Eighth Annual Forks & Corks “A Spectacular Success”
The four-day culinary and wine celebration brought together celebrated area chefs, world-renowned vintners and industry insiders. The event also raised thousands of dollars for The Ringling and All Faiths Food Bank.
(Sarasota, Florida) Forks & Corks, the four-day food and wine festival presented by The Sarasota-Manatee Originals (SMO), was “a spectacular success,” says Kate Atkin, executive director of The Sarasota-Manatee Originals. “It’s officially become one of the most anticipated events in the region.”The festival, which ran January 23-26, 2015, featured interactive food and wine seminars, vintner events at area Originals restaurants, a trade tasting for restaurants, retail and hotels, and The Grand Tasting at The Ringling.
Atkin says the all-day event at the museum, The Grand Tasting, attracted 1,500paid guests and sold out three minutes after tickets went on sale. “We experienced the fastest ticket sell-out ever,” says Atkin. “We were told by our ticketing company that the moment tickets went on sale there were 10 times the number of people on the site than tickets available. This demand is what defines us as southwest Florida’s premier food and wine festival.”
The Grand Tasting featured signature dishes from 45 Originals member restaurants (with 45,000 samples of food prepared and served), 378 wines from 81 wineries (with 4,500 bottles of wine poured during the event), live entertainment, and a charity wine auction, which raised nearly $15,000 to benefit All Faiths Food Bank. The event raised more than $30,000 for The Ringling.
The festival also featured nine winemaker events at Originals member restaurants. According to Atkin, nearly 300 guests attended these events, which included casual tastings, luncheons, mingling events, and multi-coursed formal dinners. Twelve winemakers from around the globe were guests of honor at the winemaker events. Approximately $100,000 in retail wine sales was recorded during the weekend, with more than 6,500 bottles of wine sold.
The festival also features three interactive wine seminars during which 16 visiting winemakers served as guest panelists. Celebrity winemaker panelists included: Mary Joli of Willamette Valley Vineyards; Michael Deloach of Hook & Ladder Winery; Chris Kajani of Saintsbury; Bob Seager of Talbott Vineyards; Matt Murphy of Presqu’ile Winery; Marco Fizaletti of Castello di Querceto; Vito Candela of Farnese Vini; Alberto di Gresy of Marchesi di Gresy; Guido Orzalesi of Altesino; Vittorio Marianecci of Zenato; Peter Heitz of Shypoke Winery; Anthony Bell of Bell Wine Cellars; Jon Emmerich of Silverado Vineyards; Tom Gamble of the Gamble Family Vineyards; Harry Wetzel IV of Alexander Valley Vineyards; and Diana Schweiger of Schweiger Vineyards.
According to Atkin, a main objective of Forks & Corks is to reinforce the Sarasota-Manatee region as a significant culinary destination.
“The restaurant industry is a vital part of our community’s economic make-up,” she says. “Our part is as integral to the big picture as are our beaches, climate and cultural amenities.”
But Atkin emphasizes that Forks & Corks is still a grassroots event.
She says that her team analyzed that nearly 80 percent of this year’s ticket buyers were residents of Sarasota and Manatee counties. “Forks & Corks has become an essential part of our local cultural scene. It’s a communal celebration of what makes our area so very special,” Atkin says, adding that the festival is an important way for Originals restaurants to market themselves to both residents and visitors. “Participating restaurants always report increased revenues immediately following the event,” she says. “The Grand Tasting is an invaluable tool to introduce menus and services to hundreds of people who may never have stepped through their doors.”
“We’re still beaming,” says Atkin. “It’s a great feeling to be part of an event that delights so many people—and raises money and awareness for the community.”
Next year’s festival is January 22-25, 2016. “We’re already getting requests from vintners to be a part of it, and from the public to purchase tickets,” Atkin says.
For more information about the eighth annual Forks & Corks Food & Wine Festival, visit www.dineoriginal.com/forksandcorks, or call 941-365-2800.
2015 FORKS & CORKS FUN FACTS
- 9 different winemaker events took place over the weekend at various Sarasota-Manatee Original member restaurants.
- 300 guests attended these events, which included casual tastings, luncheons, and multi-coursed, formal dinners.
- 12 different winemakers from around the globe were guests of honor at these winemaker events.
Forks & Corks University
- 16 visiting winemakers were guest panelists on three different educational seminars.
- The three sessions were:
o You Had Me at Pinot: Pinot noir session led by winemakers from Californi and Oregon.
o Amore Vino Italiano: Winemakers from Italy led the session focused on Italian wines and growing regions.
o Kings (and Queen) of Cabernet: Led by powerhouse cabernet producers from different regions in California.
- 150 people attended these sessions, as well as a gourmet four-course luncheon at Michael’s On East.
- 300 bottles of wine were poured for these sessions and luncheon.
- 4 different retail tastings occurred at local wine retailers: The Butchers Block, Michael’s Wine Cellar, Sarasota Fine Wine & Tastings, and Island Time Spirits.
- Attendees: More than 1,800.
- Bottles of wine sold: Nearly 1,800.
The Grand Tasting
- Over 1,800 attendees (ticket purchasers, sponsors, vendors, staff and volunteers).
- Sold 1,500 tickets in first three minutes of ticket sales.
- 81 wineries showcased the best of their varietals.
- 378 wines were available to sample at the Grand Tasting.
- Over 4,500 bottles of wine were used at the Grand Tasting.
- 45 Sarasota-Manatee Original member restaurants provided samples to attendees of their finest fare.
- Over 45,000 samples of food were prepared and served at The Grand Tasting.
The Trade Tasting
- Annual industry-exclusive event held for restaurateurs, hoteliers and retailers to meet visiting winemakers and sample their products.
- Over 400 people attended the event from businesses in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties.
- Over 1,000 bottles of wine were used during the Trade Tasting.
- 1,500 tickets sold out within eight minutes of tickets going on sale.
- Record time of ticket sales for any event in area.
- Over $100,000 in retail wine sales were recorded during F&C weekend.
- Over 6,500 bottles of wine were sold during Forks & Corks weekend.
- The Grand Tasting raised over $30,000 for The Ringling.
- $15,000 was raised at The Grand Tasting’s silent auction for All Faith’s Food Bank.
- 79% of ticket purchasers reside in either Sarasota or Manatee counties.
All photos by Peter Acker
About the Sarasota-Manatee Originals
The Sarasota-Manatee Originals is a not-for-profit trade organization founded in 2003. Together, more than 50 locally-owned, independent restaurants throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties work collaboratively to celebrate and promote the creative cuisine of the region, from unique quick service eateries and waterfront family restaurants to award-winning fine dining establishments. Passionate member restaurateurs work together to produce community events, optimize cooperative marketing efforts and develop synergistic partnerships among members as they focus on preserving the culinary heritage of the region. With more Florida Trend and Zagat top-scoring restaurants within a 20-mile radius of downtown Sarasota than any other area in the Florida, the Sarasota-Manatee Originals is dedicated to sharing the area’s vibrant culinary scene with the world. For more information, call 941-365-2800 or visit www.dineoriginal.com.