Sarasota's Forks & Corks Food & Wine Festival a great place to learn

January 16, 2013 

How many times have you invited friends over for dinner and you turn to those archaic food/wine rules where you can only serve a red wine with red meat or a white wine with seafood? And while you and your guests stand around the kitchen munching on various appetizers prior to dinner, you still pour the same wine that you plan to serve with the meal.

I'm here to tell you it doesn't have to be that way and NO you don't have to go to culinary school to figure it all out!! All you need to do to start learning is to attend wine dinners where several courses are served, each paired with a particular wine; and more importantly where both the chef and the winemakers are present to explain why each course gratifies your palate.

The best part is that don't have to travel to "wine country" to experience these winemaker events, because "wine country" is coming to Sarasota and Manatee county restaurants on Jan. 25 and 26 as part of the Forks & Corks Food & Wine Festival hosted by the Sarasota-Manatee Originals. This weekend, there will be more than a dozen opportunities to rub shoulders with winemakers from a variety of wine regions around the world at many of the best local restaurants, providing chefs the opportunity to showcase their food and wine pairings. It should be obvious when one considers the different wine regions worldwide represented at these dinners that each of them will offer quite different and unique food and wine pairings. For example:

Ophelia's on the

Bay in Siesta Key will highlight wines from Keenan Winery, which are produced from intense Spring Mountain fruit in Napa Valley, Calif., and Mercer Estates which produces wines from grapes grown in two very distinct sub-regions of Columbia Valley, Wash., -- Horse Heaven Hills and Yakima Valley -- each of which grow the same varietals with different flavors.

The Sandbar on Anna Maria Island will be pairing wines from local product Seth Cripe of Lola Wines who produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling from Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley fruit along with Bodega Rancho, which is known for producing cool-climate Syrahs from Sonoma County, Calif.

Michael's on East in Sarasota will showcase wines from two of France's more famous wine regions: Domaine Ehrhart of Alsace -- a region known for Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris -- as well as Maison Bertrand Ambroise, which produces excellent offerings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Burgundy.

On the other hand, the Polo Grill and Bar in Lakewood Ranch will have a number of different food stations throughout the restaurant which can be paired with wines from more than nine different wineries in different regions throughout California and Tuscany, Italy.

These types of wine venues are some of the best ways to learn about food and wine pairings. As well it provides the opportunity to ask questions and possibly learn why you like the flavors contained within one particular wine paired with a particular type of food instead of another. It also allows for a chance to compare your tasting notes with others who are interested in the world of wine.

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

Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines. He can be reached at

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