Speaking Volumes: Sample the best at wine fests

February 5, 2014 

The white sands that lead to the Gulf of Mexico provide for a beautiful setting to educate oneself about great wines and gourmet foods at the third annual Clearwater Beach Uncorked, which is Feb. 8-9. While it is a learning experience to attend wine and food events the likes of this festival, a percentage of the proceeds from these two days will truly benefit education -- the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee's College of Hospitality and Technology Leadership. This program offers a number of different learning opportunities in not only hotels and restaurants, but also in the tourism industry -- and this past fall students in the program competed against each other to develop marketing strategies for Clearwater Beach Uncorked, with the top ideas being incorporated into this years' event.

Clearwater Beach Uncorked is not only about food and wine. It also features micro-brews, craft beers and spirits. The event was originally designed to bring back tourists to Clearwater Beach and the Gulf Coast after the damage that the BP oil spill caused to the area's tourism.

There will be more than 100 wineries to sample from at the "Grand Tasting Village" including offerings from Chateau St. Michelle, 14 Hands, Columbia Crest and Le Mistral. Some of the top restaurants in the area -- The Island Grill, Salt Rock Grill, Crabby Bill's and Jimmy's Crows Nest, just to name a few -- will offer samplings of their signature dishes with the numerous wines that are being poured. From experience, food and wine tastings are an excellent learning opportunity for

those who are interested in trying different wines against a wide array of different styles of food, especially considering the number of wineries represented and the wines available to taste.

Then there is the Uncorked Spirits Beach Club for those who prefer to taste vodka or bourbon or other spirits. With Valentine's just around the corner, one can visit the Decadent Dessert tent that will feature "Bubbles on the Beach" to pair your favorite sparkling wines with different sweets and pastries.

Tickets and more information about Clearwater Beach Uncorked can be found at www.clearwaterbeachuncorked.com.

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

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