VeritageMiami, the annual beer, wine and food event that benefits United Way of Miami-Dade, is nearly here. Actually, for those of us who stage it, VeritageMiami has been here for months – it may appear to our fans in all its radiance like one of those cactus flowers that blooms for a day but it is months in the making. All those months have given me a chance to fantasize a great deal about how I would approach the festival if I were completely new to it.
Since you may be new to it, here is my strategy for getting the most out of VeritageMiami.
First, don’t wait until the last minute to get tickets. We have a lot of tickets for the tastings so it always looks like there is no rush, but a huge number of tickets are sold in the last few days and if you aren’t on top of it, you could miss out. Go to VeritageMiami and get your tickets now! The Friday Interactive Dinner is completely sold out – that may sound redundant but I know a lot of events that say they are sold out when they have 5 percent of their tickets remaining; we have no tickets remaining! (Sorry, you are out of luck).
The Craft Beer Tasting is a crowded party, so my advice is to skip the breweries you already know and focus on the ones you haven’t encountered before. All the local breweries will be there, so if you’ve never met the guys at Funky Buddha or J. Wakefield or Wynwood Brewing, stop by and say hello – these could be your favorite new local drinking pals. And find some out-of-state craft brewers that are new to you by checking (and even better, printing) the list of breweries from the VeritageMiami website. I checked the roster and made a small list for myself: Colorado’s Oskar Blues will be there and I’ve always wanted to try Dale’s Pale Ale, named by The New York Times the best pale ale in America a few years ago. Is it still that good? I’m going to find out. I’m intrigued by Traveler Beer Company and plan to try their apple ale since I like cider a lot. And Rough Draft is on my list – I want to see how the San Diego brewery that started in a garage is doing these days.
On to the Fine Wine Tasting on Thursday. First of all, realize that you are not going to try everything being poured. There are well over 300 wines being shown at the tasting at Merrick Park so you need a plan. Unlike beer, where consistency is key, wine changes with every vintage, so this year’s model of last year’s favorite may not be the same. You need a two-pronged approach: spend an hour tasting wine you liked last year to see how they are doing, and devote another hour to trying wines you didn’t get to last year.
Where to start? Two groups have “pavilions” right after you get your tasting glass and you need to try both for several reasons: the selection is wonderful and each pavilion not only has great wine, they have a great restaurant inside. Now, the pavilions also have some lounge furniture so you may be tempted to say, “I’ll go at the end of the tasting when I’m tired.” Resist that temptation because everyone who comes and doesn’t have a plan is going to do that. You are smarter than that – you have a plan, and your plan says: “Stop Here First.” There is a Wines of Israel pavilion that will astonish you with the range and quality of its wines, and you can taste the wine alongside some great food from the hot new Mediterranean restaurant Piripi. What is my pick for a wine pairing with Piripi’s food? Gilgal Riesling is crisp and a wonderful food wine; Dalton Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre is both elegant and an appealing fruit bomb. And if neither of those create your ideal match, there are another 20 wines in the pavilion for you to try.
The second pavilion is sponsored by World of Wine Guide (WWG) Imports featuring a knockout Albariño made by 2 Amigos, a crisp and joyous white wine from Spain. It’s made in the seafood-focused coastal region of Galicia and it goes with anything that swims, though it is lovely on its own as well. There are some other dazzling wines at this pavilion as well and this is the perfect warm-up for the rest of the tasting. You also have the extraordinary cooking of Toro Toro Restaurant here in the WWG/2 Amigos pavilion, so you are well situated to stoke up on energy before venturing ahead.
From the pavilions, head to the main tasting area where more than 50 wineries and importers are set up to share their wines with you. If you are a real wine nut, get a VIP ticket that admits you to the tasting at 6 pm (the general admission is 7 pm). This lets you stroll around without the crowd, and a number of wineries have some special high-end wine to pour during this first hour. Now, pace yourself because in addition to all the wineries, we also feature 35 restaurants in the tasting area. Want to experiment with pairing wine and food? There is no better place in town to conduct your experiments.
However, as you structure your progression through the tasting, consider winding up back at the pavilions where you began. It’s a good leisurely place to hang out, and you can easily stop by the Bacardí booth in the pavilion area for a nightcap. And just to add to the convivial atmosphere, we’ve arranged for the gypsy-jazz group French Horn Connection to serenade you through the evening. It’s going to be a great night; so great, in fact, you should share it with your friends by taking a selfie at one of our photo sites. Share the photo with our VeritageMiami community on Facebook Twitter and Instagram – we will have all the appropriate hash tags marked at the event. I look forward to seeing you!