Key West Food and Wine Festival: Champagne and Shoe Free

Pouring (and sipping) champagne on the beach. Life doesn’t get better.

Key West Food and Wine Festival springs up at the end of January every year to bring our little town something we desperately need: booze. (That was sarcasm, my friends, as we have plenty of booze and boozy events in Key West; the Food and Wine Festival just classes them up a bit.) 

Lots of happy festival-goers.

The five-day event brings tastings, seminars, dinners, and a host of other activities for locals and visitors to enjoy together. This year I worked my butt off. I know, I know: drinking wine can not be considered hard work. Sorry. Not sorry. The truth is that I was working, but also managed to have a great time.

I partnered with Celebrity Cruises for the festival, and they sponsored the Grand Tasting. And so I found myself at several events, and the hospitality suite, representing Celebrity. (Spoiler alert: I love Celebrity, think it’s an excellent cruise line, and I book it for clients, and for many of my own vacations.)

Bubbles a-plenty!

I set up my table at the Welcome Party and immediately began what would be an exhausting quest for a corkscrew. I hadn’t brought my own. (Rookie mistake, but I am a travel agent, not a wine rep.) I spotted my friend Joey, corkscrew in hand and immediately demanded he hand it over. “But it is my favorite corkscrew,” he protested. I told him not to worry; he would get it back as soon as I got my folding chairs back. You see, he borrowed said chairs about a year and a half ago, and they seem to have taken up permanent residence at his house. While I enjoyed the chairs immensely at his holiday party, I still would like them back. Plus, it was my only bargaining chip. Eventually, I relented and gave him back the corkscrew. Now he has the corkscrew and my chairs, and I have nothing.

By Friday evening, I had greeted people, poured wine, given out glasses, checked people in for trolley tours, and was ready to start enjoying the champagne. As it turned out, Celebrity Cruises was sponsoring the Grand Tasting, and in keeping with the brand’s Modern Luxury theme, they had sponsored the bubbly. I knew it would be good, since, well, I picked it out. We were pouring NV Charles Heidsieck Brut, and I felt obligated to taste and make sure it was okay. Our table became the most popular spot as we poured, and paired chocolate covered strawberries. It didn’t hurt that we were next to the food table full of pasta, vegetables, and other tasty tidbits (and although I didn’t indulge – there was  a winemaker dinner still to come – it all smelled delicious).

The best part? No corkscrew needed!

Strawberries, chocolate, and champagne. YUM.

Before guests began arriving for the tasting, I ditched my shoes. (“Shoes” may be a bit of an overstatement, as I only wear closed toed shoes if I am working out or am traveling somewhere where there is snow on the ground.) Barefoot on the beach is perfectly acceptable, so the flip flops were ditched in favor of sand between my toes. Some of my favorite sips and swirls of the evening, besides the champagne, of course, came from Hahn, Banfi, and Baileyana.

The beach, sand in your toes, delicious wine and champagne (and rum and vodka), mixed with good food and perfect weather makes for an evening full of happy people. Seriously, if you can’t be happy in paradise, with a plastic cup full of wine (it was on the sand – no glass allowed), enjoying a glorious evening, well, then we can’t be friends.

You’ll have to wait until Monday for tales of Frosé, cheese, crackers, and how not to be gauche. Stay tuned, but first, go drink some wine.