Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bern's WineFest (Part 1)

Last week I attended one of Florida's top wine and food events, Bern's 15th annual WineFest. Bern's Winefest has been on my list of "must attend" events since I started writing about wine. I have loved Bern's since my first visit as a child. I did not return to Berns for many years so Bern's was always this magical memory of red velvet walls and a maze of rooms and desserts upstairs.

I returned to Bern's a few years ago after I took the Florida Bar exam and fell in love with it again as a foodie and wino. Bern's is my favorite restaurant in Florida.  This is why I decided to drive across the state for the Winefest with five friends. This event went above and beyond any preconceived expectations.

Bern's Winefest features over 200 wines with culinary creations from Bern's Steak House and SideBern's. The event actually takes place at SideBern's with large tents attached to each side of the building. The event also featured a Moet Hennessy Champagne lounge and samples of Belvedere's Lemon Tea and Grand Mariner Slushies. The wines are divided by country, and the food complements each wine region.  The event started at 11:00 AM for VIP, and the general public was allowed to enter at 12:30 PM. The tasting went from 12:30 to 4:00 PM.  The event was crowded, but I never had to wait more than a minute or two for wine. I never had to wait in line for food, as the food was readily available. 

Each attendee is equipped with a festival tasting notebook/guide and a tasting glass. The wine tasting guide listed wine prices and categorized the wines by region and table number. Each wine at the event could be purchased on the order form attached on the back of each tasting guide. 

Tasting Tent #1
Attendees entering the pearly white tents of Bern's WineFest are treated to a feast for the senses. Visually, the event is stunning with different themes, lighting, and moods for each room. The first tasting tent held 26 tasting tables with wines from the Southern Hemisphere and United States. The food in this room consisted of wild game, gastro pub dishes, and new southern cuisine. Tent #1 also contained a giant dessert display with hand-made chocolates and parisian desserts with a southern comfort influence. Below are a few pictures of my favorite wine, food and dessert from this tent.
      Rabbit with lentil wild game dirty rice, stinging nettle, chardonnay reduction

Dessert Table

Chocolate Malt Marshmallows

Favorite "unlisted" wine made by the wife of Tom Hedges from Hedges Family Estate

Tasting Tent 
Maple Bacon Brownie (My Favorite Dessert!)

Sous Vide Pork Belly BLT

Illy Coffee and Espresso Station
Cakebread Cellars
Hand-made chocolates 

Pecan Divinity and Valrhona Chocolates 
I did not get to taste all of the wines but some of my favorite wines from tent #1 are listed below with prices: 
  • 2008 Darioush 'Signature' Cabernet Sauvignon  - $92.95 (Table 7)
  • 2008 CADE 'Cuvee' Cabernet Sauvignon  - $39.95  (Table 8)
  • 2008 Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon - $77.95  (Table 9) 
  • 2008 Silverado 'SOLO' Cabernet Sauvignon - $88.95 (Table 11) 
  • 2007 Rosenblum 'Carla's Reserve' Zinfandel - $23.95 (Table 15)
  • 2007 BV "Georges de Latour' Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - $97.95 (Table 15) 
  • 2008 Chateau St. Michelle 'Artist Series' Meritage - $57.95 (Table 16) 
  • 2007 Frias Merlot - $34.95 (Table 17) 
  • 2009 Carte Blanche Proprietary Red - $95.95 (Table 18) 
  • 2009 Saldo Zinfandel - $29.95 (Table 21) 
  • 2008 Quintessa - $121.95 (Table 21) 
  • 2008 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon - $68.95 (Table 23) 
  • 2009 Palazzo Cabernet Franc - $79.95 (Table 24) 
After tasting many different wines in tent one, I headed into SideBern's to see the Grand Marnier Patio, Belvedere Vodka Bar, the wonderful band, and the silent auction. The Grand Marnier Patio and Belvedere Vodka Bar were sampling the Belvedere's Lemon Tea and Grand Mariner Slushies. SideBern's was also making the "Back Nine" cocktail.  Pictures of these fabulous looking drinks are below. 

Grand Marnier Patio with drinks in the red containers 
The 'Back Nine' cocktail
Back Nine Cocktail Recipe 
  • 1.5 oz Belvedere Lemon Tea Vodka 
  • .25 oz Grand Marnier 
  • 1 oz Strawberry Syrup 
  • .75 Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice 
  1. Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice 
  2. Shake and strain into a stemmed cocktail glass 
  3. Garnish with orange peel 

The event had an amazing band with a very talented violinist. The band's music was pumped through the first tasting tent, so everyone could hear the music. I kept finding myself dancing to the different songs, because the violinist was very good. SideBern's also had a silent auction during the event. Funds raised from this auction help Bern's offer scholarships to students seeking degrees in culinary, hospitality, or viticulture degrees through the James beard Foundation-Bern Laxer Scholarship. 

Silent Auction Wines
The next post will include picture and information about the Moet Hennessy Lounge, Tasting Tent Two and Seminar Tent. 

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