If you enjoy wine and love children, turn your attention to the Florida Winefest and Auction, a yearly event that supports a number of children's and family charities in the Sarasota area. Not only do they have the most munificent donors in Sarasota, but they are sponsored by some of the most notable food and wine personalities in town.
The format has changed this year because of you know what. Yes, Covid-19. The in-person wine tastings will not be held, and all of the team's efforts have been focused on the virtual auction, which is happening now and ends at midnight on Sunday, Oct. 24.
Once you arrive at the Winefest website, you will be directed to read the auction rules, then be asked to register before browsing the items. (It is possible to browse first, but you will still have to register in order to bid.) While there are a preponderance of wine-related items, there are also a host of lifestyle-themed items and experiences. Since you are donating to a charity by purchasing, there are some tax advantages, so read the rules carefully and discuss with your accountant.
The wine items begin with six bottles of Domain De La Romanee-Conti for a minimum bid of $28,000. Donor suggests the value is $31,000. Following this impressive beginning is a panoply of the best of Europe, including Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone and Italy. United States wineries are well represented, as well. The lowest wine bid is a magnum of Collier Falls Petite Sirah for $250. While most of these are collector’s items, there is no reason you can’t enjoy them with friends. At nearly $5,000 a bottle for the Romanee-Conti, you will certainly impress them and probably make some new ones, too.
Culinary and wine experiences include personally prepared dinners for eight at Sage and The Bijou Cafe by chef Chris Covelli, or shop and dine with chef Paul Mattison at his restaurant or your home. Both are one-of-a-kind experiences and the value is priceless.
Some of the most tantalizing items are travel experiences. These include three-day wine and dine adventures in Napa Valley, Sonoma or the Willamette Valley. For those who prefer the brown spirit, there is a three-day whiskey adventure. Probably the most unusual and tantalizing item here is experiencing Mardi Gras in New Orleans and riding on a float.
As you peruse the appealing selections in the auction, keep in mind the purpose of this event and bid high. The Florida Winefest and Auction has supported more than 100 charities in the past 30 years and 19 in 2020 alone. Take the time to read the testimonials from the recipients and consider the difference your purchase will make.
Bob McGinn has spent his entire career in the wine industry—forming wine clubs, working in wine sales marketing and engaging in all facets of the winemaking process, including vine management, fermentation and yeast analysis. He has developed wine programs for companies such as Marriott, Sheraton and Smith & Wollensky, and consults with local restaurants. You can read more of McGinn’s work at gulfcoastwinejournal.com.