Key West Food and Wine Festival 2016: The Wrap Up

The whiskey events were a great addition to the Key West Food and Wine Festival
The whiskey events were a great addition.

Another year, another Key West Food and Wine Festival in the books. Last week, despite threats of rain, the festival was a huge success. This year, there were plenty of new events, including whiskey tastings and seminars, a cheese seminar and a burlesque show. It made for an exhausting, but entertaining, week. 


At the Hospitality Suite

I spent a lot of my time running the hospitality suite, but managed to get out for several events, starting with the kickoff party. Generally a beach party, the weather was threatening. The day before, as we set up glasses and wine outside for Neighborhood Stroll participants, it began to pour. Thursday nobody was taking any chances, and the folks at the Casa Marina quickly set up the Grand Ballroom for the party. It was a solid backup plan. The food was delicious, and plentiful, wine flowing, and live music added to the party vibe. Would it have been better outside on the sand? Sure. As long as it didn’t rain.

By Friday, festival-goers were enjoying a three course cheese seminar, complete with paired wines. Others enjoyed an impressive lineup of whiskeys, while comparing tasting notes. Friday evening brought the Grand Tasting. This year, there were two, with a special VIP tasting upstairs at the Hyatt.

Just one of the offerings at the VIP Grand Tasting

The VIP tasting was fantastic, with delicious food (I loved the pecan crusted snapper) and superb wines, including a 1997 Soldera Brunello di Montalcino, 1988 Sassacaia and a 2007 Caldwell Cabernet Sauvignon. The Grand Tasting had an assortment of wines, as well as St. George spirits (try the raspberry liquor – it is amazing), and a full line up of High West whiskeys, as well as a fantastic cheese and fruit platter. While the ides of two simultaneous tastings was a bit confusing for some, I had a great time, and enjoyed it all. It seemed most of the other wine drinkers did too.

By Saturday afternoon, the sun was shining and everyone was ready for Duval Uncorked, the mile long wine tasting down Duval Street. The twenty stops along the way included local galleries, shops, restaurants and guest houses, all welcoming the happy crowd with two or three choices of wine. There really is no better way to enjoy Duval Street than with 300 like-minded people, with glasses of wine in hand.

Spaghetti on the beach… just beautiful.

Finally, the last event of the week for me, was a new one: Spaghetti en Spiaggia con il Vino (Spaghetti on the beach, with wine.) While the last part of the name was a bit obvious (it is, after all, a wine festival), but the event was spectacular. Three long tables set up beautifully on the beach at Casa Marina, the ambassador from Castello Banfi, Luciano Castiello was on site to talk wine and all things Italy, and the sixty lunch guests had a marvelous time. The family style meal was gorgeous, and enabled everyone to eat what they enjoy. Caesar salad was deconstructed, so you could add your own croutons, dressing and cheese. (One of my friends was not a fan of the DIY salad, so I assembled his. I’m just that good to my friends.) Also on the table, beautiful antipasti platters with vegetables and mozzarella, a seafood platter with mussels, clams and mahi mahi in a tomato sauce, and, of course, spaghetti and meatballs. The Banfi wines – Pinot Grigio, a Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc blend, Pinot Noir and Chianti – all paired perfectly with the food and the ambiance. It was a truly relaxing way to end the weekend.

The festival was, as usual, a big success, and I am already looking forward to 2017. But first, a good, long nap.