Forks & Corks a great place to learn

January 9, 2013 

If you take a few moments to read the label of the wine that you just opened, most likely you will learn that it is a blend of several different varietals. Just talk to a winemaker such as Anthony Bell and you will quickly discern that blending wine is an art. Bell Wine Cellars is just one of many wineries from around the world attending the sixth annual Forks & Corks Food & Wine Festival, Jan. 25-28 in Sarasota. The festival is hosted by the Sarasota-Manatee Originals and proceeds benefit the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and the American Red Cross.

Bell Wine Cellars, established in 1991, is in the quaint town of Yountville in Napa Valley, Calif. Anthony Bell's wine pedigree includes spending 15 years working at Beaulieu Vineyard, where he was fortunate to be under the tutelage of André Tchelistcheff -- one of the most innovative and influential winemakers in California's history. Beaulieu Vineyards is renowned for its Cabernet Sauvignons, so based upon his tenure there and the influences of Tchelistcheff, it is easy to understand why Bell's Cabernets are a top-notch effort. Bell's philosophy that "wine is grown in the vineyard" has a tremendous impact on the final product.

Also attending will be Schweiger Vineyards, which is perched on top of Spring Mountain on 60 acres that have been in their family since 1960. The winery, owned by Fred and Sally Schweiger, is one of the few family owned and operated facilities in Napa Valley. The word "family" resonates throughout the winery's

winemaking philosophy and sales approach as their two children, Andrew and Diana, play major roles in the daily operation of the winery. Schweiger Vineyards believes that sustainability is more than a way of farming -- it is a way of life. They have installed solar panels which provide 100 percemt of their electrical needs and their barrel room is underground, which eliminates the need for refrigeration. In addition, the family elected to only clear 60 percent of their land, leaving redwoods, firs and oaks for future generations.

The Sarasota-Manatee Originals consists of 50 independently owned restaurants in Sarasota and Manatee counties and each of these restaurants will be present at the festival serving up culinary delights that guests can pair with wines from the different wineries in attendance. Among the restaurants are the Anna Marie Oyster Bar Landslide, Harry's Continental Kitchens, Michael's On East and Pier 22 Restaurant, just to name a few.

It can often be a daunting task to decide which wine to serve with a particular entree, since there are so many different varietals to choose from. Then you have decide between the plethora of labels that sit on the shelf of your local wine shop. Some of these choices are basic -- such as white or red -- and then it can be quite tricky from there. One way to obtain the knowledge that helps to make this important decision is to attend wine-and-food pairing events. Of course, another method is trial and error, but trial obviously results in at least some errors.

For more information about the sixth annual Forks & Corks Food & Wine Festival, visit www.freshoriginals.com/forksandcorks or call 941-955-3663.

Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at jimrawe@gmail.com.

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