The first of the area's two major local wine events, Forks & Corks, returns next week, running from Monday, May 9, to Sunday, May 15. The annual event is a glamour-filled series of wine and food experiences that benefit the Sarasota-Manatee Originals, a group of more than 60 independent and locally owned restaurants.
As in past years, the festival will offer a plethora of wine and food encounters, as well as an online auction and master classes for those wishing to further their wine education through focused seminars on geographical areas of wine production.
However, the popular Grand Tasting held at The Ringling, a highlight of the event for years, remains on hold. Concerns about vintners traveling from abroad, supply chain issues and staff shortages led the Originals’ board of directors to make the decision.
“While we know how the community looks forward to the excitement of the Grand Tasting, the difficulties that restaurants and wineries continue to face made our decision the right one,” says Michael Klauber of Michael's on East. “We promise that this year’s event will have enormous opportunities for guests to participate and for visiting vintners and our own restaurateurs to showcase their talents in the local restaurants that we are so fortunate to have in our community.”
Beginning Monday, May 9, Food and Wine Experiences will involve wine dinners, food and wine pairings, special menus, bottle discounts, cooking classes and more at member restaurants such as Sage, Element, Mattison’s Forty-One and others.
Then, through Sunday, May 15, the Online Food and Wine Auction featuring rare and sought- after wines, international and domestic trips and unique dining and party experiences will be held.
The week culminates on Saturday, May 14, with University Master Classes. From 10:30 a.m. to noon, the "California Dreamin’" event will focus on the taste profiles and winemaking practices of three well regarded California wineries presented by their representatives. From 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., "South African Exploration" will focus on wines from that region. From 1 to 2:30 p.m., "Tuscany or Piedmont" will guide participants through Italy’s two most famous wine regions.
Any wines presented will be available for purchase, and tickets (which cost $55) are only available online. Attendees must all be over 21 years old, and guests arriving more than 15 minutes late may not be seated due to possible disruption.
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.