It’s that time of year again in good old Gainesville, Florida for a Celebration of Wine at the University of Florida’s Reitz Union Grand Ballroom. The event is this coming Sunday, February 20th from 1 pm to 4 pm, and tickets are $55 in advance or $60 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at The Wine and Cheese Gallery, Alarion Bank branches in Gainesville, Mildred’s Big City Food and Wildbirds Unlimited or online at www.celebrationof wine.org. This is the 22nd year for this annual event whose proceeds benefit Florida’s 89.1 WUFT-FM and WJUF-FM, which provide public and educational broadcasting for 19 counties in North Central Florida. As always there will be both a silent auction and a live auction, filled with special bottles, some artistically decorated by nationally acclaimed local artists, and some donated from local oenophile’s wine cellars as well as from the wineries themselves. Featuring 300 different wines from all over the world, this is Gainesville’s largest wine tasting, and if you’ve never been it’s well worth the price of admission.
The theme this year is “Vino Las Vegas” since Las Vegas has become the new capital of fine wine and fine dining, and what happens at “Vino Las Vegas,” stays at “Vino Las Vegas.” Enjoy the festive ambience created by Keith Watson Productions (who did such a fantastic job last year) and enjoy the great food provided by The Wine and Cheese Gallery, great desserts provided by Mildred’s Big City Food and gourmet coffees provided by Classic Fare catering. Michael Roberts, a Tampa charity auctioneer, will oversee the live auction beginning at 3:30pm.
The night before, on Saturday, February 19th, our local restaurant, Ti Amo, is hosting the Winemaker’s Dinner beginning at 6:30pm. This is a four-course meal paired with fine wines and only costs $100 per person. Reservations are required due to limited seating. This is a great value dinner with plenty of food, so I’d call right now to try Chef Bert Gill’s menu paired so perfectly with some very fine wines. For reservations or more info you can call the Celebration organizers Sue Wagner at (352)392-5000 or Wade Tyler at (352)372-8446.
If you’ve never attended Gainesville’s premier wine tasting event, then this is the year to start your own annual tradition. I recommend getting there at the opening and glancing over the complete wine list to make sure you get to try some of the really special bottles (since there are often fewer bottles donated of the very best stuff). They provide a map with your souvenir glass, so a little planning in the first five minutes will ensure that you get to try all the wines you really want to try. Then you can meander, look over the silent auction, have some snacks and enjoy the rest of the 300 wines that are donated by wine distributors, wine importers, wineries and winemakers, plus you get to talk with the experts and get some real insights into the wines you enjoy most. Celebrate your wine and help support local, public radio at the same time. It’s a good thing.