What is better than a glass of pinot noir in the middle of the afternoon? Sixteen of them. Every year, nearing the end of February, the South Beach Food and Wine Festival rolls around, and I avoid it like the plague. Why? Really? You have to ask? OK, then I will share: it is overcrowded, overpriced and full of annoying people (maybe it is just too many people, that is a real possibility.)
The wine tasting on Saturday afternoon is a whopping $225/person. Not to mention the hassle of parking, or taking some sort of car service, and the fact that you can hardly even get to the tables as there are so many people. Not my cup of pinot. If you want to go to an event with good food and good wine, you can try Best of the Best tasting. The BoB tickets go for $350/person. I will take the uncrowded, unpretentious Key West Food and Wine Festival any day over SoBe.
One of the great things that comes out of this weekend, however, is the annual Pinot Party at Sunset Corners. Sunset Corners (located on Sunset Drive and Galloway Road in Miami) is one of the best shops around. Great wines, knowledgeable people and free tastings all the time. It is hard to expect more than that.
Each year, for the past several, to coincide with the SoBe festival, several small California Pinot Noir producers set up tables inside the shop and let customers come and taste. Andrew Vingello from AP Vin, Brian Loring from Loring Wine Company, Roger Roessler from Roessler Cellars and the folks from Pali, this year Aaron Walker, the winemaker and John Ireland, the Southeast sales guy were on hand pouring and answering questions.
There are a few things that make this one of the most fun tastings of the year.
- You meet and talk to the winemakers and people that are involved in the companies, not just a distributor or sales person (not that there is anything wrong with that)
- You can get as much information as you want on each wine, vineyard, barrel, etc. More than you probably ever wanted to know.
- You can try before you buy. All wines are available for purchase.
- Each and every one of the winemakers is genuinely happy to be there meeting customers. You can just tell.
- It is free. Yep, that is correct. There is no charge to attend this tasting. Although it was crowded this year (which I think had more to do with Antonio Banderas showing up for a few minutes to pimp his wines than anything else…) it was fairly easy to navigate and taste whatever we wanted.
I have bought wine from all of these producers for many years, and enjoy tasting the new vintages, as well as schmoozing with the guys behind the wines. I look forward to this event every year.