INsite Magazine

Monday, February 22, 2010

Celebration of Wine 2010

Yesterday (Feb. 21), we had the great fortune of attending an event we’ve been eyeing for years: the annual wine-drinkers’ paradise known as the “Celebration of Wine.” And what a celebration it was.

First, some background. The Celebration of Wine (this time in its 21st year and themed “Gone With the Wine”) is a destination wine tasting for enthusiasts from around the state, and offers more than 300 wines from around the world to sip, as well as a donors’ dinner (beforehand) and a silent and live auction (at the end) for the more enthusiastic. It is hosted by Gainesville’s Wine & Cheese Gallery to benefit public radio stations WUFT and WJUF-FM, and recently has attracted about 700 guests and $40,000.

For the main event on Sunday afternoon ($55 in advance), the University of Florida’s expansive Reitz Union Grand Ballroom was filled with a happy and diverse crowd, who ate up the delectable offerings from the kitchens of Chef Bert Gill (Ti Amo!/Mildred’s Big City Food/New Deal Café) and Panache Bistro almost before we could say “I’ll try the chardonnay.”

But, try, we did. The room was tastefully decorated with huge tables set up in rectangles, from which wine representatives shared their top wines and tips for pairing. The jovial atmosphere and sheer variety of wines (not to mention the plate/wine-glass/brochure-juggling) made for non-stop, madcap action. However, we were able to find some standouts, most at a very reasonable price-point and available from the Wine & Cheese Gallery.

We’d discourage you from making a rash decision based on our humble palate, but here’s what stood out (from those we were able to try)…

Our favorite table was #33, Rocland Estates, manned by John Doty. As it turns out, John graduated from UF, lives in Gainesville and has been attending this event for years. We’d seen and tried a couple of his wines before (Chocolate Box, Asskisser, Duck Duck Goose). We recommend, for a red, the 2007 Chocolate Box Cherry Chocolate GSM, from Barossa, Australia ($16, a blend of grenache, shiraz and mataro), and, for a white, the very interesting 2008 Rocland Estate McLaren Vale MVR ($17, marsane, viognier and rousanne), also from Australia. And, for a deal, try the perfectly versatile 2006 Duck Duck Goose Chardonnay, $11.

If you like buttery chardonnays, try Napa’s (2008?) ZD Chardonnay, $35. For a trio of great reds, any of California’s Mettlers would be good—try the 2005 Petite Syrah, $25. For a malbec with a twist, try Dolium’s 2005 Petit Reserva “La Terna” Malbec Tempranillo ($20). Finally, for a splurge, try Napa Valley’s 2006 Ehlers Estate St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon 1886, at $90.

All of these wines can be purchased from the Wine & Cheese Gallery, and are sold at a discount (for quantities of 6, 12 or 24) for those who attended! And don’t worry if you missed it, because they host a number of wine events throughout the year. But don’t expect to find us there; after we place our order today, we’ll be set until next year. Cheers.

—MM, Photos: Sean Kelly

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