Florida's top sommeliers. The sommeliers graded the wines and awarded the top entrants gold, silver or bronze medals. Wines are then featured at elite restaurants throughout the South Florida community. A complete list of sommeliers and participating restaurants can be found at the festival's website.

Brews & Bites Craft Beer Tasting
April 18, 6 to 9 p.m. $55-$75; Mary Brickell Village, 901 S Miami Ave., Miami

In just its second year, the craft beer tasting attempts to appeal to a younger crowd and is already one of the MWFF's most popular events (and its most affordable). Dozens of tasting stations are set up throughout Mary Brickell Village for guests to tap into nearly 100 craft beers and micro-brews from 40 national breweries and distributors. Coupled with creations from nearly 30 different South Florida restaurants, Brews & Bites is definitely worth the price of admission.

Taste & Toast Fine Wine Tasting
April 19, 6 to 9 p.m. $75-$150; Village at Merrick Park, 358 San Lorenzo Ave., #3000, Coral Gables

Taste & Toast offers the opportunity to sample culinary pairings from over 35 local restaurants along with more than 200 wines and 65 wine producers from around the world. In addition, a "Sip and Tweet" competition will award the winner prizes from the festival's organizers and sponsors.

Food, Friends & Fun Interactive Dinner
April 20, 6:30 p.m. (Reception); 7:30 p.m. (Dinner); $400. Fontainebleau, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

Top Chef winner and Johnson & Wales grad Kevin Sbraga leads an interactive dinner at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach sponsored by Bacardi. We know what you're thinking, $400 and I cook my own food? The sheer fun of the experience, however, keeps participants coming back year after year. Who knows, you may also pick up a few techniques you can try with the family or on a hot date at home. The evening begins with a cocktail reception and silent auction and transitions into a mixture of food experimentation and a live auction in-between courses.

April 21, 6:30 p.m. (Reception); 7:30 p.m. (Dinner); $250. Fontainebleau, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

Fontainebleau executive chef Thomas Connell hosts this gastronomic experience inspired by the hotel's signature restaurants -- from modern steakhouse and refined Italian to four-star haute Chinese. Guests will also enjoy stunning auction lots, entertainment and gold medal-winning wines from the Best in Glass Wine Challenge.

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