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It’s a rare social event that can attract both serious wine collectors and novices just starting to learn about pleasures of the grape. But that’s what Wines of the World, a multi-course dinner and auction that benefits Symphony of the Americas, manages to do.
This year’s event is set for Friday, Nov. 14 at Pier 66 beginning at 6:30 p.m. As in other years, each dinner course will be prepared by a different celebrity chef. The evening also includes a “vintners tour” or wine tasting and passed appetizers, as well as an hors d’oeuvres competition in which students from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale’s culinary program vie for scholarships. During the dinner, there will be a live auction where scores of fine wines and rare vintages valued at many thousands of dollars go on the block.
“Wines of the World is one of the only wine events not run by a wine company,” says Lyn Farmer, a wine and arts educator who will serve as master of ceremonies. “It’s run by an arts group, people who know that wine and music go together—we use the same kind of vocabulary to describe both of them.”
Farmer admires how SOA brings music to different groups both locally and in other parts of the world, as well as educates listeners about context and history. “They go the extra mile and bring an added dimension to the music,” he says.
As it did last year, the Fort Lauderdale Chapter of the Chaine des Rotisseurs, an international food and wine group, is participating in the event. It is a good fit, notes Jack Kane, new president of the Fort Lauderdale Chaine and director of culinary programs at the AI. “Both groups share the same aspirations of mastering the art of living well, through the appreciation of music, fine wine and food,” he says.
Preceding this year’s event, there will be an art unveiling and wine tasting at New River Fine Art Gallery. Gallery owner Lisa Burgess will host that event. “We’ll be first to see some outstanding artwork by a select group of Fort Lauderdale’s most respected artists, all on the theme of wine, food and music,” says SOA Executive Director Renée LaBonte.
Perhaps the most unusual aspect of WOW is that guests are invited to bring wines from their own cellars to share at their tables. “Collectors like to show off their wines, and you also want to drink them with friends,” says longtime wine collector and event co-chair Jerry Rosenthal. “This is like having chefs come to your home, and all you have to do is bring out your wines.”
Each year, WOW honors a notable chef. This year’s honoree is Marco Vico, owner of Café Vico, a restaurant serving traditional Italian fare. He is a longtime supporter of SOA and says some of the musicians frequent the restaurant.“It’s all about food and relationships,” he says.
Joining Chef Vico to provide a gourmet feast will be chefs Angelo Elia, Casa D’Angelo; Oliver Saucy, Café Maxx; Per Jacobsen and Courtney Burks, Vienna Café & Wine Bar; Gregory McGowan, Pier 66; Leone Padula, Gran Forno Italian Bakery; Toni Lampasone, Wine Watch Catering; and Bill Mitchell, Publix Aprons Cooking School.
The evening also honors a winery that produces top-rated vintages likely to appeal to the dedicated oenologists among WOW’s guests. This year, it is the Darioush Winery in Napa, noted for its Bordeaux-style estate wines. The event is a good fit for the winery, says director of sales Allen Papp. “Darioush Khaledi is a man passionate about both fine wine and classical music,” he notes. “We believe there is a fundamental connection between them.”
The hors d’oeuvres competition will be a treat for guests and good experience for the students who create them, Kane says. “They get to use what they’ve learned at the school on how to develop their own recipes and execute the production of the dish for an exclusive audience,” he says.
WOW has evolved over the almost two decades of its existence. The first year, Christies Auction House provided most of the wines. “But by the third year, we had enough similar wines donated from our own group,” says James LaBonte, who has co-chaired the evening along with wine aficionado, Jerry Rosenthal, for many years.
Andrew Lampasone, owner of Wine Watch, a boutique wine shop that has long been a favorite with wine aficionados, is the Founding Sponsor, and has been instrumental in getting suppliers and distributors to donate. The event is unusual in several ways, he points out. “We have a tasting to start the evening that features over 50 wines from around the world, so it’s good for both novices and connoisseurs alike,” he says. “You get to experience all these wines in one evening, and you also get to meet winery owners, winemakers and other key members of the wine trade. There’s a wealth of knowledge on hand to answer any questions you might have.”
Jim Whiddon, a CPA who enjoys fine wines, sums it up this way. “You’re tasting and sharing,” he says. “It’s by far the most fun event I’ve been to.”
This year’s event is set for Friday, Nov. 14 at Hyatt Regency Pier 66.
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